Best Argument: No
Audience Favored: No (63%)
The future of the e-reader is the tablet
I will concede that the e-ink screens on e-readers are nice -- very nice, and so pleasant on the eyes -- replicating the paper experience is, in my opinion, a step back. Modern displays, in particular the high-pixel-density 'retina' displays, are so crisp and clear that they ideal for even extended bouts of reading.
While there's no doubt a case for standalone e-readers--for the mainstream market the trend is moving away from standalone devices and towards convergence devices that bring multiple functions into a single device and is easy to carry around. Not only is this cheaper -- one device costs less than multiple devices -- but a single device is easier to manage and carry around.
There's still a place for e-books
I work all day on a mainstream display so it is refreshing to go to an e-reader for book reading and get away from a machine that distracts me with email, social network updates, web browsing, gaming, and other unnecessary annoyances. I actually think there is a lot more potential for growth in the e-reader market as many people still read paper books and have yet to transition to electronic form. If Amazon and Barnes & Noble start giving away e-readers they may speed up the adoption of e-books and grow the market. People still try to figure out if there is a place in their lives for tablets.
And the winner is...
This was actually a very hard decision for me to make as I think both gentlemen made some solid points. After racking my brain over this issue for a considerable time, I ended up leaning towards the niche argument, thus giving the win this week to Matt Miller.
But first let me say that there were definitely several issues on which I agreed strongly with Adrian. For one, I’m a minimalist. So I prefer buying, owning, and carrying around as few electronic devices as possible. I have owned Nook e-readers in the past, but I have consolidated and typically only read on my iPad 2 and smartphone now. It also just gets too expensive to buy (and later upgrade) more gadgets all of the time.
However, I still find the reading experience -- especially outdoors -- to be far, far better on electronic-ink displays than on virtually any tablet or smartphone with a color display.
That said, there are still a few spots where technology hasn’t caught up -- although that’s not to say it won’t within the next few years, if not sooner.
So there are some categories, such as e-readers and digital cameras, where it is still difficult to defend the consolidation argument still. For example, I still own a point-and-shoot camera (the Canon PowerShot S100) because it’s incredibly portable and snaps high-quality photos...while my Samsung Galaxy Nexus just doesn’t.
As the technology to make them advances and becomes more affordable, e-book readers will continue to drop in price, making them more appealing to consumers who don’t care or want all of the features that come with a more expensive tablet.
Furthermore, being that they are cheaper to produce and sell, e-readers could have a lot of potential in developing markets. While I don’t have figures for this, I would predict that e-readers could have some more educational use cases too and be distributed to students much like low-cost laptops.
Overall, while it will be downsized considerably in comparison to what it was during the last few years, I believe the dedicated e-reader segment can still exist as a niche market.