E-Readers everywhere ...

About a year ago I purchased an Amazon Kindle.  On a previous flight, I observed one being used, and then a friend purchased one and gave me a 'demo'. I was impressed with the features of this device. I instantly saw an opprotunity to make traveling a slightly different experience. I love to read and everywhere I traveled I was carrying a pile of magazines and a book or two.  What a pain. I was ready to find a way to travel 'lighter'. I was also attracted to the idea of accessing books on the device without waiting for them to come by UPS or mail.

When people talk to me about e-readers, most talk about the 'feel' of a book and how they don't think they could switch. That may be true for some people, but I have observed that once experienced, they forget about 'the book' and adopt the e-reader. I think e-readers will change how we consume books. It is already happening. I saw one report that on Christmas day, Amazon sold more e-books than 'print' books. This is a major disruption to the book business - publishers, book stores and consumers will all see the impact. 

For the past several months, and especially during CES last week, there has been a onslought of e-readers hit the market. You can find devices that are super-thin, devices with touch screen, many sizes and shapes. BusinessWeek.com ran a slideshow that included several of these devices. 

The article that caught my attention was published Fast Company, "2010: The Only Year of the E-Reader". The author, Kit Eaton, shared pictures and many details on many of these new devices, but the most provocative comment in the article was this comment:

"The Kindle is looking almost lost now among the flurry of new e-book reading devices just released or due soon. So many are out, in fact, that 2010 is really the year of the e-reader. But only 2010. Because e-readers are doomed."

Doomed? His hypothesis is that the new 'slates' or tables (or whatever the come to be called), we integrate the e-reader into a multi-function device. He may be right, but I think it may take longer for e-readers to ride off into the sunset. Why would I say that? Three specific thoughts:

- Battery life on the Kindle is amazing. I turn on the wireless on my Kindle once a day to download my subscriptions or when needed to purchase a book. I can operate it for a couple of weeks on a single charge. I have already read comments about the much lower battery life on some of these new devices that incorporate color touch-screens. Listen, I have to charge my iPhone more than once a day, and only get about a day out of my Blackberry. I don't want a e-reader that I have to charge every day.

- It would be helpful if I could integrate 'gadget functions' into one device, or at least fewer devices:). That is one of the attractions of the iPhone with it's many applications.  That said, I am not confident that the e-reader features and value proposition fit in an integrated package. What would I have to sacrifice to get an integrated device? For example, I love e-ink. It is so soft and easy to read. I have tried to read a book on my laptop and it is NOT the same experience .. and it is not soft on the eyes.

- Lastly, I love the 'Amazon experience'.  When you purchase a Kindle, you are not just buying the hardware, you are buying into an experience. It is about consumption of media, including the purchase experience. I do not think I would purchase a device that did not include a seamlessly process for buying books and subscribing to magazines. 

Is this the 'only' year of the E-Reader? Perhaps the new technology will be 'good enough'. I think the entire concept of a tablet is intriguing and I plan to post a separate entry on tablets and 'slates'. Several new devices were launched at CES and I am excited to see what Apple announces in later this month.  What do you think?

Rick

Photo credit: HÃ¥var og Solveig