Thursday, May 5, 2011

Forrester? or an ignorant column on "demise" of dedicated e-readers ?

Demise of dedicated e-readers

  It was pointed out to me in a comment today that not only will e-readers get ever less-expensive (as most certainly all have expected them to, as pieces of electronics), but we now have another column predicting the Death of dedicated e-reader devices.

  Forrester seems most to blame for the false reasoning used in this most recent wish-for-attention column (and they're getting it) because Forrester sees tablets and e-readers in a contest that e-readers cannot "win."

  Are simpler cars in ongoing contests with multi-featured cars that the simpler cars must "win" or "die"? Will they stop manufacturing sports car models because they are not as easy-to-operate and aren't able to carry families on vacation trips?  Will the sports cars "lose" to the family sedan?  Simplistic black & white thinking carries the day usually.

  I've no patience with wishful thinking based on not understanding different technologies nor reasons why one technology, predicted soon dead by the same experts mentioned last year, proved so popular in the last year during the time that the iPad certainly claimed hearts and minds.  Buyers knew the difference, if not some gadget columnists who think only in terms of 'appearance' (drab, plain, retro) and carry mainly the "cool kid" mentality as we saw for the last year and a half until many of them decided one type of technology actually DID seem "cool" to many hoping to just read books rather than flash around playing games and surfing the web at every chance (I'm one of the latter).

  I'm behind in blogging because I was away, but I will (b)log this one before the others that I've put on a todo-list because obviously there will be much written about the latest research opinions, as happened in 2010 when all predicting the end of e-readers by the end of the year often seemed to hope they were right.

  Inevitably, yes, if/when we can get color screens for dedicated-readers while keeping the relaxing quality of e-Ink effect on eyes that don't want LCD screens for reading novels, inevitably today's e-readers (or even today's tablets) will not be wanted or needed, even if dedicated e-readers are light to carry because they are dedicated to one activity.  Everything in life does change.

  I decided to blog the response I made to a note in the blog's Comment areas, which was a helpful link to the story (because e-readers WILL drop in price as was the comment-writer's focus, which is the good and obvious point of some of the researcher opinions).

  I'm still reviewing the news of an inevitable Amazon Android Tablet (which I initially blogged (August 2010) when a long-time Computerworld columnist reported receiving confirmation from his Amazon sources in August that there WOULD be an Android tablet from Amazon.

  The recent information on the technology involved in an Amazon order for tablets from Quanta Computer (with screen-panel properties licensed by E-Ink Holdings (for fringe field switching -- which is for LCD screens) has been vague and I'll write on that later today.  Since some columnists have interpreted the "2nd half of 2011" as "by the holidays 2011" because of the time to produce, test and stock these, I hadn't jumped on it yet as the news traveled fast on Twitter, Facebook and Kindle forums, where I was involved in discussions.

  Back to the column on latest expert research.  Here's my response (slightly modified for the blog-post) to the Huffington Post article on the 'demise' of the dedicated e-reader and its days "being numbered."   Catchy thought, no?
' Didn't Forrester and assorted columnists predict the end of the Kindle itself by the end of 2010 due to the popularity of the iPad and other tablets?

Also, never in a truly idiotic presentation of the premise for the death of dedicated e-readers does the article mention Forrester speaking to the issue of E-INK (which they may have! and it was columnist idiocy instead that produced the gist re the death of dedicated e-readers).

Or, it may have been Forrester's. The many studies done have been wrong about the popularity of e-reader devices before, when the iPad arrived, asking leading questions in their surveys.

I have [and enjoy] a NookColor and I intend to get the Amazon tablet if it comes, for the color magazine capability and for portable web-browsing but with Amazon features that I hope will be better done in software than is the B&N tablet-reader.

I would *never* give up the e-Ink model for an LCD tablet, for reading books. And there are voluminous notes on forums that say the same thing, by people who own tablets or semi-tablets along with their Kindles or other e-Ink readers.

If years from now they have non-LCD and e-paper-type capabilities for relaxing reading (eye care for many), along with color on a par with vibrant color in LCD tablets, then the dedicated e-reader may not be needed (though they'll always be lighter) -- but not mentioning e-Ink here at all is sheer ignorance when predicting demise of current e-readers due to interest in tablets.  It reminds me of the columnist who idiotically placed a picture of a tombstone at the head of his column last summer with the wording that the Kindle would die and be buried as of 2010 due to the birth of the iPad.  Experts want what they want.

There is a wish there that's just unseemly and speaks to a special kind of extreme love for electronic sleekness over everything else that has to do with their own disliking the "drab" or "retro" *look* of e-ink readers.  Actual functionality is rarely addressed.

But you're right in your own emphasis that e-reader prices will go down.  I thought most people have seen this with ALL electronics.

The FLIP camera? GOD. It has the same end result as a fine in-camera HD movie thing. It's not remotely like e-Ink vs color. '

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  1. Andrys,

    Some notes that I'm too lazy to try to assemble into a coherent whole :

    1. Steve Jobs is right. Any general purpose tablet smaller than 10 inches is too small, at least for the majority of the e-book-reading market, which trends higher in age. Although it could be used to used to read novels with adjustable font sizes, what's the point vs a dedicated e-reader?

    2. So far, dedicated e-readers are largely incompetent in dealing with anything other than black and white, single-sized text. The best that can be expected from color, pictures, tables, charts and graphs is an ID of what it is that is using up screen area to no good effect.

    3. I actually have a 7" tablet that runs XP, and which could run Windows 7, but putting even more hundreds of dollars into something that severely compromises any of the miracles that it can perform, makes little sense.

    4. Compared to an e-reader, the tablet always loses in cost, weight, clarity, and battery life, assuming SOTA for both.

    Regards, Don Lloyd

  2. Thanks for your latest note.

    Barnes & Noble is showing Steve Jobs not right, actually. Its NookColor is not too small for a great many of us "in the millions," reports say.

    I like mine FOR its size. I already have a 10" netbook which is superb but I like the size of the 7" NookColor. Yes, I would qualify for being among the older people using e-readers.

    There should be varieties of models for those for whom one works especially well. That it has to be enough of these wanted is of course important, but the NookColor's success so far shows a significant number of people like the form factor.

    The "point" re 7" vs 10" (and it's said that Steve Jobs is heavily considering making a 7" just as he suddenly started marketing something for people who read although he once said that ereaders have no future because people don't read anymore) is what any of us cares to carry around.

    I'm never going to carry a 10" one around with me. Talk about overkill. There is a place for both sizes. If you can have only one, 10" might be more practical. You can see more of a web screen at a time. No question.

    But many report that they don't even pick their 10" up anymore. More heavy than they like. And for many people an LCD tablet is hard to read novels on for any length of time (there will be exceptions).

    And it's all complicated by the idea of LCD vs e-Ink for those who like to read (which the word "e-readers" tends to be about).

    Many don't care if e-readers are "incompetent" in dealing with anything other than black & white because of the special 'competency' in providing easy-on-the-eye reading of long novels (they are normally in black on white pages inside paper books where our eyes tend to be focused).

    I use my tablet-reader for ebooks that use a lot of color as an important ingredient. I use my e-Ink for 95% of my books. Guess which one I'd choose if I had to give up one?

    I haven't even bought an iPad as I don't need one because of what my 10" netbook does for me that the iPad can't. Everyone's different.

    But to pitch dedicated e-readers against multi-featured tablets is foolhardy, in my 'book'(speaking about the column and some of the research that goes into "who will 'win'" studies).

    Your reason for not getting a 7" tablet is my reason for not getting a 10" one. Everything depends on needs and wants.

    Re the pluses of an e-reader vs a tablet (it's nice that as prices go, many no longer have to make an either/or choice tho!), yes, the e-reader has some pluses over an LCD tablet,
    but they both will have their good and bad features and I think both types of devices will co-exist for longer than some of these survey people think, judging from the limited types of questions they ask.

  3. I was also interested to link through to the page on the demise of the Flip camera (of which I'm afraid I'd never heard) - to a page which is actually about the general demise of specialist devices.

    Maybe I'm odd but of those 9 listed, I still use a dedicated (digital) voice recorder which is much easier and better than add-ons I've seen on smartphones; a dedicated alarm clock which has a battery which lasts many months and thus enables me to switch off the phone (whose battery may last only 36 hours) at night; an MP3 player which remains better for my tastes than media players I've seen on smartphones; a landline telephone which I need to pay for anyway to get my broadband and which still gives me cheaper calls than my mobile; a couple of cameras which are still vastly superior to anything I've seen from a smartphone; and a dedicated torch.

    I confess to not wearing a watch but stopped doing so long before the first smartphone; and I do use my phone as my SatNav in the car - though as soon as I go walking or cycling I use my dedicated Garmin which is superior in some ways and has a battery life of 24 hours of continuous GPS use.

    I've never had a video camera, and have made do with my stills camera and my smartphones - both of which are unsatisfactory in various ways and would not do as a proper substitute if I wanted to take video seriously.

    I guess the point of this long ramble is to agree that "experts" see what they want to see, and each of us that we will continue to use what is right for each of us. In some cases convergence reaches a point where there are no compromises, or the compromise is small, but for many of us for the time being at least those compromises will continue to maintain a need or desire for dedicated specialist devices.

    If tablets can eventually offer the readability and battery life of dedicated e-ink readers then there may still be a compromise to be made on price. The battle is far from over.

  4. As a K3 owner and former (temporary) NookColor owner and someone who stares at LCD displays all day, I would rather read text on my K3's eInk display than the NookColor's LCD. It is easier on my eyes, much less eyestrain.

    The NookColor could have been a nice Android e-reader, but the original firmware was much too restrictive. From what I've seen of the new firmware, it is less restrictive but still pretty restrictive. When I had a NookColor, I did root it but was still not happy. The base Android OS does not scale well for larger, non-smartphone, displays. The text and icons were way too small and could not be resized.

    Hopefully Amazon will learn these lessons when it releases the rumored Amazon tablet. Plus Amazon has more services it can integrate into the new tablet. Amazon has not only books and magazines, but also music, movies, and their Appstore (not to be confused with Apple's App Store or the uncurated Android Marketplace).

    The rumored Amazon tablet has the potential to be a very handy media consumption device. Will it replace my K3? No, not for reading text.

  5. Stephen,
    Yes, the Flip gave up the ghost. Re general demise of specialist devices -- Less tiny cameras will be sold but it's been an overcrowded market for some time.

    A cellphone will never have as good a camera as some of the new mini's even, but only photobugs would care but there are enough of us.

    It depends on whether one wants one thing that will do many things in a mediocre way or wants quality functioning in the area of your interest.

    I enjoyed your list of quality items you still rely on. As for a landline phone, I keep it mainly to:
    1. Keep that radiation away from my head
    (and I don't like the ear piece).
    2. Use it to call my cellphone to see where I left it THIS time. I am forever not knowing where it is.

    "a dedicated torch" ?

    I like my Garmin too though I use it only when I worry about getting lost.

    I agree with your general take, for sure. They'll need to figure out what is right for many of us rather than the strange questions I've seen put to those being surveyed and then interpreting the answers oddly.

    "The battle is far from over." SO TRUE. (And it's not even a 'battle' as they put it. They make up fights to get web-traffic or because they cannot imagine anyone enjoying something they find 'drab' as is often written about e-Ink e-readers.

  6. Mickey Blue Eyes,
    Agreed, re reading books on even the NookColor which I can dim to 5% and change to Sepia background. But I love it for color magazines and for photographs on the web.
    NO GO to read a book on it though, for my eyes.

    The NookColor's software update (Froyo) does well in some areas but is VERY buggy. I was shocked that the youtube videos are extremely clear and smooth though. They took copy and paste away from web-browsing. Can you imagine?

    I think only with an improved (from what it is now) Honeycomb will some of the sizing problems stop.

    Amazon's will almost surely be curated though -- to keep away complaints about malware that made it through earlier where there's no review or standards.

    What you mention is why I'd want the Amazon tablet if it's good.

    And I'm with you on keeping my K3 for long-form text, w/o question.


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