At one point eReaders were the hottest gadgets. Amazon’s Kindle burst on to the scene in 2007 and popularised the idea of downloading books and reading them all on a single device. Over the years eReaders became more advanced, with a more refined appearance, reduced weight, increased storage and better functionality.
However, things took a turn when Apple introduced its iPad in 2010. Although tablets existed beforehand, Apple brought their trademark cool to the gadget and popularised tablets. Apple has sold 120 million iPads since them and now many other companies have joined in on the fun. Samsung, Google and Microsoft are just a few of the big technology giants who have their own line of tablets. Even Amazon has the Kindle Fire, a tablet that goes far beyond its eReader roots.
The introduction of the tablet to the wide consumer market could be seen as the beginning of the end for the eReader. Barnes & Noble recently announced that their fiscal 2013 third quarter revenue declined 26% when compared to the same period a year ago. They claim that this was primarily affected by the lack of sales for their Nook eReader.
Frankly, there is nothing wrong with the original Kindle, nor the Nook. Both of these do their job well for those who just want to read books. Amazon use eInk technology on their Kindle eReaders. This means that the screens reflect light in the same way that paper does, meaning that your eyes won’t get tired when reading like they would when looking at a computer screen. Although tablet screens are continually improving and getting higher in definition, currently none of them rival eInk in terms of reading comfort.
However, a lot of consumers enjoy having everything on a single device and are willing to sacrifice things like eInk. When an average tablet costs the same as a high end eReader, a lot of people will opt for the former. This is because not only can it read books, but it can also access the internet, store photos and videos and run apps. A tablet is also capable of other types of reading, like magazines and comic books, which eReaders are not capable of displaying.
Michael Gartenberg, a technology industry analyst for research firm Garter Inc., says that is a rough market to compete in. He continues, “On one hand, devices like the iPad dominate the consumer tablet experience which includes reading. On the other hand, less demand for dedicated devices had helped Amazon, which already established a strong brand presence with Kindle as part of a much larger personal-cloud ecosystem”.
At the moment the future of the eReader is in doubt. The main selling point for one at the moment is that they are relatively cheap and offer the best comfort when it comes to reading eBooks. However, when consumers can spend a little bit more to get a tablet that will do a whole lot more, it is hard to say for sure how the eReader market is going to hold up.