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The Swiss Army knife approach

One topic that pops up from time to time in talking about eReaders (and I am usually talking about eReaders these days) is whether or not there will be any in 20 years time. The popularity of multi-use gadgets like the iPhone leads some folks to question whether or not eReaders as standalone devices will be a viable long term market.

I'm thinking yes for one basic reason. Reading a book takes hours, and for something like that, you want a good, comfortable experience— no eye strain (well, no more than with a paper book), a reasonable page size, ease of use— as well as the advanced functions like annotations, word look up, and searching.

Certainly, it's possible, even likely, that more folks have the Kindle for iPhone app than have a Kindle. Whether they routinely read long term on their iPhones is another question. The Kindle for iPhone app is easy to use and intuitive, but the main impetus behind its popularity is the popularity of the iPhone itself. The user who already owns the iPhone (or iTouch) can download the app for no extra cost, and it's a device he will always have with him, so why not use it? For casual readers who read thirty minutes a day on the bus or subway, that might be fine. But for folks who want to put their heads down and not come up for air until they finish the book, that might not be so fine.

One thing that came to light lately was that the Kindle DX was not working well for some Princeton students because it didn't fit their needs in terms of highlighting, browsing, and citing page numbers (although some of the discontent might have come from a lack of training; students didn't seem to know how to do all the things the kindle can do).

Which, I think, actually makes my point. The current crop of eReaders work great for reading novels and nonfiction books that aren't illustrated. Making a device that does everything everyone could want is going to be a lot harder. And with competition (Kindle, Nook, iRex, Sony, Alex, eDGE, Cool-er, etc.) prices will come down, making a dedicated eReader more affordable. I think more folks are going to want to curl up with something larger than an iPhone when they sit down for a good, long read.

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( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 16th, 2009 05:28 pm (UTC)
I didn't even believe in eye-strain until I read at night on an ipod. Now I'm inclined to believe there needs to be an e-ink solution.
Nov. 16th, 2009 05:30 pm (UTC)
exactly! it's also nice to be able to crank up the font size when your eyes are tired or the light is less than you might like.
Nov. 16th, 2009 05:52 pm (UTC)
Good points all, though personally, I can't see myself getting any sort of e-reader while I can still have the book version.
Nov. 16th, 2009 06:04 pm (UTC)
some folks will take longer to get on board. -)
Nov. 16th, 2009 06:25 pm (UTC)
These new-fangled gadgets... gripe, groan, mutter-mutter... ;)
Nov. 16th, 2009 06:37 pm (UTC)
just think about how fast cell phones took over! heh, heh, heh!
Nov. 17th, 2009 10:21 pm (UTC)
e-readers are not for everyone, Jon :-)
It's nice to see someone who's not interested in an e-reader for himself but yet appreciates some pro-ereader points from others !

For anyone else who is, though, wondering why a Kindle (or any good e-reader with inline dictionary, searching, or annotation capabilities), might be chosen over reading a paper book, I made a list of reasons when asked by a student journalist last week, "Why?" That's at http://bit.ly/k18whys .

- Andrys

Nov. 17th, 2009 11:28 pm (UTC)
Re: e-readers are not for everyone, Jon :-)
Actually, I am a total eReader convert! I have a Kindle 2 and I do use a lot of the functions like the annotations. I find that function OK to use but not ideal. I am only annotating a m.s., not an academic text, though. I don't need color, for example. ANd I do think some folks just aren't ready to make the leap.
Nov. 17th, 2009 10:15 pm (UTC)
Students w/o adequate basic training
That was my very thought when I read the report this morning that they had a hard time finding locations or looking up something in a book!

Highlighting is actually not difficult or slow. Making a note by typing it on that keyboard is, of course, slow though! But I've enjoyed highlighting passages and then adding a note to that in the same annotation by ending the passage with a spacebar rather than clicking again (which then copies the highlighted passage to the Kindle clipboard and new-note) and then adding a brief thought to that note that includes the highlighted passage.

But it's easy enough to just highlight, which gives the user an absolute location number that's linked when viewing highlight/note entries in a search, and then do a separate note following it.

- Andrys
Nov. 17th, 2009 10:27 pm (UTC)
Those Princeton "studentS"
Karen, I posted about that Princeton article when noticing all the negative student assessments quoted heavily as "consensus" statements and "general" take came from one guy! I put that posting into the sig below.

(The negative teacher quoted was resistant from the start and seemed resentful about the study, ultimately "allowing" people to use "location" numbers...

- Andrys

Nov. 17th, 2009 11:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Those Princeton "studentS"
That's interesting. It is kind of an experiment, and if folks don't want to participate, it seems less likely it would succeed. Too bad they didn't get a teacher on board and then ask for volunteers.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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