The Great Debate - Tablets versus eBook Readers and the Fight for our Senses

Bill Loguidice's picture

Over at another forum I frequent, a topic that ostensibly began, Dell Streak Available Next Month, AT&T Not Required, soon morphed into a discussion on the merits of an eReader, like the Kindle, over a tablet, like the iPad, and vice versa. To summarize the lengthy battle (though I recommend you read you yourself using the link), the argument on the eReader side essentially goes like this:

- eInk provides a superior reading experience
- The two top eReader devices offer free 3G
- Target will soon be offering the Kindle in their stores, so Kindle sales will naturally skyrocket
- The iPad is too expensive
- iTunes is too draconian
- Grandma and moms don't want a tablet

The argument on the tablet - and specifically the iPad side - goes something like this:

- The reading experience is just good enough for most people, and just good enough often wins over better
- Color eInk is still a ways away, and for black and white, static devices, eReaders are fairly expensive
- The iPad costs more, but also has many more features and capabilities
- If you're going to carry around a device the size of an eReader, it's not that much of a stretch that you'd carry around something only marginally bigger to get access to many more features
- The iPad has become a sexy, must-have device, thanks to slick advertising and the well regarded Apple brand; eReaders are unlikely to ever been seen as sexy, must-have devices
- In roughly two months, the iPad is closing in on the LIFETIME (since 2007) sales of the Kindle

The way I see it, while I'm a fan of eInk, especially for black and white and limited functionality devices, they tend to cost too much, even though the Kindle and Nook offer lifetime 3G service to purchase more books from just about any location you happen to be at (and a select few other online features to take advantage of the connection), though it's arguable if you really ever have to buy a new book every time you're out and about on the town. If they hit $99 or less, they might be able to gain more momentum outside of the successful niche I expect them to remain in for the foreseeable future, but I still find it unlikely, particularly with the coming onslaught of iPad-like tablet clones, which will continue to steal any new eReader thunder. What they really need though on the eReader side are color eInk displays, which right now are too expensive for mainstream price points. If they had color screens combined with a $150 or lower price point, they might stand a chance to be something a bit more than a niche product, though it's arguable how many truly avid readers there are anyway to support such dedicated products, no matter how refined they become (even recent tests with students at universities have not shown them to be reasonable substitutes for text books--at least in their current forms).

So to summarize, my main point is, is that the iPad's momentum will continue, price be damned, a ton of clone tablets will be released to further place the spotlight on the form and functionality factor, and as a result, sales of dedicated eReaders will remain at roughly the same rate and pace they are now. As a result, the dedicated reader's time in the spotlight has probably come and gone, and it's just a matter of time before the tablet format becomes the de facto companion (when called for) to cell phones, smart or otherwise, since they also give you full access to the same book libraries as the dedicated readers, as well all the other types of media (and games, apps, etc., etc.).

Even though I didn't lay out all the details in this post, I think you get the idea. Naturally I'm 100% correct in my prognostication, but I'm open to the remotest of possibilities that I might be a raving lunatic and don't know what the heck I'm talking about, so I would love to hear what YOU think...

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Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
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Man, Apple knows how to sell

Man, Apple knows how to sell tech as sexy: http://www.apple.com/iphone/design/#design-video

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Catatonic
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I'm sure Rogers will have a

I'm sure Rogers will have a deal like that in Canada, they did it last year - get the phone at a discount if you renew your contract, even if you wouldn't normally be eligible for a discount.

Canada actually has 5 carriers with the iPhone now, a far cry from the AT&T exclusivity you are stuck with. Granted: our 5 carriers are actually owned by only 2 different companies.

Matt Barton
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Darn, I tried watching the

Darn, I tried watching the video but it was skipping so bad I had to cut it off.

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Bill Loguidice
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Apple iPhone 4 video
Matt Barton wrote:

Darn, I tried watching the video but it was skipping so bad I had to cut it off.

That's strange, it ran perfectly fine on my system at home. Maybe there's a YouTube version?

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Bill Loguidice
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Barnes & Noble Adds Wi-Fi Only Nook, Trims 3G Price

This is a good first step, but they need to drop $50 more on each model to REALLY make it exciting: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2365346,00.asp

I expect Amazon will have to follow within a few months, not only as a response to the Nook, but also to the presumed coming holiday onslaught of tablets. If dedicated eReaders can't compete on price and their dedicated reading experience versus the multi-functional versatility of color tablets, then, as I've stated, I expect them to remain niche products, sustainable or not.

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Bill Loguidice
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I really like this form

I really like this form factor from the re-imagined Toshiba Libretto: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2365287,00.asp

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Catatonic
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There is definitely a

There is definitely a psychological effect when a price drops to $199. Sales can double overnight... I wish Amazon would share their sales figures with us.

Bill Loguidice
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Kindle sales estimates
Catatonic wrote:

There is definitely a psychological effect when a price drops to $199. Sales can double overnight... I wish Amazon would share their sales figures with us.

I agree, however, I think $99 would be even more logical, with $149 for the 3G version.

The best estimates I've seen are almost 3 million Kindle's sold since its 2007 release. That would easily make it the market leader in eReader sales. I'm not sure if the Nook or Sony's collection of readers would be second, though the Nook is certainly making a push for at least second...

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Catatonic
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wi-fi vs 3g

I don't remember who, but someone made a point that Wi-Fi-only models may be a good deal for geeks, because they can always find wi-fi... whereas a "normal" person will find it much easier to get a 3G iPad/Nook & not have to learn how to find wi-fi and log into a hotspot.

Bill Loguidice
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Value
Catatonic wrote:

I don't remember who, but someone made a point that Wi-Fi-only models may be a good deal for geeks, because they can always find wi-fi... whereas a "normal" person will find it much easier to get a 3G iPad/Nook & not have to learn how to find wi-fi and log into a hotspot.

Having access anywhere is very cool, but I agree that I think a wi-fi only option should suit the majority of people. I mean, really, how many times am I going to want to purchase a new book and I'll be away from a Wi-Fi source? I realize it makes newspaper updates more convenient and what-not if you're out and about, but again, you can just update that stuff whenever you're near a wi-fi hotspot (and with free access to AT&T wi-fi hotspots for the wi-fi only version, that includes a lot of places like McDonald's). Unfortunately, since in the Nook's case the difference is price is only $50, it would seem foolish under any scenario not to just get the device with the lifetime 3G...

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