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Is There a Future for E-Readers?

by Jack McGrath | December 23, 2010December 23, 2010 6:00 pm PST

With the introduction of numerous new tablet devices that are beginning to innovate the genre in unique ways, and their obvious prevalence this holiday season, it is hard to see a future where dedicated e-readers win the eBook war: They are limited by function, processing power, and most of all production costs. While their prices have decreased significantly over the past few years, consumer movement to more vibrant, color displays such as that of the iPad will increase their production cost of many e-readers. With their limited functionality, it does not seem as if many would be able to justify a higher price tag. Is there a future for dedicated e-readers?

The saturation of electronic-based literature has increased exponentially, the majority of which has stemmed from the new prevalence of self-publishing. As a result, some major publishers have suffered due to competition from smaller firms and independent publishers. However, there are exceptions. HarperCollins Publishing stands out as a significant example, as they have only added 11 more titles to their library since April, but that adds to the 14,000 titles available internationally. Though this may seem insignificant, HarperCollins is one of the first publishers embracing the simultaneous release of multiple formats. The support of publishers providing content to dedicated e-readers alongside the behemoths of the industry, namely the iPad, could revive demand for many lower end e-readers.

einkWhile the Amazon Kindle is not in as much demand as multifunction devices such as the iPad, e-reader innovation may come from a slightly different sector. Have you seen the new Harry Potter film? This may seem random, but scientific advancements brought to light in the past few weeks may make something that seems as unreal as wizards and magic a reality. The featured newspapers in the series, though made of paper, are able to display videos and moving content. Researchers at the University of Cincinnati have created a cost-effective, disposable e-reader that is fast enough to render video. There has been much debate as to the actual cost-effectiveness of the paper, alongside debate concerning the waste it will create. However, imagine going to the library, picking out a one-page-long book, and using dedicated buttons to read the entire book without actually turning a page. Imagine picking up your morning newspaper and seeing video running alongside an editorial. The possibilities are endless. This is expected to hit market in three to five years, a relatively short amount of time for an amazing innovation.

These are only a few solutions to slow the quick demise of many e-readers. What do you think? Could publishers solve the issues by providing content to less notable devices? Do disposable e-readers that use new electrowetting techniques to display media on actual paper interest you? Let us know in the comments below.


Jack McGrath

Rooted in his childhood obsession with dismantling and reassembling gizmos and gadgets around the house, Jack McGrath's knowledge of programming,...

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