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Dedicated e-readers vs. omni-functional smart phones

February 25, 2010 Leave a comment

E-reader makers and publishers (with the exception of Apple) have focused primarily on larger, dedicated devices for displaying e-books. The result has created products like the Kindle, a larger, yet still portable device tailored specifically for the reading of e-books.However, in an age crammed full of mobile devices, can e-readers afford their myopic approach to functionality?

Last week, the Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona sparked nervous chatter from in the publo-blogosphere about e-reader competition from mobile phones. Does the future distribution of e-books rest in smaller, more functional mobile phones? At least some people think so. Hannah Johnson of Publishing Perspectives says the infrastructure for a mobile reading market already exists, built on the back of 50 billion connected devices.

“In the last couple years, the growing infrastructure for delivering mobile content (app stores, secure financial services, and mobile Web sites) combined with better device technology (clear displays, touch screens, and Internet connectivity) has created a robust mobile marketplace where content creators have an ever-expanding platform for reaching consumers.”

If so many people already have access to a network capable of distributing content, publishers and application developers would be fools not to jump on board.

The mobile market also points to the importance of leveraging existing infrastructure as e-readers innovate. One of the largest hurdles e-reader viability faces is getting people to purchase a dedicated reading device — a tall order when so many people already carry around multiple electronic devices. If increasing use of smart phones can be seen as a trend — and I think few people would argue that it can’t — it makes much more sense for publishers and retailers to fold their services into those devices.

We all hate carrying multiple, bulky devices. The argument for the pocket-sized omni-tool requires little defense, except for current e-reader retailers, who seem to think consumers will prefer a dedicated device. They could still be right, but if they don’t move on the mobile market soon, someone else will (see: Apple).

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