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Old 12-11-2008, 12:18 PM   #1
mizo9999
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"Are eBook Reading Devices Doomed?"

Anyone else read Mike Caine's blog?


http://mikecane2008.wordpress.com/20...evices-doomed/

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Are eBook Reading Devices Doomed? Sony announces it’s in trouble.

I don’t know if that will affect the eBook group. That division is now housed entirely in the U.S., has been profitable, and has begun its international campaign. I hope Sony will see the wisdom in continuing it. To surrender the field to Amazon would be a defeat Sony could not afford.

And yet: Could it all be for nothing?

There are three recent signs — as well as a total wild card — that point to possible dramatic changes in the eBook-reading hardware landscape.

The first is Samsung hitting the pedal hard on OLED screen manufacturing. There have been exciting rumblings that Samsung intends to put these incredible OLED screens in notebook computers. Samsung recently displayed a folding OLED prototype screen.

OLED screens are a huge deal. This is what I previously wrote:

This past weekend, I was in J&R. I made it a point to go see that OLED TV Sony’s Howard Stringer has bragged and bragged about.

It’s no brag!

You have to see it for yourself. Color, contrast, brightness, and viewing angle just shame every other television on sale.



That’s a side view. The screen really is shockingly-thin. (Of course, that’s a bit of a gimmick, isn’t it? If you add the electronics that are separated into the base to make it wall-hanging, there goes the thinness, right?) Now, what happens when Sony finally nails the production run of OLED screens? Would a six-inch one finds its way into a future model of Sony Reader? It’d probably be expensive as all hell, but that’d be only for the first model (targeted to businesses and publishing professionals). Prices would eventually drop.

Let me say one more thing about that Sony OLED TV that pertains expressly to eBooks: it would make eBooks on par with high-quality full-color printing that’s now available. In fact, it’d be higher quality than what we see in weeklies such as Time and Newsweek. We’re talking high-quality full-color Japanese magazine printing (which, if you haven’t seen that, you should!).

The second development has been Hewlett-Packard demonstrating color eInk screens.

Truly, the first device that can do color eBooks will change things forever.

And that just might doom all existing dedicated eBook readers!

For here’s the third piece of this puzzle: Amtek Rumored to Show Slate Netbook at CES 2009

The specs are familiar to netbook fans — Intel Atom N270, 512MB RAM (upgradable to 2GB), 80GB HDD, 10.2” XGA TFT(1024*600) — albeit with less RAM and hard drive space than we’re used to seeing these days. The touchscreen may make up for that, if it brings the awesome.

Those specs just kick the hell out of all current eBook reading devices. And it has a color and touch screen.

Throw Adobe Digital Editions on that and it’s immediately ePub Heaven.

And, of course, it’s not only an eBook reader. It’s a full-fledged portable computer in which eBooks are only one application.

Let’s say it comes at a premium price of US$700.00. That’s twice the price of a Sony PRS-505 and $300 more than the new touchscreen PRS-700.

Suddenly the entire eBook reading equation is changed. It’s no longer, “I need this small device that’s made for eBooks.”

It becomes, “I can get this small computer and also have eBooks.”

I’ve argued since I first saw it that the Sony Reader is the absolute ideal size for a portable device:

The Oh. My. God. Moment came in picking it up. This is a masterpiece of design and engineering. It is what a totable computer should be. This is what the Nokia 770 and all UMPCs should be like. Just this exact size and thickness. This is science-fiction come to life. It is worth your time to get to any store that has it just to hold it.

I still believe that.

This puts Sony in a tight corner.

1) It can find itself — as Amazon will — with eBook hardware sales going to zero by the end of 2009

or

2) It can go All Hands On Deck, cross company boundaries, and quickly change course from a dedicated eBook device to the best damned portable computer available.

And what’s the Wild Card in all this?

Pixel Qi, which brags it has revolutionary screens that will basically run on electrons by osmosis instead of the greedy sip-sip-sip of current technology.

Someone is going to put these pieces together:

1) Sony Reader-sized touchscreen computer

2) Revolutionary screen

3) Included Adobe Digital Editions software

Will it be Apple? Hewlett-Packard? Asus? MSI? Amtek? Or Sony?

It will take just one company to start the ball rolling. Just as it did with Asus and the original EeePC. The pile-on quickly followed, with every manufacturer leap-frogging one another, culminating in the Samsung NC10 which gets a startling battery run-time compared to all the rest.

Amazon wouldn’t really care if its abominable Kindle sales went to zero. It could release a Kindle Reader app and still make money from selling eBooks (although I’d quickly expect those $10 prices to go bye-bye). Amazon would doubly clean up because it also owns MobiPocket, which already runs on conventional computers.

The dying dinosaurs of print wouldn’t really care because they’re selling standardized software now — ePub files. They don’t care what reads them — Sony Reader, desktop Adobe Digital Editions, or Stanza on an iPhone — they would still make sales.

This leaves Sony very vulnerable. It also threatens with extinction all the other dedicated eBook devices out there, such as the ECTACO jetBook and the BeBook.

Next year really is going to be the year everything changes for eBooks.

Explore posts in the same categories: Books - Other, Tech - Apple, Tech - Other, Tech - Sony, eBooks
This entry was posted on December 9, 2008 at 1:50 pm and is filed under Books - Other, Tech - Apple, Tech - Other, Tech - Sony, eBooks. You can subscribe via RSS 2.0 feed to this post's comments. You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.
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Old 12-11-2008, 12:26 PM   #2
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eBooks are a very small part of Sony's business model and I do not believe this is the cause of the problems at Sony.

E-INK is the mainstay of eBook Readers these days and all of the other technologies mentioned pale in comparison to that display and the improved battery life that results from using that display. Don't get me wrong, I like netbooks and think that they have a place and can even be a great reader for some folks but the best of them has only about 7 hours of running time.

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Old 12-11-2008, 12:28 PM   #3
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The comments above are entirely missing the key benefit of the current generation of eInk reading devices - their amazing battery life.

I know that I could use a tablet PC to read books on, but I don't want to be reading my books on a device that I've got to worry about recharging every 3h. I want to read on a device where I only have to think about recharging every couple of weeks.

OLED screens and all the rest of it are "power hogs" just like LCD screens are. They aren't a replacement for eInk.
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Old 12-11-2008, 12:37 PM   #4
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Unless I'm much mistaken, OLED screens are only power hogs compared to e-Ink, they're sippers when compared to LCD.
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Old 12-11-2008, 12:38 PM   #5
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Pure speculation

Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
The comments above are entirely missing the key benefit of the current generation of eInk reading devices - their amazing battery life.

I know that I could use a tablet PC to read books on, but I don't want to be reading my books on a device that I've got to worry about recharging every 3h. I want to read on a device where I only have to think about recharging every couple of weeks.

OLED screens and all the rest of it are "power hogs" just like LCD screens are. They aren't a replacement for eInk.
Well OLED's are expensive and new and far from being mass produced for hardware like a book reader, but they do need much less power than an LCD because they don't need to be independently backlit, and they are LED's which are pretty power thrifty.

I found the blog post very interesting, but even if it were right about everything, it would seem to be a long way off from coming true.
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Old 12-11-2008, 12:40 PM   #6
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Do we really need the entire article quoted?

The thing is, buying one of these "computers" is going to be more expensive and not as portable. The battery life will not last as long.

Ever try using an iPod Touch to read? You'll find yourself running out of power long before you finish the book.
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Old 12-11-2008, 12:59 PM   #7
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I haven't seen OLED in person. Is it anywhere as easy on the eyes as e-ink? If I could have a little netbook or tablet that was about the size and weight of my Kindle, that was as kind to my eyes and daylight readable I'd switch as long as I could get a full day on a charge. If it's not OLED, I'd still bet that there will be a technology that will fit the bill. I don't think this will be any time really soon, but I do think that stand-alone reading devices won't be with us for the long haul.
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Old 12-11-2008, 01:12 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alisa View Post
I haven't seen OLED in person. Is it anywhere as easy on the eyes as e-ink? If I could have a little netbook or tablet that was about the size and weight of my Kindle, that was as kind to my eyes and daylight readable I'd switch as long as I could get a full day on a charge. If it's not OLED, I'd still bet that there will be a technology that will fit the bill. I don't think this will be any time really soon, but I do think that stand-alone reading devices won't be with us for the long haul.
The OLED on my Nokia Phone (N85) is not especially readable in sun light. It is back lit and kind of looks like a small laptop screen. I will probably test to read a book usinh the MobiPocket reader for the phone just to test how big difference it is compared to the Gen3.
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Old 12-11-2008, 01:47 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by JSWolf View Post
Do we really need the entire article quoted?
I did; Wordpress is blocked by my job's websense. I'm happy that Mobileread is not, and more happy when I don't have to wait six hours to read the article a discussion is about.

(That said, I'm aware that normal protocol would be a link and a paragraph or two, maybe a bullet-point list of highlights. Forums don't need to cater to those on limited web-access.)

Quote:
The thing is, buying one of these "computers" is going to be more expensive and not as portable. The battery life will not last as long.
And heavier. My Sony PRS is as heavy as I want to deal with for a book reader; add a keyboard and other hardware, and it'd be too much to read one-handed on the train... I'd switch back to a PDA and skip the pretty eInk screen.
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Old 12-11-2008, 02:04 PM   #10
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if you like radio, wait until you see tv! it's like radio but so much more! pictures! in color!





colored inks have been out a long time. yet virtually all books meant for reading are printed in black ink on white(ish) paper.

eInk has hardly matured. i expect contrast and resolution to improve over time, as well as portability and refresh speed. batterylife as well.

OLED *may* be used in some portable devices in the future but i don't think it is the death knell for eInk-based readers. i don't even find the arguments posed in the article all that convincing. it actually strikes me as being written by someone who has probably never read a book on an eInk device.

i would agree that sony is on shaky ground tho and i don't think their bookstore will see 2010 personally.
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Old 12-11-2008, 02:54 PM   #11
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i don't think their bookstore will see 2010 personally.
I'm with you on that, unless they make fairly drastic changes.

Oh look! It's an online store! That you can only use after you've installed our software! Can't shop from work--can't even check prices at school, or when you're at your sister's house for Christmas! Can't buy a book for your friend! Can't even download the freebies when you're away from home!

Yeah, that's a business model built for success.

Right up there with stores that have a dress code for customers... wouldn't want the Wrong Kind Of People to shop at our store.
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Old 12-11-2008, 03:49 PM   #12
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I think a converged device is still several years away as the reader of choice for ebooks. I think this is true for several reasons.

1. If we accept that 5-6" screens are ideal for ebooks, we end up with a device that is too large to be a cell phone, but essentially too small for many of the things that people do with their PCs. Its the reason why the 7" screens that netbooks started with are rapidly being displaced by 8.9" and 10" screens. Yes you could imagine a PMP being in the 5"-6" range, but it seems like people perfer them to be more pocketable. (Otherwise you get little advantage over just having a tablet). Just a point, but UMPC's fill niche.. and they haven't exactly been a huge success.

2. Cost... ebook devices, all of them, are essentially overpriced for their capabilities. Some of this is due to the cost of eInk technology, and some is due to relatively low volumes that ebook readers sell. Ultimately though, I just can't say ebook readers are going to be willing to spend $700 for a device that they are going to use mostly for reading ebooks when I expect that in a year or two, most of these devices will probably be in the $200 range.

3. eBook readers often prefer non-backlit screens. So far at least, no device released has really been designed to be as readable in direct sun light as it is in a dimply lit room.

--
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Old 12-11-2008, 06:25 PM   #13
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Well I think this person has never seen an eInk device before.

And he is missing the point that people don't want to have a device that can do everything.

I personally want to have phone, a laptop, a tv and an ebookreader to read. Not a small laptop that can do everything.

I also question if color eInk will be that important but who am I.
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Old 12-11-2008, 06:34 PM   #14
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Heh, Mike Cane "never seen an eInk device"? Browse around his blog, you might be surprised.
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Old 12-11-2008, 06:37 PM   #15
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... or just read that post quoted above.

About halfway down:
Quote:
I’ve argued since I first saw it that the Sony Reader is the absolute ideal size for a portable device:

The Oh. My. God. Moment came in picking it up. This is a masterpiece of design and engineering. It is what a totable computer should be. This is what the Nokia 770 and all UMPCs should be like. Just this exact size and thickness. This is science-fiction come to life. It is worth your time to get to any store that has it just to hold it.
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