Thursday, January 21, 2010

Will Apple’s Tablet Kill the Kindle? (And Does it Really Matter?)

E-book watchers are betting that when Apple’s much-anticipated tablet finally reaches consumers some time between now and this spring, the presently precarious e-book market will solidify. The New York Times looks at recent developments:
It’s a formidable high-tech face-off: versus Apple for the hearts and minds of book publishers, authors and readers.

Amazon’s Kindle devices and electronic bookstore now dominate a nascent but booming market, accounting for more than 70 percent of electronic reader sales and 80 percent of e-book purchases, according to some analysts. And on Thursday it will take a page from Apple and announce that it is opening up the Kindle to outside software developers.
Not only that, but Amazon will also debut a shiny new Kindle device. Between that and the newly opened source, Amazon insiders expect things to be shaken up, but in a happy way:
Ian Freed, vice president for the Kindle at Amazon, said he expected developers would devise a wide range of programs, including utilities like calculators, stock tickers and casual video games. He also predicts publishers will begin selling a new breed of e-books, like searchable travel books and restaurant guides that can be tailored to the Kindle owner’s location; textbooks with interactive quizzes; and novels that combine text and audio.
Sound familiar? (There’s an app for that.)

All of this, just as Apple is about to unleash a device that is much more expensive than the Kindle, but also much more capable: a creature that will likely be very much like an iPod on steroids, capable of all types of computing and -- by the way -- acting as an e-book reader.

While all of this Kindle-killing speculation is fun for the media and interesting for those of us who will ultimately end up schlepping such devices, we’re still a very long way from fat ladies and singing.

Think of the epic battles between Betamax and VHS. Then think of what you’re recording video with these days.

Or how about eight-track and cassette or even -- heaven forbid -- reel-to-reel. What about eight-and-a-half inch diskettes, versus mini-floppies, then on to zip drives and rewriteable CD-ROMS and all the other storage devices we ended up spending big bucks on in the time leading up to now: I have a flash drive smaller than a lipstick that I need to keep in a special drawer in my desk for fear of it getting lost.

My point with all this memory lane stuff is this: while we work towards the answer, don’t anticipate that it’s right around the corner. It is not. But here is what I predict: in the end the medium will not matter. Nor will we care about the puny questions we bandy back and forth so seriously now. What really matters never changes, not in the long haul.

I want my full immersion reading experience. Work out the details, please. Fight quietly amongst yourselves. I need the quiet, because you see, I’m over here, in front of my fire, with my heart and my mind immersed in a book.

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Blogger Bill Cameron said...

My prediction is the Apple tablet will be a bust. It will be too expensive and too niche to really be a market success, particularly in the current economic environment. Think the Mac Cube: beautiful, elegant, and unpurchased in droves.

Of course, I could be wrong, and wouldn't mind being wrong. I generally like Apple products (with notable exceptions), and favor anything which might break the Amazon hegemony. But I'm just not hopeful for this.

Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 8:58:00 AM PST  
Blogger Linda L. Richards said...

In many ways, that was my point, more or less. Or, rather, that the device that will emerge victorious is far enough in the that it does not yet factor.

Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 9:50:00 AM PST  
Blogger Malcolm R. Campbell said...

When I saw e-book readers on Star Trek years ago, I thought that would probably happen to us sooner or later.

Right now, Kindle is too expensive for me to even raise an eyebrow at, much less consider a more-expensive Apple. The way to capture the market is to give the readers away and make money on the books--sort of like cheap LASER printers with expensive toner cartridges.

Meanwhile, I'm staying with the real thing.


Friday, January 22, 2010 at 7:35:00 AM PST  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

This post makes good reading, though I am not of the we in your observation about devices that “we ended up spending big bucks on.”

Anyone who buys an e-reader before proprietary-technology issues (not to mention privacy concerns) are resolved, before there is 100% percent interchangeability between different companies’ e-readers and before every book in the Library of Congress and its equivalents worldwide is available is not buying a reading device, but rather an expensive electronic toy.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Saturday, January 23, 2010 at 5:09:00 PM PST  

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