I’m pretty certain that eBook readers are about to take off big time over the next year or two. I’m less certain that hardware-based eBook readers like the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Sony eBook Readers are going to be runaway success stories. Instead, I see Amazon, B&N, and other companies releasing eBook applications that can run on desktop, laptop, and tablet computers as well as smartphones running mobile operating systems.
Amazon has already released versions of its Kindle eBook reader for the iPhone, BlackBerry, and PC. And I’m pretty sure the company would be perfectly happy if customers started buying books on those platforms in large numbers and stopped buying Kindle hardware. And ultimately, I think that’s the most likely scenario, because why spend hundreds of dollars on a device that only reads eBooks when you may already have a phone or tablet that can do the job nearly as well?
So I’m not surprised to see a report today that PC maker Acer has decided to drop its plan to build a dedicated eBook reader. Dozens of companies had dedicated eBook readers on display at CES in early January, but I don’t expect very many of these devices to make it to market given the relatively low consumer demand.
Don’t get me wrong. There are some advantages to devices like the Kindle. They offer a higher contrast reading experience that feels more like paper — and have battery life that’s measured in days or weeks rather than hours. But despite what your parents told you, staring at a digital screen all day isn’t going to make you go blind (as long as you look away occasionally to reduce eye strain), and there are some advantages to reading text on an LCD display. You can read in bed in the dark, display full color pictures, and avoid the slow screen refresh times that you have with e-Ink displays.