Monday, 7 June 2010

Will ebook readers go the way of the PDA?

Now, listen and attend, for this is an important lesson. Once upon a time there was something called a PDA, a TLA (three letter acronym) for the rather pompous 'Personal Digital Assistant.' It was, in essence, an electronic Filofax. Somewhere to keep your diary, address book, notes and the like. As in reality it was a pocket computer (as sung of by Blondie), it could also do snazzy things like display photos (though not take them), play music, record a voice and, with suitable add-on hardware, provide satellite navigation.

Now the PDA is no more, thanks to the smart phone. A Blackberry, an iPhone, or one of the alternatives does pretty well everything a PDA could, some things it couldn't (take pictures, make phone calls) and often has hardware built in for GPS and more. Why would you possibly want a PDA? Okay, it was a little bit better at some of its functions because the screen might have been a bit bigger. But you wanted a phone as well, so why carry two bits of hardware?

When smartphones first came out, I argued they were too big - but by the time the iPhone arrived, the form factor was perfectly acceptable. We've moved on.

Now I'd suggest the same thing is happening to the dedicated ebook reader. The iPad and a host of other tablets that will come out over the next few years will kill the dedicated reader. I'm not saying at this stage that the iPad itself will be the killer in the same way the Blackberry and iPhone were for the PDA (though it may be) - but the type of device will make the e-reader redundant.

'But, no!' scream the e-reader fans. "Ebooks are much better on e-readers. The screens work just as well in sunlight. The contrast ratio is more natural, more like paper. They don't use power when you aren't turning the page. They MUST survive.' Piffle, I say. This is the argument for Betamax over VHS (do we remember video recorders?) - it was technically superior in one respect, but that wasn't enough to make it survive.

The fact is, I'd rather read an e-book on my iPhone than an ebook reader. Page turning is much more natural, and the screen is fine in the places I'm likely to use it. (Not an a beach, I admit, but I don't use it on a beach.) And I have it ready, for instant use, wherever I am. The iPad or equivalent carries this forward. Okay, it's not pocketable, but I'm more likely to have it with me for its other features. It's not the best screen to read ebooks on, but I will balance that negative with all the other positives it gives me over those frankly clunky, black and white, slow to refresh, limited in facilities ebook readers. They don't stand a chance.


Image from Wikipedia

No comments:

Post a Comment