After Hours

Kindle 3: Is there still a place for dedicated e-readers?

Amazon unveiled the Kindle 3 this week with a few minor improvements and a much better price tag. But do customers still want dedicated e-readers? Take the poll.

Amazon launched the Kindle 3 (right) this week with a few minor improvements and a much better price tag. It looks great and works better, but the question everyone seem to be asking is whether people still want dedicated e-readers, or if they'll just read electronic books on existing mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) instead.

So we'd like to pose that question to the TechRepublic audience in today's poll. But first, I'll give you my quick take on it.

The primary factor here is price. Now that the Kindle is down to $139 for the Wi-Fi model and $189 for the 3G edition, it's not really a competitor with the Apple iPad any more. Don't forget that just 13 months ago, the Kindle cost $359. Here's a recap of how the price of the Kindle has dropped over the past two years:

  • Nov 19, 2007: $399
  • Feb 10, 2009: $359
  • Jul 8, 2009: $299
  • Oct 7, 2009: $259
  • Jun 21, 2010: $189
  • Jul 28, 2010: $139 ($189 for 3G)

The Kindle was a tougher sell earlier this year when it was only a couple hundred bucks cheaper than an iPad, which does so much more and is actually a better e-reader in most cases.

However, the Kindle also still has a few feature advantages over the iPad:

  • You can read it in full sunlight because it uses E-ink rather than LCD
  • It's thinner, lighter, and smaller, so it's much easier to hold in one hand
  • The screen is plastic and not glass, so it's more durable
  • With the 3G model, you don't pay any service fees for the mobile Internet connection to download books

When the Kindle first launched in 2007, I said that Amazon would sell a ton of them if they were $99. I still stand by that, even with the iPad as a competitor. Nevertheless, when you use a Kindle after using a smartphone or a tablet, the screen doesn't look very impressive and the refresh rate for turning pages can feel painfully slow. But, when you're paying a fraction of the cost, I think most people will take those trade-offs. That includes many businesses. I think we'll soon see professionals in conference rooms using e-readers and tablets to navigate large documents rather than placing big piles of paper in front of each of the participants.

What do you think? Answer the question and jump in the discussion.

Take the poll

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About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).

29 comments
liv4Christ
liv4Christ

I go to Barnes and Noble quite often and I see quite a few folks over 40 (and most over 50) talking to the clerk about this "new fangled" reader thing. I walked by today and a woman about 60 was asking where she could get a list of the books published on the Nook. I have never seen anyone under 30 looking at it. I agree with you Jason - for $99 it seems like a single use device with that form factor has a nice niche and could have a good long run. I love my iPad for reading, but then again I spend all day looking at a computer anyway. And WHAT???? is the big deal about the full sunlight thing? With skin cancer and as hot as it's been this year I never read in full sunlight. If I'm on the beach it's under an umbrella. In the park I'm under a tree. I think the whole full sunlight thing is overblown. I'm an avid reader, but not just of books. I love being able to read books, blogs, websites, magazines, email, etc, in addition to the 100 other apps I have on my iPad. The iPad is too expensive for a lot of folks, but then again who was around for the very first iPod? The price will come down and a bunch of "almost as good" competitors will enter the space. So the real question is - how low does the price of a multi-function device have to get before it kills off the dedicated devices? Maybe never for some folks, but sorry, for most the future is in devices that can present a variety of media.

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

There is quite a difference in price between a Kindle and an iPad. Besides that, I tend to not to buy anything proprietary. I also avoid Apple products because they are bad for the environment. Can't replace the battery [or not officially]. So you end up chucking them. I also wouldn't care for a one dimensional device. Oh and I prefer paper over electronic versions.

GSG
GSG

Here are some of my reasons why I wouldn't want to use an ipad as an ereader. Disclaimer: I don't have an ipad, I'm going by what articles have said about the ipad experience. 1) When I read, I read for long periods. The nook (which is what I have) and the Kindle, are light (just a few ounces), thin, and easy to grip. The ipad isn't heavy when compared to a laptop, but to hold in your hand for a long period, it would be quite heavy. 2) Glare. The nook and Kindle have the eInk displays that do a fabulous job of emulating paper. I read in full sun at noon and didn't get a bit of glare. The ipad has a color enabled screen, which is great for graphics, but, since it's back lit is hard on the eyes and will show a lot of glare. 3) Heat. See #1 about reading for a long time. The nook doesn't generate any heat. I assume the Kindle doesn't either. A recent article I read talked about a class-action lawsuit against Apple about the ipad overheating. Granted, in the winter, with wind chill below zero, that might be kind of nice, but right now? Not so much. 4) Battery Life -- See #1 again. I never turn my nook off except to reboot after a firmware update, which is what is recommended. Unless I'm actively reading, or have turned on the wireless, I get a week out of the battery. If I start reading on a fully charged battery, I can read an entire book (400+ pages printed) and only use about one-third of the battery. If you are an avid reader who devours books like a competition eater at a hot dog eating contest, then I'd go with a dedicated e-reader. If you are a casual reader, who reads just a few books a year, and who really, really wants an ipad, then go for the ipad. If you want to read manuals with lots of graphics, like diagrams and charts, then an ipad would be better for you than an ereader. I already have a laptop, and while an ipad might be fun, I can't really think of any benefit that I'd get out of it, so I'll stick with my laptop for computing, and my nook for my books.

highlander718
highlander718

what's with the poll ? 100% yes, 7% No ? Anyway, just wanted to remind you about the small segment that prefers none :-). I love rading but I will never buy any sort of e-device for the purpose.

wolfshades
wolfshades

*shrugs* I'm 52 and I *much* prefer my iPad over an ebook reader. For much the same reasons you mentioned: it's just more versatile and you can do a lot more with it. AND you can read magazines and newspapers as well as books (all of which I do on a regular basis). It's easier on the eyes too, than my Kindle was. Not sure why you would state that older people are better with a Kindle. Are you suggesting maybe they're not tech-saavy enough?

ruby.otero
ruby.otero

great bullet points!! i agree with u 'cause sometime i read for 2-5 hours!!! at a time

.Martin.
.Martin.

I actually get a better reading experience when my kindle is in direct sunlight.

wolfshades
wolfshades

But, like you, I'm a rabid devourer of books. I can sit down and read a 400 page book in an evening. (Although I hate doing that - 'cause books are costly). I have had both a dedicated ebook reader as well as an iPad. After reading a couple of books on the iPad, I sold my ebook reader. With the ability to alter the screen settings (dim the light, change the fonts and even the page colour), there is virtually no difference between them, and nothing to cause eye strain. In fact, for my tired eyes, the iPad is a better product. Can't tell you the number of times I've brought my ebook reader to a dim restaurant, only to have to put it away because of the eye strain. Doesn't happen with an iPad. And strangely enough - even sunlight doesn't seem to make any difference in my reading experience. You have a point about battery life being much better with an ebook reader. That said, I have never had to stop reading a book because of a lack of battery life on the iPad. I generally have about 20% left by the end of a long day - and that's after playing some games and browsing the internet too. And I read for long periods as well. It's more expensive, but the iPad (maybe due in part to its multiple uses) is more attractive to me. More costly too, but you get what you pay for I suppose.

flores.cm
flores.cm

I'm with you - I prefer none! I have enough eye strain as it is with all the computer time - the last thing I need is one more monitor to look at to read a book. Plus I tend to read books quite a bit - usually at the beach or in a forest preserve sitting in a folding chair, prone to dozing off in the sun, my book at times slipping from my hands to the sand or the grass below. When I pick it back up again it's none the worse for wear - and I don't have to worry about anyone stealing it while I sleep! Add to that - I get my books from the library, used book sales and a book swap group where I work out - so I spend little to no $ on my reading. So my opinion is - If it ain't broke, don't fix it! Especially not with a 1 trick technology pony!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I won't say I'll never own one. I'll consider it when the publishers realize the profit is in the books and not the hardware. With the money they're saving over the 'dead tree' distribution model, they could give the readers away.

OxfordRob
OxfordRob

Sorry guys but I kind of break the type...... Buy a lot of books, read a LOT and running out of space. I have an iPod (an original as well as the latest) and have no need that I can see for an iPad. With the weight allowances on flights becoming more restrictive a device that means I can take as much reading material as I can and still fit in my camera bag is a bonus. Oh and I'm only 38. I sit in front of a computer all day and quite a bit of the evening, reading is a nice escape and normally involves a cat sitting on my lap so something light would be great especially cordless as that'll mean more options. In fact a Kindle is on the way ready for the holiday. Reading on the beach while the wife sunbathes is a great way to relax.

liv4Christ
liv4Christ

wolfeshades - I'm 50 myself, and I love my iPad. But I don't think we're representative of our generation. Techrepublic members probably don't represent the general book buying public, do they? I think the reason is folks "our age" grew up with the paper books, so a more direct transition to a device that seems more like a book feels better to them. They do tend to be less web-savvy and many do not realize the full extent of the media content available on the web. So the Kindle and Nook may have a market, but as we know, the market is limited - they aren't making any more of our generation!!

emitretsam
emitretsam

One of the reasons I am getting a 2nd Kindle (this one for myself). We downsized from a 3bdrm house with a full basement to a condo. Books we still have after donations are now in storage, and the 1st Kindle has reduced the number of books that my wife buys and saves money as well.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I've got books stacked all over the place, and another 8 or 10 2.5 cube boxes full that haven't been unpacked in 10 or so years. Next time I move, I'm either going to have to get rid of some, or move into a house with library shelves in a large room.

GSG
GSG

I'm running out of space. I admit that I like a paper book more, but I ran out of space to keep them. I recently donated about a thousand to our local library to sell in their book sale, and only kept the ones I really wanted, which was about half of my collection. Plus, my Nook has already paid for itself, and in most cases, the ebooks are cheaper. Oh, there are drawbacks, but I still like having my Nook.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

with a book. Lightweight, no glare, no heat, and infinite battery life.

liv4Christ
liv4Christ

Totally agree with this post. I completely forgot how easy (and cool!) it is to seamlessly make the text bigger or smaller with a single swipe of my fingers, and to flip pages with a flip of a fingertip. I'm wondering how many folks here who praised the Kindle have even used the iPad for any period of time?

emitretsam
emitretsam

I have used the Kindle app on my Ipod Touch to load copies of the same book from my wife's Kindle. I plan to do the same thing when I buy a Kindle for myself since the Kindle can be USB attached to a PC/Laptop to transfer the books. I would have to look at the Amazon Kindle user agreement, but believe the transfer is legal by removing the book from the original device.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

My father, my in-laws, and I trade a lot, both with each other and used book stores. Unless there's a mechanism to do that, an e-reader won't fit the way I use books. Why buy the same book two or three times?

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

IMO, e-readers are just one more expensive gizmo for me to drop, break, lose or not have enough room for. I carry enough stuff as it is. Also, when I was visiting some friends, they just handed me 2 books from their shelf because they thought I should read them, and I've traded books with other people. Shoot, my old workplace had a cart full of books for trade as desired. Trading paperbacks is cheaper and easier than downloading stuff from one device to the other in this kind of scenario. Now for those who want it, excellent. I just don't really see them in my immediate future. Libraries don't look as impressive with no books on the shelves. And when those books have signatures of presidents or other famous types, it's even cooler. :D

MikeGall
MikeGall

Amazon would be more likely to give the package. With the magazine subscription model say the publisher makes the free magazines that they throw into the deal and so their cost is only the marginal cost of producing the free copy where as they would have to by the ereader from Amazon, probably at a discount, but still at a point where Amazon makes money on the deal. I think a model something like: 1) ereader 189 no contract, or 2) free but you agree to buy 20 NY Times best sellers in the next 2 years. Would work. They have to have some mechanism to provent people from going out and buying the 99 cent copies of shakespears plays or whatever to meet their contract obligation, something like best sellers list items probably is reasonably fair (and would also allow Amazon to claim large volumes of sales from ereader vs print).

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'm not toting a phone now, primarily because I'm too cheap to pay the monthly charges. I can't see myself footing the connectivity bill in three years either. Perhaps if the price for e-books and readers has dropped by then to being competitive with paper, and I can load the device from the same connection I use for my desktop, but not otherwise. Wander off-topic all you want, it's expected; nay, encouraged.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The publishing houses are about to run into what the record companies were hit with. If an author can sell his novel in variety of reader formats myself, what does he need them for at all?

bergenfx
bergenfx

I predict we are both going to be slavishly toting about some kind of tablet/pad/ereader in three years. Every small publisher I know has closed their office and moved their business into their homes, and done things like drop health insurance to stay in the game they love. I think the only hope for most is to exclusively publish in digital format, maybe with a little print-on-demand mixed in. Even large, even giant publishers will probably create an imprint that only publishes ebooks. If the ebooks get traction, then they may go for a print run. The economics of the game are forcing this. What this means for you and me, is that we can get a nice print edition of some books for boocoo dollars, but others may be available only in digital form. If we insist on a print-on-demand paper version, we will have to pay. Sorry, I know this is more than anyone wants to think about this, but y'know, sometimes when you wind me up ...

bergenfx
bergenfx

publishers aren't really in the business of retailing. I mean, with the internet one can go to the random house site and buy a random house book, but that is not there focus. I don't think that revenue model would fly. The money has to come from somewhere. Either they price the ebook with the print production costs removed, (which is an attractive price), and the consumer can invest in the device based on the economics of that attractive price; or they boost the price to help offset the cost of the ereader, which is placing your price above competitors. I think the real deal killer is that if a publisher offers this deal, basically subsidizing the ereader based on future sales, then all the other publishers are going to benefit from that publisher's investment in their market. That means they are not only investing in their future market, but also in their competitors' future. I doubt many business people would want to do that. I personally think Amazon is the better target, because their business is retailing, and they benefit regardless of publisher, (no matter how big or small). And, Palmetto, I am not deaf. I totally agree that there is not enough economic incentive for an ereader. I have the first coming out on kindle (and have previewed the review draft on Kindle for PC), but have yet to purchase one.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I haven't paid detailed attention because the prices of readers is still more than I'm willing to pay. But there's nothing to prevent publishers from selling books on subscription basis, like book clubs do. "Buy 6 books in the next year (or 8 in eighteen months, or whatever the profit point is) and we'll toss in the reader for free!" They're still saving on the printing and delivery, and they're not losing part of the cover price to the retailer. They ought to be able to get the readers at a substantial discount over the retail price; they could possible offer more than one model. Require a credit card number so if the book requirement isn't met, charge for the reader plus a fat markup. I can figure this out, and I'm not in the business. Geez, if Sci-Fi Book Club offered on under these terms, I'd be on it tomorrow.

bergenfx
bergenfx

the publishers do not profit from, nor do they control (or have any say over) ereader platforms. Just like CDs: there is the platform, the delivery/distribution and the intellectual property. Record companies (scum that some of them are) do not profit from CD players. For the first book I have coming out on kindle in the next couple of weeks, I basically set the intellectual property price as the retail price of the print version minus the cost of print/bound production (a little over-simplified for argument's sake). I then start pricing an ePublication at the cost of the intellectual property plus the cost (mostly redesign and conversion) of getting it into ePub channels. So, this is a long way around my beginning of "I know you know all this ..." so what am I misunderstanding or missing from your post?

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