The argument about whether e-books will be successful appears to be over. Digital fiction sales in the first six months of 2012 increased by 188 per cent while sales of physical books dropped. The argument now is about what device offers the best way to read an e-book.
The dawn of the e-book reader
Although the Rocket eBook and the SoftBook Reader were launched in 1998, it is perhaps 2007 that will be remembered as the watershed moment for eBooks. That year Amazon launched Kindle. This dedicated e-book reader had a host of advantages over earlier models – it was lighter and cheaper for one, but it also had a company known for selling books behind it. The device was initially only sold in the United States, but improved devices were already being conceived, and by October 2009 the Kindle 2 was able to download books in over 100 countries.
The impact of tablets
However, the release of Apple’s iPad in 2010, which not only acted as an e-book reader but allowed users to access music, video, games, the internet and other applications, forced a change to Amazon’s strategy. The result was the Kindle Fire, an Android-based tablet that allowed its users to do a lot more than just read e-books.
While many customers have welcomed an updated Kindle model that allows users the opportunity to listen to music, watch videos and browse the internet when not reading, other customers aren’t so delighted. This is because the new Kindle Fire model has an LCD display, rather than the E Ink display used in earlier Kindle versions, which many people believe offers better readability, which becomes especially important when reading over long periods of time.
While Amazon has promoted the capabilities of its new Android based tablet, it shows no signs that it is dropping support for its dedicated ebook readers that still use E Ink displays, giving customers the ultimate say in how they wish to read their ebooks.
For some people it is not only the different display that means a dedicated ebook reader is a better choice than a multi-functional tablet. For people who take their reading seriously, the notifications that can pop up on tablets offering all sorts of apps can be incredibly distracting and frustrating.
There are of course other factors. Dedicated ebook readers are far cheaper than all-singing, all-dancing tablets. They are arguably more portable because of their generally smaller size and lower weight.
Are smartphones the smart way to read ebooks?
Then there is an entirely different alternative to both tablets and dedicated ebook readers: the smartphone. People who already own a smartphone and want to read ebooks may feel they don’t need to decide between purchasing a tablet or dedicated ebook reader as they already have perfectly capable device. However, even the largest displays on a smart phone are usually much too small for a lengthy reading session.
Consumers have an unprecedented level of choice when it comes to choosing how to read. While many will argue about the best way to read an ebook for many others there’s still no way to beat browsing through a bookstore and coming away with something you can literally flick through.