eReaders are made for people who read & the consequences

Let’s start with the first part which seems rather redundant to bring up – eReaders are made for people who read.

However, most people don’t get it.

When a dedicated reading device gets misunderstood

At some cognitive or psychological level people miss out the implications of the ‘dedicated’ and ‘reading’ parts of dedicated reading device.

Here are some of the more frequent complaints –

  1. People who don’t read complaining that it doesn’t play games or doesn’t have color.  
  2. People who are looking for a device that signals they’re cool complaining that it’s not having that effect.  
  3. People who read once in a while complaining that it’s only usable for reading.
  4. People who want the newest gadget surprised because eReaders aren’t anything like what ‘the newest gadget’ ought to be.
  5. People who don’t value its functionality (its specialization for reading) complaining about the price.

They’re basically complaining that the device is dedicated and, worse yet, its dedicated to reading. And apart from the name they didn’t even have a clue that it would be dedicated to reading.

The war between world views

As a direct consequence of eReaders not fitting in with what some people think they should be, we get a rather interesting conflict –

  • A significant number of people and entities, including the Press, are pushing the notion that a dedicated reading device should do more than just read, should not be specialized for reading, and should not cater to people who read books.  
  • They are trying to overwhelm people who do want a dedicated reading device into thinking they should get something else instead.
  • It’s literally an attempt to brainwash people who read books into thinking they should get a device optimized for something other than reading books because that would make people who don’t read more comfortable.

It starts off with people who actually read being reasonable and then at some point it hits you –

The people saying eReaders aren’t cool don’t want a better reading device.

There’s no color, You can’t do anything other than read, It’s too expensive – These are all code phrases.

These people don’t want a reading device at all.

We have a bunch of people who don’t read and would never buy a dedicated reading device trying to impose their world view – they want to design a dedicated reading device.

It’s an amazingly amusing thing – The equivalent of walking three blocks East, picking a random house, and then telling the people who live there it’s all wrong and laying out a new design for them that meets with what you would like your house to be like.

Handling the fact that People refuse to accept these are dedicated reading devices

It’s pretty liberating when you realize that people don’t have a problem with the device itself – they just have a problem with the notion that people like to read and that there exists a dedicated reading device customized for people who like to read.  

These aren’t people criticizing the device. They’re criticizing the existence of the device.

You might argue that it’s a much bigger problem – It’s not. If what these people really want is for us to stop reading then it means we can safely ignore them.

Seeing through the Hype

Owning both an iPhone and iPad puts me in the unenviable position of realizing that neither is made for people who read.

People who argue that these are better than dedicated eReaders are always arguing on grounds that devalue reading i.e.

  1. You can do things other than reading.
  2. They are good enough for reading.
  3. You can get a free app instead of having to buy a device.  

They also always approach things from the ‘we care more about casual readers’ angle –

  1. 85 million people (iPhone and iPod Touch owners) could potentially be convinced to read.  
  2. Those 85 million people are more important than people who actually buy books.  
  3. 500K to 1 million iPad owners are more important because at some point of time there might be tens of millions of iPad owners.
  4. The 4 to 5 million eReader owners don’t matter because all they do is buy dozens of books a year.

It’s a strange argument – Users not interested in reading who might magically decide to start reading are more important than the core readers who are keeping the business running.

Why are both Publishers and Readers buying the Hype?

Actually, they’re not.

Publishers simply see this as an opportunity to slow down eBooks and eReaders and Amazon. That’s why they’re happy to play along.

It’s worth noting that the Press are falling all over themselves pretending the pretend-readers are better than dedicated eReaders because they wrongly believe their future depends on the iPad.

Readers are not falling for it. There are numerous reviews where people who actually read have decided that a device not optimized for reading is, well, not that good for reading.

Imagine that – A device that added in reading as an afterthought is not as good for reading as a device built specifically for reading. Who would have thought it.

The best way to disregard the reading haters and eReader haters

It’s very easy once you realize that they aren’t looking to improve eReaders or to create a better reading device.

If they were they would create a dedicated reading device or talk about one.

They simply are upset that a device focused on reading and focused on people who read is doing so well.

The best way to disregard the eReader criticism (the irrational criticism, not the constructive part) is to realize that the fundamental problem these people have is with reading and not valuing it enough. They don’t want to help us – they simply want us to stop reading and be more like them.

4 thoughts on “eReaders are made for people who read & the consequences”

  1. Thank you! I had to use my Facebook share button right away so that I could throw this out and add my comments about how much my “one trick pony” is AWESOME!

    I’m a long-time Mac user and was eagerly anticipating the iPad but, guess what? I decided after researching to buy a Kindle 2 and received the little delight on March 5th. What a joy! This thing is incredible and has revolutionized the way I read. It has increased the variety of what i’m reading beyond anything I ever thought possible. I used to be mostly a non-fiction reader… now i’m experimenting and purchasing all kinds of books… being able to sample all books before purchase is INCREDIBLE.

    I can honestly say that this thing is changing my life in a hugely positive direction. Even with all of my Macs over the years (and the way they profoundly changed my entire family – nobody will use anything else now) that have been amazingly trouble-free and a delight to use… and the iPod Touch that is so much fun… the K2 has become my device of choice. It goes everywhere with me. Nothing else does.

    I have used the iPad (4 of my engineers have them) and really like it, but for reading the Kindle SHINES in so many ways that are hard to explain.

    I’m not drinking the Amazon “KoolAid”, although I’ve been a customer for 10 years, but the price, the free 3G access and even the basic web browser really speak volumes about all that Amazon has been and is doing right. To have included the 3G in the base price is a dream come true. What a nifty thing it is and who knows what is coming next…?

    1. Thanks for the kind words. It’s been a bit of the opposite transition for me – after trying out the iPhone and iPad it’s interesting to see it’s not all hype. The iPhone really is a great phone. The iPad – well, not sure what it is.

  2. Nice article! I definitely agree that a lot of the criticism is of the idea of a dedicated device. I also think a lot of the criticism misses that reading is more than just scanning text. Having a book-sized page that doesn’t need to scroll, shows the text in a size and typeface that resembles a printed book, and has high contrast means that all of the visual and motor skills that we develop for paper books transfer to a reading device. Reading a page is a different activity from reading a screen, and this gets overlooked or discounted by people who are focused on the “information content.”

    And even though I’ve picked an iPad as my reading device for now, I’m not sure that “what it is” has really become apparent yet. Everyone’s going to experiment with it for a while, I think. The results may surprise even Apple.

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