Do new Tablets threaten eReaders?

Monday saw a barrage of Tablets masquerading as eReaders and Tablets being portrayed as eReader killers -

  1. There were rumors of iPad Minis with 5.6″ and 7″ screens that will focus on reading and set up a Kindle 3 vs iPad Mini Christmas showdown.
  2. Velocity Micro said it will be releasing the Cruz Tablet and Cruz eReader which both have a 7″ color touchscreen, run on Andorid, and come with an App for reading ebooks.
  3. The Pandigital Novel eReader got hacked to work as a Tablet.  

It brings up some good questions – Which of these shiny new Tablets are threats to eReaders? Are dedicated eReaders like the Kindle now an endangered species?

Which Tablets are a threat to eReaders?

Apple’s iPad Mini may or may not be a threat 

From one perspective it doesn’t seem a threat – it’ll still be on the expensive side, it isn’t exactly tailored to reading, it seems more of a gaming device, it has an OLED screen which means readability won’t be as good as eInk and battery life will probably be pretty bad.

From another perspective it is a bit of a threat – Apple’s marketing machine is scary good, people who don’t read much will be tempted by the perception that a device that does more than just read is better for reading, it’ll appeal more to casual readers.

In the end the best thing it might do is keep Kindle and Nook honest and force them to evolve faster. The iPhone with 50 million units sold didn’t kill the Kindle and it’s unlikely iPad or iPad Mini will.

Velocity Micro’s Cruz Reader at $199 is a bit of a wild card

The Cruz Reader is part of ‘the world’s first family of affordable touchscreen color ereaders and tablets’ - Apparently color and a touchscreen are now supposed to be critical eReader features.

It’s an interesting package at $199 – It has a 7″ screen with 800 by 600 resolution in a 4:3 layout, a premium resistive touchscreen, 802.11 b/g wireless (WiFi), an SD card slot, apps for eBooks (and for magazines, video, music, and games), 6+ hours of battery life, and a browser.

It runs on Android and has an open content portal. It weighs just under 1 pound and its dimensions are 7.55″ by 5.6″ by 0.57″. It supports audio (MP3, wav, aac), video (mpeg4, H263, H264), and text (ePub, PDF, txt, html).

It also lists as features – email, multitasking, accelerometer, user replaceable battery, docking station, non-skid rubberized back, and 100+ pre-installed ebooks. 

Don’t really know what to think of the Cruz eReader. $199 is certainly an impressive price and yet its features suggest that it’s yet another Tablet pretending to be an eReader.

Pandigital Novel is doing the reverse jump

We usually see Tablets eager to pass themselves off as eReaders and steal a share of the exploding eReader market. With the Pandigital Novel we have a rather strange situation – People have hacked the Pandigital Novel ereader and are claiming it makes a great Tablet.

The Pandigital Novel has a 7″ screen, runs on Android, has an Arm 11 processor, supports WiFi and AT&T’s EDGE network, and has a $199 price tag – In fact, it sounds exactly like the Cruz eReader.

There’s a lot of sudden interest because it turns out its possible to hack the Pandigital Novel to run Kindle for Android. Kindle for Android also happens to run much faster than Pandigital’s in-built eReader software.

How does the hacked Novel do while running Aldiko or Kindle for Android?

Apparently these apps do a great job taking advantage of the Novel’s good hardware specifications: turning pages is faster, as is general responsiveness.

Beyond fast page turning, this hack gives Android fans an inexpensive introductory tablet on which to play with the Android OS.

Looking at the Pandigital makes you realize that it’s yet another Tablet masquerading as an eReader. You also realize something else.

Tablets aren’t a threat – they’re just trying to survive

You could make a case that the iPad might have validated the Tablet space – However, it may just have validated Apple’s ability to sell products to its loyal Apple people.

The focus of every single tablet, including the iPad, to pass itself off as an eReader suggests that rather than Tablets being a threat to eReaders they are just trying to steal enough of the eReader market to prop themselves up and get a chance to carve out a market for themselves.

If the Tablet market emerges and survives it will be made of pieces of other markets cobbled together. At the moment eReaders are an exploding market and it’s easy to get a piece – especially as you can blitzkrieg readers into thinking Tablets are just as good for reading as eReaders. 

eReaders have a much higher chance of surviving than Tablets

Step away from the delusions and coolness of Tablets for a minute and think about it – eReaders are taking over the Book Market and will, eventually, take over the paper market. All Tablets are taking over is - well, nothing. Take Apple’s marketing genius and loyal customers out of the equation and there isn’t much left. Somewhere between 63% and 75% of iPad owners already own an Apple product – it’s all Apple loyalty and it’s not particularly strong since the iPhone 4 sold 1.7 million in a weekend (iPad took 2 months to log 2 million sales).

There’s so much talk of Apple selling much more than every other Tablet maker combined – Perhaps that means Apple made the best product imaginable, perhaps it just means there’s no market.

The market for ebooks is the need for books to evolve. The market for eReaders is replacing paper. The eReader market is going to be a ‘hundreds of millions of devices sold per year’ market.

There is no such guaranteed market for Tablets.

While there is a chance that Apple is ‘doing it right’ and suddenly a market of hundreds of millions of tablets per year will appear it’s rather unlikely. Tablets aren’t replacing something as basic as books or paper and they aren’t the only evolution in technology in centuries (which is what eReaders are). Tablets are trying to replace PCs and laptops when there is no demonstrated need or demand – plus they are just a tiny jump in technology.  

That’s the fundamental difference – eReaders are bringing books into the 21st century. Tablets are simply Apple’s finely honed marketing trying to conjure up a market that may or may not exist.

2 Responses

  1. Pandigital Novel – Received Bed Bath and Beyond’s catalog yesterday, and this unit is listed for $169.00 – plus you get a mail in rebate for $20.00 off, and if you are good BB&B usually sends out 20% off discount coupons, plus $5.00 off purchases.. so this unit could end up being around $110.00 plus tax.

    But is it worth it….?!?!?!?! if it will work with android apps… it just may be a great device for cheap…….

  2. “Somewhere between 63% and 75% of iPad owners already own an Apple product – it’s all Apple loyalty and it’s not particularly strong since the iPhone 4 sold 1.7 million in a weekend (iPad took 2 months to log 2 million sales).”

    While both products remain backordered, it’s probably better to contemplate why it’s easier to make iPhones than iPads, which probably has a lot to do with LCD screen yields and their diminishing returns as the size of the panel increases. Both products take at least a week to get, so nobody is 100% sure which sells better, just that Apple was able to get more iPhones manufactured in week 1 then iPads.

    But go ahead and think iPad demand isn’t “particularly strong”.

    Also, how does the “the best way to experience the web, email, photos and video… hands down” emphasize reading? It has a reading app, that has received a FAIR amount (not exclusive amount) of mention by Apple. It’s the media and blogosphere that assumes it’s an attack on eReaders, and only eReaders.

    It’s true that if you press page-down two or three times on apple.com/ipad, you will find mention if iBooks.

    It’s also true that if you peruse the feature list on the left hand side of their site, and skip past the overview, safari, mail, photos, videos, youtube, ipod, itunes, app store, maps, notes, calendar, contacts, home screen, spotlight and accessibility callouts, that iBooks is listed before iWork on the very bottom under “From the App Store”.

    And in their latest TV spot, you see a glimpse of iPad 15 seconds in, and at 24 seconds in you seem to get 2 seconds of talk about books.

    PS: There are no iPad Minis with OLED screens. When you compare Super AMOLED to IPS, and consider what Apple is interested in doing, you’ll see it’s still not likely to happen, any more than Kindle 3 will have an OLED screen.

    You are certainly right, though, the 50 million iPhones didn’t kill Kindle. I missed the part where they were supposed to, of course, but you are technically correct. I’m fairly sure iBooks release for iPhone 4 is also not meant to kill Kindle. I’m not even sure iBooks is meant to “kill Kindle”.

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