Why e-book readers don't stand a chance

Don Reisinger thinks e-book readers don't stand a chance. Is he right?

Although some people see a reason to buy a device just to read a book, I don't. Some have said that Amazon's Kindle is the savior of the e-book market. I don't believe it. Others say that e-book readers will kill the book publishing industry and bring it into the 21st century. I think that's rubbish. The fact of the matter is e-book readers will never have commercial relevance.

So I know what you're probably thinking -- "But, didn't the AP release a story yesterday that said Amazon's Kindle may have 'revolutionized the e-book market'?". Yep. But if you read between the lines a bit, you'll find that an important piece of the pie is missing -- no one is willing to say how strong sales are and so far, the tiny e-book market is still extremely small.

And although the market may be growing at an extremely slow pace as some have claimed, there's no indication that anyone wants these toys. For years, the book has been a vessel of knowledge and entertainment for people and I simply don't see how a small piece of plastic can change the connection people have to holding a book, flipping the pages and marking notes on the paper.

Simply put, the idea of an e-book reader is fundamentally flawed.

Now before you cry foul and say that the Kindle sold out and is still hard to come by, let me remind you that this industry is littered with the remains of tech crappiness that sold out in the first week of availability.

But I digress. I just don't understand the rationale behind owning an e-book reader. Sure, some may want to use the Kindle as an expensive RSS reader and others may like the idea of having 200 books and a dictionary in their pocket, but I don't see it.

Let's be honest -- the only thing an e-book reader does is cost you even more money to read a book. In other words, it's another barrier to entry just to get a book and read it. I just don't understand the logic.

If you like to own books, wouldn't it make more sense to pay the $30 and leave it on your bookshelf when you're done with it instead of paying hundreds of dollars for a device that will then allow you to buy e-books for an additional cost? How does that make any sense?

Some say that they like to have their entire library of books available to them at all times on their Kindle, but I don't get that either. Sure, you may be able to store 200 books, but if you can read more than one at a time, you have a special skill that you might be able to make some money on.

But at their very core, e-book readers are not nearly as useful and worthwhile as some may think for one major reason -- they cost too much money.

The only way e-book readers will emerge from their current state of irrelevance is if the manufacturers of the device decide to make them free or as close as possible to free and then make their money on the e-books. At that point, consumers would be more than happy to pick up a Kindle or a Sony Reader and buy cheaper books at their leisure. And by doing that, everyone wins: the installed base will increase dramatically, e-books will sell far more copies than previously imagined and the niche market could finally become a mainstream alternative to print books.

Until then, this industry has no promise. Let's face it -- if you can buy a book for $30, why would you spend over $300 just to be able to read it?

The economics of the e-book reader industry are off and so far, no one in the business has realized it. It's time they wake up and see what's really going on.

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About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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