Improvement in tablets may ‘doom’ the e-reader

Is the e-reader doomed? According to Matt Alexander on The Loop, it might just be on its way out as tablets get better and better.

Alexander’s argument basically boils down to the fact that e-ink is an intermediate step, a necessary compromise between readability and display quality. E-ink is evolving toward being able to present color and full motion video, he suggests—and when you have an e-reader that can do that, it won’t be an e-reader anymore, but rather a tablet.

And really, the naming of these devices, the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet/Color, is resounding evidence of the looming death of dedicated readers. The Fire is sharing the Kindle name not only because it helps in marketing a new product, but because the concepts are on an inevitable path toward merging. The e-ink Kindle is limited, but with the converging technology in displays, its brand and legacy will live on in an entirely different form. The e-ink Kindle and Nook will fall into a niche category, while tablets (or similar) will continue to thrive.

The craze for the fire-sale TouchPads, Alexander suggests, shows that consumers are only putting up with e-readers but what they really want are tablets. (I know that my uncle, who prior to last Christmas was quite pleased with his 3G Kindle Keyboard, is now looking to sell it and buy a Kindle Fire like the one he got for his wife and then fell in love with himself.) E-readers are just a “stopgap” to tide people over until tablets get good enough, and it looks like they’ll be there before long.

This reminds me of what happened to PDAs. They used to be the mobile computing device. but they gradually vanished as smartphones took over everything they could do and added communication capability too. Now phoneless PDA devices like the iPod Touch and the Galaxy Player are very much the exception rather than the rule. Perhaps that future is coming for e-readers, too, if tablets can get good enough and inexpensive enough to take over the niche.

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