E-Readers Getting Rolled Under Tablet Juggernaut

Remember when e-readers like the Kindle came out and everyone got all excited and companies jumped in to copy them and make their own e-readers? Yeah, turns out that wasn’t such a good idea. Seems if you’re not Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Sony, your e-reader model won’t survive the onslaught of tablets like the iPad.

has assembled a list of a few of those e-reader manufacturers struggling against the tide of tablets. Those in trouble include Audiovox’s RCA Lexi e-reader, iRex, Plastic Logic and Cool-er.

“Companies that had neither brand nor distribution have failed,” says Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst for Forrester Research.

The damage is being done as a result of price cuts from big retailers like Amazon and the frenzy over tablets that can do more than let you read Moby Dick. The next step? Consumers are so crazy over tablets, companies are surely already working on their own versions of tablets, like the $35 model India announced this week.

E-readers aren’t going anywhere just yet, however, as Amazon announced this week that the sale of digital books had overtaken the demand for paper books.

Upstart E-readers Fade to Black as Tablets Gain Momentum [Wired]


Edit Your Comment

  1. legwork says:

    Who could have seen this coming?

  2. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    “Companies that had neither brand nor distribution have failed,”

    This pretty much applies to nearly any product – it’s one of the reasons why we aren’t all driving Daewoos.

    • Powerlurker says:

      A lot of people still do. We just call them Chevrolet Aveos now.

    • AllanG54 says:

      The reason we’re not driving Daewoos is because the former CEO embezzled BILLIONS from the company thereby leaving it virtually bankrupt. GM bought the remaining assets to build small cars and left the liabilities to the former company.

  3. tbax929 says:

    I’m a fan of anything that gets people reading. I read a lot more now that I have my Nook, which fits easily into my purse.

    I prefer to read books on an e-reader than on a tablet. There’s less eye strain. I think the iPad has some cool features and apps, but I wouldn’t want to read a book on one. If I carried one around, I’d be more tempted to watch videos on it than I would be to read a book on it.

    • jedifarfy says:

      Exactly. I’ve had my nook for 4 days now and have already finished one book and am halfway through another. It’s just easier to me. Tablets are cool, but they’re just computers. Eyestrain is one major problem, but don’t forget weight. I personally find them a waste of money when you have a laptop you can use the same way.

    • mrscoach says:

      I got my Sony because I was doing a lot of reading on my computer, but my eyes were not happy with me. Reading on a tablet would be the same thing all over again. Plus, it’s sooooo much easier to carry around my 300 than a laptop, netbook or tablet; not to mention the start-up time for those items means quickly pulling out my reader while in line somewhere wouldn’t be as doable.

      • Stiv says:

        With the iPad it’s basically a touch of two buttons and you’re ready to read. Still, if you don’t like reading on a backlit screen, that’s neither here nor there.

    • ludwigk says:

      There are a lot of reasons to prefer a nook or kindle over an iPad for a reader device. e-ink is a superior reading experience, it has about 8-10x the battery life since it is an e-ink device, the smaller size makes it much more portable in a bag or backpack, and it weighs about 2/3 as much as the iPad. None of this is enough to keep the iPad from slaughtering ereaders right now, demonstrating that many consumers are willing to give up all of these for the vast additional functionality that the iPad offers.

    • Karita says:

      I gave my mother my Kindle because she was so sad when someone stole hers. I missed it, but made do with my iPhone. Then I switched to reading on the iPad when that was released. I still want a Kindle, though. It’s a much better reading experience, and my iPad usage will go way down if I ever get another Kindle. Not that I don’t like the iPad, but I really doubt any tablet can top it for reading. Sometimes single-function devices really are better for what they’re made for (though I see all kinds of silly updates were just made to the Kindle so who knows what that will turn into.)

    • CFinWV says:

      Agreed, the display on an actual eReader is easier on your eyes. I covet the iPads but I think I will stick to my eReader.

  4. matt314159 says:

    IMHO, tablets shouldn’t even be considered an alternative to e-readers. You simply can’t read on an LCD with the same ease and lack of eye-strain as you can on an e-ink display. While the technology is admittedly in its early stages, the e-ink displays are as close to simulating reading a printed page as you can get right now. They don’t have glare (except the touch-screen version), they have no back-light, and you can read them from insane angles. Once they improve contrast a little bit, it will perfectly match the printed page of a paperback. Right now it’s more akin to newsprint, but my Sony Reader Pocket Edition with custom firmware is currently my best friend in the whole wide world!

    • fantomesq says:

      Nonsense – the ‘eink advantages’ are unsubstantiated FUD propagated by those with a stake in the game. Three million iPads and counting! They’re not only the best ereaders out there, they’re even the best Kindles after downloading Amazon’s Kindle software.

      • matt314159 says:

        Go on singing your song, apple fanboy. Ignorance is bliss.

        • microcars says:

          So are you saying my wife is ignorant?

          my wife is a voracious reader. she constantly reads books.
          I got her an iPad.
          She tried some sample books and like it so started buying a few books and reading them.
          After a bit I asked her what she thought and she says that she now likes reading books on the iPad BETTER than “real” books. She also liked reading outside BETTER with the iPad!
          regular books had too much reflected white “glare” from the paper for her and she was able to adjust the brightness and sepia of the iPad to suit.

          I then asked her if she had ever seen a Kindle and she told me that a friend of hers had one and she tried it but did not like the form factor. She felt like she was holding a plastic thing with a book inside.

          She has been reading books for over 50 years so I think she has some experience.

          • Alvis says:

            I think she’s in the wrong. Of course if she compares a full-page iPad to a Kindle 2 instead of the DX or something she’ll be thrown by the form-factor. Apples and oranges.

          • Smashville says:

            Yup. That’s what he said. Despite the fact that you had posted nowhere else in this thread, he threw that comment up there specifically to tell you and you alone that your wife is ignorant.

      • Con Seanne-BZZZZZZZZZZZZ says:

        I don’t think you know what “FUD” means…or what the hell you’re talking about.

      • shufflemoomin says:

        Yeah. Three million iPads and counting. Every single one of those people are buying them to read eBooks. They’re buying them because it’s the cool thing to have. That sales trend will die down, no matter how much that will break your heart. eBook readers are a multitude of times better to read books on but there’s no point trying to convince a fanboy otherwise. We all love Steve Jobs as much as you. Does that give you the reassurance that mummy and daddy didn’t? Do you feel better now?

        • Stiv says:

          Actually, I’ve been reading quite a bit more since I got my iPad, which actually surprised me. I didn’t think I’d enjoy using the iPad to read, but I was wrong.

          Currently, I prefer Amazon’s Kindle app over Apple’s iBook app (particular because of Amazon’s collection of eBooks vs Apple’s, plus the Apple app is damn pokey in comparison). I like that I can read in bed without need another light source than the iPad itself. Plus I like being able to do some light reading during the day on the iPhone and then have the iPad sync up to my location when I get home.

  5. dblevins says:

    $35 tablet sounds and looks like a scam.

    • AstroPig7 says:

      It isn’t a scam, it’s just theory without practice. Of course the tablet can be constructed for $35, but that doesn’t mean that anyone will. To the misfortune of many inventors, successfully demonstrating a product does not mean the hard part is over.

  6. fantomesq says:

    I believe that both the Consumerist story and original article state that Amazon has sold more eBooks than -HARDCOVERS-, NOT “paper books”… Paper books would include paperbacks, which is a MUCH bigger market and this doesn’t appear to include.

  7. JMH says:

    “E-readers aren’t going anywhere just yet, however, as Amazon announced this week that the sale of digital books had overtaken the demand for paper books.”

    No, Amazon announced this week that the sale of digital books has overtaken sales ON AMAZON of HARDCOVER BOOKS. Considering you’re citing to your own article rather than to the original source material, the least you could do is paraphrase it accurately.

  8. Telekinesis123 says:

    I come for the kitties, I stay for e-book reader news.

  9. glater says:

    I bought a kindle when woot.com was bought by amazon and subsequently had a very good kindle sale the day after – the price was just low enough that I was willing to consider it. And honestly? I think it’s pretty great experience overall, amazon DRM issues aside. Eyes don’t ache after hours of reading and the battery life is very good. The interface could use some help, but the reading experience is fantastic compared to any other digital device, and purchasing a book is very easy, as is adding your own material or stuff from other sources.

    Reading really is vastly easier on an e-reader screen than on anything backlit. One of the first nights I sat down with the thing, I figured I’d do some reading in bed. What I didn’t realise until the next morning was that something very important happened – namely, I’d read my book that night *without realising I was using a device*. The technology faded into the background and I was able to read the book like..well, like a book.

    I actually think I prefer an e-reader over something like the iPad for, er, reading. I’ve tried reading on computers and smartphones and I’ve got an ipod touch that I use and love for many things but reading on it absolutely sucks. And iBook is terrible on every platform in my experience. This from a person who used to read ebooks happily on a palm III.

    There’s a lot that amazon can do differently so far as the kindle is concerned, but the core is there, and it works better than anything I’ve seen. I’d like to see the prices go lower and DRM issues sorted out, but those are tales for another time. I hope e-readers stick around and keep improving.

    • Telekinesis123 says:

      Interesting points.

    • Tallanvor says:

      Yeah, the lack of a backlit screen is a HUGE bonus for devices like the Kindle. I have the Kindle app for Android, but I only use it when I wouldn’t care around my Kindle – if I’m on my way to a party, for example. I find I have to switch to the black screen and turn the brightness way down, otherwise I start feeling the strain within about 5 minutes.

      Plus, if you’re reading before bed, a backlit screen at the distance you normally read from can screw with your sleep cycle. –Your brain interprets that light as a sign that it’s time to be awake, and it makes it harder for you to get to sleep.

  10. mosxs says:

    I’ve read several books on my iPad. In fact, I just finished reading “The Stand”. I don’t understand why people say backlit LCD screens cause eye strain or are hard to read on. The iPad is the perfect eReader. I don’t need any sort of ambient light to read. As a result, I can read in any environment.

    I really think the people who knock devices like the iPad as eReaders have never read a book on one. Its a fantastic experience. After a couple of pages you almost forget that you’re not actually holding a book. When I read my first book on my iPad, at first I had the same thoughts. “It’s an LCD screen, this is going to give me a headache”, etc. Not even 20 pages in, I was hooked.

    All of these things that people claim are negatives for eReaders actually work out to the iPads benefit. Like the backlit LCD screen. As I said earlier, I can read in any environment without having to turn a light on. Glare is less of an issue on an iPad than having to find proper ambient lighting for an e-ink display. And, again, the iPad screen being backlit LCD makes it perfect for other things, like playing games, watching movies, browsing the web, etc.

    Heres an example. Shortly after I bought my iPad, I had to take a family member in for surgery. They’re fine, just a minor procedure. I was in the waiting room that day for 6 hours. In that time I was able to read a book, watch some video, play some games, and start another book. In that same room was another person with a Kindle. They were in there before I arrived and they were still waiting when I left. All they could do was read. That person looked over at my iPad with envy plenty of times.

    And the great thing about iBooks is the fact that it will sync up with all of my devices. Let’s say I read part of a book on my iPad then I have to go out. I grab my iPhone 4. I’m waiting somewhere so I open up iBooks and the book picks up exactly where I left off. Read a little on my iPhone, then go home and pick up on my iPad where I left off on my iPhone.

    The iPad really is the perfect eReader.

    • magnetic says:

      I like that my e-reader discourages me from getting distracted by goofy web stuff. I don’t get eye-strain from screens either, but I’ve found that I really like the e-ink display (partially just because I think the technology is cool).

  11. Judah says:

    It’s misleading to state ‘the sale of digital books has overtaken paper’ when it’s only with the hardcover editions, which are a small slice of a market that is 90% paperbacks (softcover) books.

  12. shufflemoomin says:

    I don’t want to pay for the ridiculous iPad or give any more money to Apple, but as a consumer in Denmark looking to buy an eBook reader, they’re not easy to come by. You don’t just walk into a store in Europe and pick one up. For some reason, the majority of them are targeted at the US market. Maybe if they were more widely available and better marketed, they wouldn’t be failing against the giant iPod touch. The difference is that Apple have spent some money and people at least know that the iPad is. How many eBook manufactures can claim that?

  13. mrscoach says:

    The problem with iRex was they tended to not give support as well as they should have and did not put out the features promised. They kept saying “such and such will be out later”, but never followed through. Plastic Logic never put the product out on the market. Their device was announced YEARS ago as an idea (or maybe leaked as a rumor), then they give an official announcement, but no actual device was sold.

    I’m not sure about the Lexi, but the Cool-er had some problems, if I remember correctly. If you have a Cool-er and love it, I apologize. I’m just saying what I remember.

    The problem with some readers was the fact that they do not support DRM restricted books, so to use them you had to strip DRM from some books before reading them. Most people do not want to go to that trouble, or stay strictly with DRM-free reading material.

    • mrscoach says:

      I don’t think the Lexi folded, they just decided to drop the US market. But, yes, that was because of the price competition.

  14. FilthyHarry says:

    I never understood why anyone was willing to back a technology so clearly short of the ideal as the current crop of ebooks are. I mean non-back lit, screen flashing with each page turn, its just so obviously not where e-reading should be.

    • caradrake says:

      I believe adding a back-light to the e-ink readers would cause glare – or at least that’s what my husband says. However, I’d love it if an e-reader was built with an attached book light that you could extend when needed. I don’t find that my first-gen Kindle is slow on the page loads, especially when compared to the time it takes to turn a page in a hardcopy, but I look forward to seeing e-readers in the future with improved functions. :)

      Remember decades ago when computers first came out? Technology changes and makes older versions obsolete, but that doesn’t make people any less likely to use and enjoy what’s available.

      • FilthyHarry says:

        The difference is computers were almost an entirely new concept to the market place, everything they did was new to us and thus, had no shortcomings because they were the edge of technology (as far as the general marketplace was concerned). E-readers (as currently defined) don’t offer any groundbreaking advancement over something people have been doing for centuries: Books.

        We’ve been used to reading on screens for years, reading on small screen. In bright crisp clear vibrant color.

        The initial effort should have pushed the boundaries forward. They didn’t and in a relatively short term, what we think of as e-readers today, will be gone.

  15. annabelle327 says:

    I am an avid reader who loves the smell and feel of real books. I just broke down and bought a Kindle 2 when they lowered the price on amazon (and I got a gift card) and I am in love. I went on vacation for a week and was able to read almost non stop thanks to my Kindle, the ease of downloads, and selection. I also downloaded the kindle app on my laptop and hated to read on the thing. The reason of course was all of the usual suspects from eyestrain.

    If I were to get an Ipad, I would still use my kindle to read on. It is simply a better reading experience.

  16. Mike says:

    Dear Amazon:

    Please give me a Kindle without a keyboard, no 3G access (just let me plug it into the usb on my computer), and no social networking capability. Oh, and I want that for $99. Thanks.


  17. John says:

    While I think the ipad is some big overpriced product I do like that a lot of e-reader manufacturers ended up doing price cuts, I might actually get one now :)

  18. P_Smith says:

    Someone needs to tell me what’s wrong with using a PDA or a netbook as an ebook reader. Ebooks, games and MP3s are pretty much all I (can) use my Acer n300 for nowadays, it’s not much good for anything else since I can’t attach a keyboard or HDD without lugging around the dock. Even my phone, a Nokia 3500 classic, has the ability to display etext in a readable size and a Java PDF reader is available.

    The only reason I can see for people using dedicated “e-readers” is because they are naive enough to believe DRM has value. Nobody has ever given me a good reason to have a separate device for everything when having one device do many things is better. It’s like comparing one good remote control that runs your TV, DVD and stereo versus three remotes, it just doesn’t make sense.


    • Wiggs says:

      There’s nothing *wrong* with using a PDA or netbook to read eBooks. A dedicated e-reader is easier on the eyes with adjustable font face and size, and no backlit screen to cause eye strain.

      I use an older Sony Reader, and every book I buy is purchased in ePub format. Most books I buy are DRM-free, but if they happen to have DRM on them, it’s stripped in about 30 seconds. DRM sucks, but my Reader is currently one of my top three gadgets.

      It’s nothing like using separate remotes instead of a universal. A multitasking device, like a tablet, is a completely different reading experience. I stare at a backlit LCD all day long at work – I want an e-Ink screen for reading when I get home.

  19. Destron says:

    I have been using a Kindle for 3 years, and I can say it is a MUCH superior experience than reading on an iPad, Reading on an iPad, or even my laptop screen cause eye strain, eye fatigue, and after extended periods I can no longer read them. When I had a major surgery recently and was stuck in bed I read my Kindle for hours on end and it was no different than reading a book, and that is part of the reason they are not backlit – if they had back lighting they would add to the strain on the eyes.

    An ebook reader – no matter you flavor of choice – will always be superior to any sort of multi function device like the iPad for reading books.

  20. cete-of-badgers says:

    People don’t want to pay hundreds-thousands of dollars for a device with heavily-enforced user restrictions, less memory than a cell phone and limited functionality? Perish the thought.

  21. vastrightwing says:

    This is always the problem with clones of products and services. Sure, it’s easy, but unless you stand out from the crowd, you’re going to get lost in it. Apple biggest strength is that it avoids crowds, yet creates them in it’s wake. Personally, I find “eReaders” a solution to a non problem. They don’t make good browsers, they aren’t good computers, in fact, they really don’t substitute well for the book reading experience anyway. They are just another dedicated device to carry and yet another device to plug in and charge. (I won’t even go into the nasty DRM.) The eInk display should not have been developed. Sure it’s easy to read. But it ends right there. You can’t do animation with it. It’s only gray and white. I’m amazed that so many eBook readers were bought by the public. My old Palm Pilot (despite its small screen) makes a good enough eReader for me. Its display is clear, it has vibrant color and the reading experience is good enough. It can do one thing an eBook can’t do: it can smooth scroll while I read and makes it so I don’t have to touch my device at all while I’m reading.

  22. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    “Companies that had neither brand nor distribution have failed”

    Could be said for any company, in any industry.

  23. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I might get one if it were only $35. But there’s no WAY I’m paying what they cost now. I just can’t justify the expense.

  24. Joe Gamer says:

    “Remember when e-readers like the Kindle came out and everyone got all excited and companies jumped in to copy them and make their own e-readers?”

    Nope, What I remember thinking when the E-Reader craze hit was “WTF? who the hell would be dumb enough to pay for a device that ONLY does ebooks?” Since I was reading my books on my blackberry($100) and had just bought my GF her first netbook($300) I was pretty certain that a single purpose devices that cost $400 was not going to do well.

  25. matt314159 says:

    I can’t imagine she’d enjoy reading outdoors on that thing…here’s what it looks like outdoors on an overcast day:

    From the article, “iPad vs. Kindle: Which is the better e-Reader?”

    • microcars says:

      so now you are imagining things about my wife?

      • matt314159 says:

        heh, I’m surprised you found the post, in my editing of the comment before posting it somehow removed the @username thing to reply it to the quote in the earlier comment. Thus the detached reply.

        Look at the pictures and see how well you’d be able to read a back-lit LCD screen in the sun. Someone’s full of it if they think that’s better than e-ink in broad daylight, or even an overcast day outdoors.

  26. knyghtryda says:

    I just bought a kindle, and I have no plans on purchasing any kindle books from amazon. So far my Kindle is loaded with either PDFs or converted PDFs, and as a reading device unhooked from amazon it is fantastic. I will never however buy any DRMed books from any publisher, and I suggest everyone who jumps on the ebook bandwagon to do the same. As useful as tablets are, reading on them just doesn’t work for me. Maybe its from the hours everyday I already have to stare at a glowing screen for work…

  27. Rayzer says:

    EReaders are eReaders. They are not meant to be used as anything but a reader. If I want to read from a backlit screen I will read from my laptop and not go spend another fortune for a tablet. That is the idea behind e-ink technology; to relieve eyestrain due to reading backlit objects. DUH!!! Why can’t people see that you can’t compare eReaders with tablets! If that is the case then maybe we should start comparing riding lawn mowers with cars. Jesus Christ on a cracker!! Just stupid, stupid, stupid!!!