When it first entered the market, the e-book reader was the cool, new must-have gizmo. Easily available in international markets, young e-book converts aspired to own the sleek, light-weight and extremely efficient device. The number of e-books available on the internet further spurred the demand for e-readers. And the best bit was they emulated the experience of reading really, really well.

However, e-book readers seem to be facing tough times today. The onslaught of fancier tablet PCs is eating up the market for these e-book readers. Some popular choices such as the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Kobo e-book reader. These devices cost upwards of about Rs 9,500. But, you can get a basic tablet, which gets more stuff done, for as much if not cheaper.

According to a survey conducted by the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) in May 2012, over the course of only six months, “consumers’ first choice of dedicated e-readers such as those from Amazon and Barnes & Noble declined from 72 per cent to 58 per cent.”

Tablets triumph

Today, convergence is the new buzz word. Hence, most consumers prefer investing in a device which can multi-task rather than in something that serves a single purpose. No wonder the versatile tablet is leading the race hands down.

The above mentioned survey showed that “tablet devices are now the most preferred reading device for more than 24 per cent of e-book buyers, up from less than 13 per cent in August 2011.” It further pointed out that the increase in tablet preference was not primarily for Apple’s iPad but for non-Apple tablets as well.

Tablets are available in colour (as opposed to monochromatic e-readers) and let you to do a variety of things simultaneously. Not only can you flip e-book pages on the e-book application, but also buffer your favourite sitcom online at the same time .

Wooing the old

According to Market Researcher Bowker, e-books were more popular among the older generation than the youth. The research showed that, “growth in e-book consumption is being driven by older readers, particularly those aged 45-54.” Bowker is a provider of bibliographic information and management solutions designed to help publishers, booksellers, and libraries to serve their customers better.

The desire for newer and more advanced gadgets is a priority for the younger generation. The number of devices – both in touch and type - flooding the market is testimony to the fact that there is always going to be demand for more technologically advanced stuff.

Manufacturers of e-book readers also realised this. Earlier this year, Amazon launched the Kindle Touch to give users a fancy and technologically advanced reading option. The device also contains a basic Web browser which works only on Wi-fi. Third generation versions of e-book readers are also available in international markets.

However, not many realise the advantages of the humble e-book reader – good battery life and an anti-glare screen. Sincere readers call it the ‘no distraction’ device.

“If you really want to concentrate on reading, then the e-book reader is the best option,” said Sana Patel, a second year management student, who has downloaded about 100 e-books on her e-book reader.

Trade analysts fear that e-book readers are going the pager way. Remember the time when - you had to call an operator and dictate personal messages to be sent to your family member/friend’s pager?

The adoption of mobile phones completely took away business from pager manufacturers and pushed pagers out of the communication circuit.

The tiny mostly-black pager still lies as an obsolete device - in the deep, dark end of most people’s cupboards. Although we claim to be fans of popular culture, in our hearts we still hope that the e-book reader doesn’t go the pager way!

priya.s@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on August 30, 2012)
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