I’m going to be honest. I don’t have time to do a post this morning and I forgot about doing it last night. In a couple of hours, I’m heading off to the North Dallas area (never fun. Traffic is never good there) to take Mom for a procedure on her back. It should be no big deal. The first time she had this done was great. But it’s never a sure thing. Especially not when the patient is nearing 90 and you’re talking about the spine. So I’m distracted, a little worried and more than a little harried as I try to get a few things done this morning. Still, I wanted to post something and came across this article when I was doing a quick check of possible topics. To break it down, the article asks if we are seeing the end of the dedicated e-book reader. And, yes, we’ve been asked this question before.
It’s been a long time since Amazon came out with the first Kindle reader. I loved those readers. The screen size wasn’t much different from what we see with Kindles today but it had a keyboard under the screen. To me, it made it easier to take notes, etc., when I was reading. But, it mad the reader bulkier and more costly. It didn’t take long for the keyboard to be replaced with a virtual one on-screen.
Since then, we’ve seen the rise of tablets, especially the iPad. Those tablets were supposed to be the demise of the e-ink readers. Everyone seemed convinced we’d see the end of the Kindle when Amazon brought out the Kindle Fire. What folks forgot was there are still people who want an e-reader that is just that–a reader. They want to read without being interrupted by emails or texts or the distraction of going online to surf the web.
Then there’s the price differential. One of the most reasonably priced tablets–and in many ways one of the most limited–is the Kindle Fire. It ranges from $49 for the 7-in. version to $150 for the 10.1″ version. Yes, you can go online and play some games on it but it is still basically an e-reader because you have to hack the OS to gain access to the Google Play store (or you did the last I looked). Without doing so, you are limited to the Amazon store and that leaves you without a number of well-known and well-loved apps, especially when it comes to games and productivity.
But let’s face it, most of those who are buying tablets, buy them to do more than just read books. They want a tablet they can use for work, etc. They want an iPad or its equivalent. A stripped down, entry level iPad (10.2″) starts at $329. The iPad mini, which will be approximately the same size as most dedicated e-readers starts at $399. The iPad Air starts at $599 and the iPad Pro starts at $799. Then you have the price of the peripherals: cases, keyboard, Apple pencil, etc. Even going with the entry level iPad, it can easily cost $500 before you’re done accessorizing and personalizing it.
However, there are new players on the market as the above-referenced article notes. E-ink displays have come a long way from those early Kindles. I’ve written about some of the new players: the reMarkable Tablet and the Boox Note Air. The newest tablet on the block comes from Kobo with its Elipsa tablet. Some are standard e-ink displays and others are color e-ink displays. Some of lit screens and others don not. But what all of these new entries into the market offer is the ability to take note, real notes. Depending on the tablet and OS, you can access app stores and use MS Word, etc. You can browse the web with a greater ease than you’ve ever been able to do before with an e-ink screen.
Also, as with the iPad or other tablets, there is a price element to be considered with these new e-ink tablets. The Elipsa “package”, which includes the tablet, a sleep cover and stylus, starts at $399. The Boox Note Air is $480. It comes with a stylus but no cover. The reMarkable 2, the current generation of the reMarkable tablet, starts at $399 and doesn’t have a stylus with it. Also, it is not optimal as an e-reader due to the way it converts the books.
As for size, the reMarkable is close to the size of a hardback book. The Boox Note Air, which is larger than some of the other Boox e-ink tablets, also has a 10.3″ screen. The Elipsa, the only one of the tablets I’m using as an example here that I haven’t actually had hands-on, is also a 10.3″ screen. That’s great for working but not great for tossing into a purse or shoving into a pocket and running around on errands or on vacation.
Besides, I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather risk $89 for a front-lit Kindle e-reader (which you can sometimes find on sale for $49) as my e-reader on the go than $400 or more on an e-ink tablet.
In other words, it comes down to not if these new e-ink tablets will be the end of dedicated e-readers. We’ve seen these same e-readers survive the popularity of tablets. The real question is what do you want to do with your e-ink device? If you just want to read, the stick with a dedicated e-reader. Even if you take an occasional note on something you’re reading, you will get more for your money.
However, if you are like me and you want the convenience of an e-reader with the ability to take handwritten notes or to create new handwritten documents, look at one of the e-ink tablets. But please do your research. If you are going to use the tablet mainly for notes, the reMarkable is probably your best bet because that is what it’s made for. If, however, you are going to do a lot of reading on the tablet and want to use apps like MS Word, etc., and surf the web, look at the Boox Note Air. As for the Elipsa, it appears (and remember I have not yet tried it) to be similar to the Note Air. So if you are a Kobo customer, go with it because it links directly to the Kobo store (like the Kindle or Fire do to Amazon).
But to answer the question of it these new tablets spell the end of dedicated e-readers, the answer is no. At least not until there is a viable, and much less expensive, alternative. It might spell the end of the more expensive dedicated e-readers like the Oasis. Even that I’m not sure about.
What are your thoughts?