Until recently, E-readers were a perpetual “almost” technology. The displays were almost good enough to read, the readers were almost slim and small enough to carry conveniently, the books were almost available.
But thanks to the ever-accelerating pace of digital technology, e-readers are finally coming into their own as a product category, and real competition between various readers means consumers finally have a choice between several inexpensive readers and one very popular but much more expensive option.
I speak of course of the iPad. Apple’s monstrously popular tablet has sold more than 3 million units thus far, and shows no signs of slowing down. And nestled amongst all its other features is a very capable e-reader called iBooks. The iPad doesn’t use e-ink, and is heavier than other e-readers, but the combination of Apple’s design sense and all of the other features included on the unit, it’s not surprising that it’s rapidly becoming the most popular platform for books since….well, books.
Which is surprising, given that Amazon, no slouches in the bookselling department, have had the Kindle on the market for far longer than the iPad. Up until Apple released it’s “magical and revolutionary” device, the Kindle was pretty much the only game in town, and it’s still a solid player, with a fantastic e-ink display and access to arguably the best library of e-books in the world. Expect competition to reduce the price of the device, which recently sunk below $200 for the first time.
Another device those of us living close to the US border can check out is the Barnes and Noble Nook, another strong contender which draws on a large base of e-books.
If you’re looking to buy Canadian, you can always go for the Kobo, sold by Indigo and sometimes the best place to find affordable bestsellers. I for one used the Kobo app on my iPhone to read “Game Change,” a fantastic book about the 2008 election.
Of course the dark horse for all these readers is less the iPad, and more the iPhone. There are millions of iPhones already in everyone’s pocket, and as of yesterday all but the oldest of the devices were capable of running iBooks and accessing the iBookstore. While the Canadian version of the store doesn’t as yet have anything but public domain works, it’s sure to soon be stuffed with many, many bestsellers and niche titles, all of them accessible on a device you carry with you everyday. It may turn out the most affordable e-reader is the phone you already own.
[Photo: Forbes Magazine]