Books written by Ray Sullivan

Saturday, 29 September 2012

The Half Life of Dedicated eReaders

The term half life is drawn from physics and refers to the time it takes for the energy in a radioactive substance to naturally deplete to half.  Generally the first half is relatively rapid with the second half taking an exponentially longer time.  In physics, it is the first half that matters as that is the  most energetic period.  The second half matters to those left to cope with the radioactive residue.

It can be used analogously in other ways too.    Some of the older readers, if they cast their minds back far enough, will remember Video Cassette Recorders, VCRs, introduced in the 1970s and lasting until DVDs and Hard Drive recorders usurped them in the new Millennium, devices rapidly being usurped by the growing Clouds.  There are plenty of VCRs still kicking around and plenty of legacy films and home movies to go with them, but no new material has been produced for them in years.  Some users will hang on to their devices until they grind to a halt, but most of us moved on years ago.  The half life was probably about twenty years, maybe more, and in hindsight will appear to have been rather a long period for modern technology such as dedicated eReaders, for example the Amazon Kindle.

Regular readers will know that I've been a user of the Amazon Kindle for quite some time, possibly I was one of the earliest adopters this side of the pond.  It's a fine device and I've read dozens of books on it.  However I've recently become the owner of a Google Nexus 7, the seven inch tablet released a few months ago.  Naturally I downloaded the Amazon Kindle App as that provided me with access to all of the books I've bought.

Having just spent nearly two weeks on holiday in Spain, with me reading four or five books on the Nexus 7 and with my other half reading a similar number of books on my Kindle it occurred to me that the Kindle and other dedicated eReaders still have an advantage over the tablets computers such as the Nexus 7.  Namely, their ability to be read in full daylight.  I did manage to read the Nexus on the beach but it was reasonably difficult at times whereas the Kindle managed superbly.  However, like most people, I don't read on beaches, or outside come to that, very often, so the advantage is marginal.

Now compare the added utility of using the Nexus, as I did, to access my emails, surf the net, view photographs and even draft this blog and it is clear that the cost differential doesn't add up to much at all.  Plus, if there isn't someone at Apple, Amazon, Google, Asus or one of the other major manufacturers of tablets working on a way to make them more readable in direct sunlight then I'll eat my recently purchased and now, thanks to the British weather, effectively redundant straw hat.

This coming winter is clearly looking like the year tablets come of age - I doubt Apple's dominance will be broken but the emergence of devices like the Nexus 7 such as the new Amazon Kindle Fire and the B&N Nook which  is strongly tipped to be launched in the UK before the Christmas season will create a new swathe of tablet users.  It's possible that e-ink eReaders such as the basic Kindle and the Kobo Touch will still sell well but my guess is that they will sell lower numbers than last year.  e-Ink devices have had their half life and although they will still sell in niche numbers and will continue to be used for the odd hot holiday for many years to come my guess is that it is true tablets that will rule the roost for the next couple of years.

I'm not making any forecasts about the half life of tablets, however - they appear to be here to stay at the moment but I guess we all thought that about the e-Ink Kindle a couple of years ago.  But I may make a video about the rise and fall of e-Ink, available on either VHS or Betamax, available from all good video shops soon.


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