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eReader market dividing into high end and cheap and cheerful

By Tony Cole

It is beginning… From Rolls Royce to junk…

As many commentators have been saying for some time, as the idea of eReaders becomes more established, we are now seeing that both ends of the market are growing.  At the top end we have  sophisticated devices such as the Entourage and Kindle 3, and at the other end there are now an increasing number of cheap, almost throw-away eReaders coming onto the market.   Prices for some of these low end models have gone down to less that 80 USD a piece, and will get even cheaper in time.

Obviously those of us who see an eReader as a device we hope to use for some years will plump for the high- end ones.. Kindles, Sony’s, Kobos and so on, but there appears to be a place for the cheap ones too…   The sort of electronic device one would expect to find in mass outlets such as Wall mart and similar.  After all, one can buy an MP3 player made by a well known company for a relatively high price, or a no-name Chinese knock-off for almost nothing, both of which will perform as advertised, but the cheap one will of course give up the ghost long before the expensive one.   It will be the same with eReaders, of this I am sure.

The MiGear ereader is a good example of the cheap end of the market – it works, but is pretty limited in what it can offer you.

Not necessarily a bad thing…

I don’t see this as a bad thing to be honest, as people ask different things from their electronic devices – some simply buy them on impulse and don’t really know why they bought it, others after a lot of thought and research and know exactly what they want it for.   If you happen to be someone who reads at every opportunity, or at least pretty  often, then obviously a higher end device is what you want, on the other hand, if all you want it for is to store recipes or a dictionary, then the cheaper ones are a better bet.

It is this dichotomy that I feel will drive the two ends of this market over the next years.

Every day I receive more than a hundred press releases and alerts all relating to eBooks and similar, and as I have mentioned before on this blog, the number of eBooks that are appearing that are obviously aimed squarely at the bottom end of the market is astounding, eBooks on how to keep slim, how to feed your family, how to look after your pets and similar. This is not the sort of thing that a “serious” eBook reader is likely to want to have, but is very much what a lot of people who are not really book readers do find useful to have at their disposal.   and if the device that they can keep such books on is cheap and easy to use, they will happily buy them.

An ereader for each person’s needs…

Basically, what I anticipate is the situation we currently have with shops, one has newsagents, who sell magazines, cook books and similar stuff, and one has book shops who sell (obviously) books.   And what I believe is that the eReader market will reflect this situation.  Cheap eReaders for those who would normally buy their reading and reference material at newsagents or airports and who consider their purchases to be more or less throw away stuff, and expensive eReaders for those who are serious readers.

If one’s eReader is going to live on a shelf in the kitchen, it would seem foolish to have a 200 USD device for that…  Getting covered in fat, milk being spilled on it and all the other risks of such a life…  Much better to have a truly simple eReader that you can afford to replace when it, inevitably, dies.

A whole house full of cheap and expensive ereaders:

This development seems to me not simply to be inevitable, but to have already started, a sort of democratization of the eReader as it becomes steadily more and more mainstream in our lives.   So ere long, we will all probably have a number of devices knocking about the house on which to store our various eBooks – one for serious reading, one for the kitchen, another for the TV room, perhaps several for the kids and so on…   Much as we do with MP3 players and mobile phones already.

As a result of this development, I am completely convinced that a steady stream of no-name eReaders will become easily available to us all, at almost no cost as production increases, and thus lowers the unit cost to manufacturers.  As a demonstration of this I have seen brand new MP3 players on sale in Chinese shops for as little as about 2 USD – and they worked fine too…

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Mike Cane November 9, 2010 um 11:28 am

This post would make sense only if there was a universal eBook file format. There isn’t. And many crap eBook devices cannot handle classic Adobe DRM ePub — or any ePub at all for that matter — so they’re nothing but ripoff devices for morons who don’t really read anyway but like to just buy things. And calling the Kindle 3 at $139 "high-end" is really stretching things.

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