News broke this week that Isabella Products Inc., in conjunction with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, would target children next year with the release of a color eReader called Fable. The announcement coincided with similar news from the Chinese company Hanvon Technology, which will release color E Ink technology, the same lightweight, reader friendly displays currently limited to black-and-white and used in eReaders like Amazon's Kindle.
Up until this point, Apple's iPad, Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook have been leaders in the emerging and competitive eReader market, each featuring its own advantages. Will the introduction of color displays into the market be a true game changer?
Regarding the E Ink color technology, IT World wrote yesterday:
"It's important to note that this new device is intended as an e-reader and not as a general purpose tablet. Color E Ink is, well, E Ink in color. If you've used an E Ink device you'll know what the screen refresh rates are like. It's fine for reading, but you won't be sneaking in a quick video or playing a game (well, nothing with fast action anyway) on this device. On the flip side, you'll get 30 days of use on a charge.
In other words, IT World points to the differences between a tablet device -- meant to be utilized for a diverse set of functions, from reading to viewing pictures and videos, as well as writing notes, gaming and emailing -- from an eReader (a devise exclusively intended for reading). Currently, the iPad leads in the tablet market, while the Nook and Kindle have been receiving even reviews for nearly identical services.
Adding fuel to the flames, news broke last week that Callaway Digital Arts, producers of interactive book Apps, gained $6-million in funding from venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Callaway's Apps, including Miss Spider's Tea Party and the forthcoming Martha Stewart Makes Cookies, utilize the vibrant colors and capability of interactivity that LCD screens offer. Does the high-profile investment in Callaway signal that the future of eReaders rests in LCD technology?
Despite the battle over screen technology, various sources have remained critical of digital readers in general. For example, PC World published yesterday, "5 Reasons You Don't Need an E-Book Reader," citing issues like "It's Not Cheap Enough" and "E-books Are Not More Eco-friendly Than Paper Books."Scientific America also recently criticized eReaders, writing that the main issue is the "crudeness of e-book technology." The article also stated:
"But they're still pricey enough that you'll kick yourself if yours is lost or stolen. They're much more fragile than books. They run out of power, leaving you with nothing to read."
On top of this, the question remains, are people with eReaders even using their devices? An article published last month on CNET suggests they might not. And despite reports from Amazon about eBooks outselling paper books, studies from MIT have show that data to be false.
Even still, the college textbook market remains ripe for the expansion of digital material. Time reported on a new eTextbook App company today, while other sources have been reporting optimistically about the market for months.
How well are publishers actually faring with eBooks? Are consumers enjoying eReaders? Is the death of print truly imminent? You decide. Let us know what you think ...