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So Many eReaders, So Little Time

While 3D televisions got most of the coverage at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the explosion of ebook readers came in a close second. The Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Sony Reader will be joined by devices from Fujitsu, Samsung, and even the magazine publisher Hearst. Mighty Apple is also rumored to soon be entering the fray with a tablet computer. Far better coverage than I could ever give here can be found on Engadget and Gizmodo. The Huffington Post also offers a rundown, complete with a picture and blurb for each device. And if you really want to get detailed, check out Macworld. For the UK perspective, there’s The Guardian which covers the Que ereader by British company Plastic Logic, and gives an intro to the what they call the ebook revolution.

Part of my reaction to this explosion is distinctively Luddite, a strong desire to sit back and wait for the gadget freaks to work it all out, then let the rest of us know what to buy while also doing a magnificent job of driving down prices. It’s also disconcerting to see so much attention focused on bells and whistles: display colors, video, animations, ink technology. While some of these perks could be handy for textbooks and the like, the novel works just fine with black text on white. Admittedly, many of the smaller device makers are trying to corner a niche market: business readers, periodical readers, magazine readers, commuters. In the not too distant future, Hearst could well be giving away their Skiff reader for free if you sign a two-year contract for their content.

Then there is the most shocking gadget of them all: the watertight case for Kindle. Apparently this negates the need for 1-gallon plastic bags that Jeff Bezos has employed to date while reading his Kindle in the tub. Now, that is handy! Also worth noting is this Slate interview with Bezos from shortly before the holidays. He makes two bold predictions: dedicated ereaders (not just multipurpose devices) shall survive, while printed books will eventually disappear. My hunch is he’s right on the first (that whole black text on white thing) but dead wrong on the second. Luddite readers like myself will still want some good, old fashioned paper books. Come to think of it, I don’t need a 3D television either, way too difficult to get any writing done with one of those around.

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