The case for the dedicated e-reader: When it's time to go off the grid

The case for the dedicated e-readerWith the advent of the iPad and the plethora of cheaper Android tablets that are due to flood the market over the coming months, there’s an increasingly popular theory in the tech industry: the days of the dedicated e-reader are numbered.

Last week we published the latest forecasts from Informa Telecoms & Media analysts that said as much. Sales of ‘smartbooks’ (a loosely defined term) are expected to grow from 3.65 million in 2010 to nearly 50 million in 2014, or over 50% of all embedded device sales. The losers will be dedicated e-readers, such as the Amazon Kindle or Sony Reader, and the winners, multifunctional portable devices like the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab.

The reasoning – and it’s convincing – is that e-book content is now available on most multifunctional devices like mobiles and tablets that work well enough as book readers, while having other functions.

Or as our very own Paul Carr says: When faced with a choice of carrying a multifunctional tablet like the iPad or a dedicated e-reader, users will choose the former.

In fact, he goes further. Not only will the iPad and its ilk kill devices like the Kindle but it’s a nail in the coffin of (long form) reading too. The iPad has far too many tricks up its sleeve, each competing for our attention.

However, I have a confession to make: I’m now a total Kindle convert.

Yes, I know. It’s a laughable notion to anybody that knows me well and judging by the number of unread books – mostly Christmas presents from friends who should know better – that occupy shelf space and the spare cupboard in my house. But I can’t get enough of the Kindle.


It’s the only gadget that encourages me – no, forces me – to go off the grid and get away from, as Mike Butcher puts it, the “background hum” of being always-connected. In fact, it’s for exactly the reasons that Carr states, that the dedicated e-reader can be seen as the anti-iPad. And that might well be its long-term appeal.

The Kindle has WiFi and, optionally, 3G but thankfully its built-in web browser – marked “experimental” – is crap. There’s also no Twitter, no email, no push notifications. No background hum.

Throw in the technical merits of a dedicated e-reader: The e-Ink screen that eliminates eye strain associated with back-lit LCD screens and means that it can comfortably be read in direct sun light, the (up to) month-long battery life, the relatively light weight of the device — and, for many, the case becomes even more compelling.

But, mostly, I’m attracted to the Kindle because – shocking as it may seem to TechCrunch readers – it’s necessary (no, healthy) to go off the grid sometimes. If only to get away from work.

On that note, the first book that I’m reading on my newly purchased Kindle is Paul Carr’s “Bringing Nothing To The Party – True Confessions of a New Media Whore“. A book that is, largely, about Internet startup life in London.

Yeah, I know…