Will convergence trump best of breed devices for eBooks?

James Kendrick mentioned there was an update last night to the iPhone/iPod Touch version of eReader to version 2.0. Sure enough, there it was in the update apps section. Here’s a rundown of the new features from James.

  • color themes (day and night time, I find this very useful reading for reading in the dark)
  • Book cover art
  • user defined book categories
  • indicator to let you know what books are already on your device
  • percentage read indicator in the bookshelf
  • additional fonts
  • margin options
  • line spacing options
  • larger tap targets for links
  • auto-scroll  (I love this feature a lot)

There’s some pretty nice stuff in there, and I actually like the day/night themes depending on where and when I’m reading. The real question I’m pondering is the role of dedicated eBook readers like the Kindle relative to reading on devices such as the iPhone. No doubt, the Kindle is the better experience. The Kindle’s resolution is much closer to paper than the iPhone’s and a probably a good deal better than any screen you’re reading this on. On the other hand, devices have come a long ways since eReader used to be called Peanut Press and the device of choice to read was a Palm VX. eReader on the iPhone delivers a good deal of the Kindle experience. There’s a good selection of content (not great, but good and they’ve finally added Tom Clancy, of the last holdouts against eBooks). There’s the ability to download and purchase content directly, with no PC required. The screen’s not as high quality but there’s no annoying eInk page refresh and the small size of the device makes it much easier to hold and use one handed. In short, it’s not a perfect experience, but then neither is the Kindle.

I do believe there’s a market for dedicated devices. Cameras have not been displaced by music phones, media players have not been displaced by music phones and the Kindle will still serve a market of bibliophiles, especially those that travel a lot. The potential that apps like eReader have are to tap into the more casual market, allowing users to leverage the investment in screens they already have. That’s one reason why I think it’s important for Amazon to get the Kindle platform onto as many devices with screens as possible.

So what do you think? Is there a market for dedicated eBook readers or is this one area where convergence will trump best of breed functionality?

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