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Gadgets -E-Readers: Changing the Way We Digest Printed Materials?

August 20, 2010

E-Readers: Changing the Way We Digest Printed Materials?

By Susan J. Campbell
TMCnet Contributing Editor

While paper has long been the main medium for transmitting printed information, e-readers are changing this firmly established trend. In fact, according to a recent Associated Press (News - Alert) report, this trend is changing as a result of the marriage between an American technology firm and a Taiwanese display manufacturer.

Before you rush to check the news feeds for recent acquisitions and mergers, this joining took place four years ago when Cambridge, Mass.-based E Ink Corporation and Taiwan's Prime View International Co. saw the potential in the digital reading space. Now, the two create an e-paper display that supplies 90 percent of the e-reader market.

While this industry is fast growing, there are some who argue that the general public is not ready to completely do away with paper in favor of e-readers. In fact, analyst Michael Norris of research firm, Simba (News - Alert) Information Co. notes that it is ridiculous to believe that a product like an e-reader is going to revolutionize the way most people read. He pointed out that the growth rate in the United States is much slower than it appears.

Another challenge in this space is the rapid deployment of multifunctional devices that have e-reader capability. Key customers like Amazon and Sony are struggling to keep up, especially against the iPad, which has a sales history that is leaving everything else in the dust.

Even with such challenges in place, it may be too soon to count out e-reader manufacturers. After all, four years after the first devices emerged on the market, sales are strong. According to research firm, Display Search, sales in 2010 are up from the four million sold in all of 2009. The rapid decline in e-reader prices is also helping drive adoption.

Those involved in the venture between the U.S. and Taiwan companies – now known as E Ink Holdings – is optimistic about the future of the e-reader. In fact, chairman Scott Liu believes the market is readily embracing the device and their customers do have the ability to fend off competition from the iPad.

"People read on digital paper exactly like reading on conventional paper, using natural light in the environment," Liu told The Associated Press. "In another five years, we could see a major change in reading habits, with more people switching to electronic reading.”

When asked about the competition, Liu noted that the iPad's liquid-crystal-display panel is vulnerable due to its dependence on backlight sources that cause eye fatigue. He refers to the device as fascinating, but not built for long-term reading.

It may not be ridiculous to believe consumers will migrate toward e-readers to replace the way they digest information. After all, most of us may not be willing to carry a book everywhere we go, but we do carry and iPhone (News - Alert), iPad, smartphone, or even an e-reader device as it blends with our habits of mobile communications.

And, as shared by my sister who is an avid reader and mother of three, when trying to put a baby to bed in a darkened hotel room, an e-reader makes it bearable to sit and wait.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard

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