This Device War Will Not End Anytime Soon…

I came across some very interesting articles recently about tablets, smartphones, e-readers, and e-books.In this post, I’ll try to expose the state of the market, and what it means for textbooks.

The Rise of the E-Reader

Interestingly, e-readers like the Kindle and the Nook have a higher market penetration than tablets, as reported by TechCruch.

A new Pew research survey of U.S. adults conducted in May, 2011 shows that ownership of electronic readers such as the Amazon Kindle or The Barnes & Noble Nook is now at 12 percent. The ownership of e-readers doubled from six months prior when it was 6 percent.

The adoption of e-readers continues to outpace tablets such as the iPad and Motorola Xoom. Only 8 percent of respondents said they won a tablet, compared to 5 percent six months earlier. So tablet ownership seems to be growing at a slower pace.

The article also states the fact that e-readers are becoming more tablet-like, and that tablets have e-book apps, so the line between those two product lines is becoming quite blurry.

The iPad is King

In the tablet market, the iPad is pretty much alone, according to a post by Greg Sterling.

According to comScore, the iPad represents “89 percent of tablet traffic across all markets.” In the US the figure is 97 percent. Apple has sold roughly 25 million iPads to date globally, while competitors have seen disappointing sales so far.

Competitors are ramping up their offering in the tablet market though. eWeek has put up a list of 10 potential rivals to the iPad, stating that tablets compete not only against other tablets, but also against other lightweight portable devices, including laptops.

Campus Technology also came up with a similar list of alternatives, but only focused on laptops sold for under $500. With everyone comparing iPads to everything else, this clearly states that the Apple device has become the benchmark for competitors.

What Makes Academic Reading Different from Reading?

I would argue that casual reading and studying are two different animals. The former can be done on any device, from a smartphone to a computer screen, since the only goal is entertainment or personal and professional growth. The latter one involves a deeper understanding and assimilation of the content, as described in this article by Jennifer Demski.

Academic reading is an exercise that requires the reader to be able to interact with text in ways that will aid his retention and understanding of the material. Whether they’re reading a biology textbook or Paradise Lost, students need to be able to highlight important passages, make notes in the margins of the text, and quickly skim through passages to refresh and compare information.

Most e-readers are not there yet, although apps like the Kno for the iPad are promising (probably feeling they could not compete, Kno dropped their hardware-based approach for an app approach recently). I would argue that the best studying device is still the laptop, but I predict that just like the the boundary between e-readers and tablets is collapsing, so will the one between portable devices and laptops. The only differences in the end will be screen sizes, input devices, and the integration of the social component of studying.

It seems that the craze to be mobile will not end anytime soon according to what the market looks like right now, and that the electronic textbook will still be morphing for a while. The war rages on…

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