Saturday, October 30, 2010

eReader Color vs. Black & White vs. ...

Nick Bilton,
Although it is still unclear if the color version will be a hit, William Lynch, chief executive of Barnes & Noble, said at a news conference Tuesday that the company had sold over 1 million Nooks since the device was introduced last year.

That number seems impressive until you compare it to other devices on the market that have logos of a little apple on the back. The Apple iPad, which costs $500 and up, is clearly not just an e-reader, but a computer, e-reader and Web device all rolled into one, and it has fared extremely well with consumers so far. Apple said in its latest earnings report that it had sold over 7 million iPads in six months. ...

Phil Lubell, vice president of digital reading at Sony Electronics, said in an e-mail that he believed consumers preferred “a crisp, glare-free e-ink screen that provides the most immersive reading experience possible.”

“Barnes & Noble’s new LCD tablet cannot be considered in the same category as a dedicated reading device,” Mr. Lubell said. “We’ve heard overwhelmingly from book lovers interested in e-readers that electronic paper is their No. 1 reason for choosing an electronic reading device.” (Of course, Barnes & Noble’s chief said during his news conference that customers had “asked for a color e-reader.”)

Although Sony declined to offer the exact number of e-readers it had sold to date, a Sony representative said the company had “passed the million-unit milestone a while ago.”

And of course there’s one more e-reader: the Amazon Kindle. Although not the first to enter the marketplace, the Kindle has definitely made one of the largest splashes.

An Amazon representative declined to comment about the company’s future plans for the Kindle, or the number of units the company has sold to date. Analysts believe Amazon has sold between 3 million and 6 million units since the first Kindle was introduced in 2007.

Don’t expect a color version of the scrappy Kindle anytime soon. Jeffrey P. Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, has repeatedly said that color is “not ready for prime time” when it comes to next-generation e-readers. Mr. Bezos has also said in the past that color Kindles are “multiple years” away.

Holding out for a better color technology could be beneficial for Amazon and Sony, or it could completely backfire. As consumers continue to read more content on color devices that can handle video and deliver a more magazine-like experience, dedicated black-and-white readers could quickly become a niche product. ...