E-book reading devices

Can Alternative or Off-brand E-Readers Compete?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

There’s a lot to be said for being a market-leader.

By Edward Nawotka

E-book reading devices

Time was that a new e-reader announcement sent everyone into a tizzy — these day’s it’s just a “ho-hum” moment in a day otherwise filled with announcements of agents-turned publishers, self-pubbed phenom gone traditional, and the latest and greatest app-game-story-movie hybrid.

Yes, the e-reader bubble has popped, but the stream of new e-readers coming to market hasn’t subsided, nor will it. In the next two months you can expect to see the launch of a new color, Android-driven Kindle, an updated NookColor, and numerous other new devices — some from name brands, like Acer and Samsung — and others from mystery producers. By Christmas, you’ll be able to pick up a new e-reader with your morning coffee at the corner store. It’s one of the reasons txtr got out of the e-reader manufacturing business, as discussed in today’s feature story.

What’s interesting to note is that the most successful dedicated e-readers in the developed e-reader markets of the United States and, for the most part, Western Europe are branded by retailers or content providers and not manufacturers. Event some big players have struggled to gain traction. Sony has largely failed in the US, despite being among the first to market, Kobo is lagging behind Amazon and B&N — largely as a result of its partnership with defunct chain Borders — and Google’s iriver story is all-but-invisible, despite prominent retail placement in chains such as Target.

There’s a lot to be said for being a market-leader. So, do alternative or off-brand e-readers have a chance? Not likely. After all, there are dozens of brands of MP3 players on the market, but few have been able to compete for any real market share with Apple’s iPod.

The market, as we all expected, has crowned winners. Unless a company can introduce a paradigm shifting device to the marketplace — one with a flexible screen that can be rolled up, perhaps, or is simply huge, light and cheap — it looks like we’re living in the big brands’ world.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.