Smartphone manufacturers must rue the day they allowed media discussion of their sector to be dominated by the iPhone.
Journalists and bloggers couldn’t wait to tell readers about their new gadget and, for reasons which will make a worthwhile topic for future academic study, established handset makers cemented the impression of the iPhone as a ‘game changer’ by copying its shape and GUI in a seemingly endless list of ‘iPhone killers’.
Sad to say, history seems about to repeat itself in the eBook reader sector.
Amazon’s decision to sell the Kindle to international customers brought an increase in publicity for eBook readers, but sadly much of it failed to mention that the UK already has a number of readers readily available which offer a number of major advantages such as ePub support.
Fast forward a few months, with the iPad now out in the US and due here in the UK next month, coverage of eBook readers increasingly talks about what the iPad brings to the sector, again mostly without mentioning the negatives (short battery life, non e-ink screen).
The myriad of standalone readers already available on the high street scarcely get a mention, despite being the devices most UK e-readers actually own.
Bizarrely articles written for UK newspapers instead discuss the iPad’s impact on the Kindle, pitching one as yet unavailable device against one which isn’t legally on sale anywhere within the UK.
It’s not clear what manufacturers are going to do to counteract this publicity deficit but I think those of us who own a ‘proper’ eBook reader have a certain obligation to guide friends or relatives thinking of buying a reader to buy a device which is a) dedicated to the task and b) supports a common format.
It’s not about being pro or anti any other device – personally I’m leaning towards buying an iPad for many uses other than eBook reading – but about helping to ensure that when our current readers need replacing the market isn’t dominated by glossy screened computers with battery-hungry Wi-FI connections which read eBooks as an ‘also’ feature.