iPad kindles debate about price of e-readers

While on the face of it the iPad offers more per dollar than Amazon’s Kindle DX, a snazzy gizmo that turns out to be a glorified e-reader is still way too expensive for the average woman or man.

And it also puts the spotlight on the dilemma book and print publishers face – a paperback book doesn’t require you to fork out $500 or £500, re-charge batteries, pay a fee to a carrier and worry about whether you’ll drop, lose or otherwise break a piece of electronic junk that will be obsolete in six months anyway.

Even with Harper Collins and Penguin on Apple’s side, the iPad is just way too much of a luxury for everyone except wealthy fashion victims. That’s not to say that the time of the e-reader is nigh, it’s just that it’s not nigh yet and won’t be until an electronic reader is bundled with books and the economies of scale mean the reader costs a few dollars, not a few hundreds.

The best analogy I can find for the book and the newspaper print industry is the one pioneered by Hewlett Packard for printers. A modern printer is a highly sophisticated piece of mechanics and electronics that doesn’t break the bank – instead HP and the rest make money from the ink or consumables that are needed to make the thing function.

Putting an iPad before the content it’s intended to carry to the reader is like putting a cart before the horse. An e-reader is a means to an end, and not the  end itself.

It’s clear that a combination of well orchestrated hype and the classy design we’ve come to expect from Apple means that the iPad beats contenders like the Amazon Kindle DX hands down – but someone who wants to read Stephen King or Ovid couldn’t care less about the technology and probably doesn’t want yet another gizmo to clutter up her or his life.