Apple tablet could be a game-changer for e-readers

An interesting post over at Gizmodo have me thinking about e-readers again. I went to an e-reader summit a couple of weeks ago hosted by the Digital Publishing Alliance here at the Reynolds Journalism Institute.

It was pretty clear that the folks in the room all thought that e-readers would be a part of their business model. What wasn’t clear is how large a part of the business model they would be, or how exactly newspapers would monetize content that’s being delivered on an e-reader. There were reps at this meeting from Sony and Plastic Logic (no one from Amazon, unfortunately) and there was a lot of talk about the next generation of e-readers, which would feature quicker page-turning and refresh rates, be thinner and lighter, etc. Color might be coming in 2011, and so on.

Well, if Apple really does intend to put out a tablet — and the signs point to it being a when, not an if — it would pretty much blow any current e-reader out of the water, simply because at a similar price point, the tablet would have massively more functionality than an e-ink device.

Beside the functionality, though, a tablet (being also a full-on computer) could also pave the way for multimedia presentations and new ways of creating and linking digital content. For current books, that’s a “meh” — are you going to provide photos of Victorian England to go along with Bleak House? (Well, actually, that sounds kind of interesting …) But it would be really interesting to see what newspapers and magazines can do to provide multimedia and interactive graphics on a device that’s close to an e-reader in size — something that’s got the read-in-bed capability that laptops and larger devices are lacking. It might eventually come close to the vision Roger Fidler and I had for our eMprint project at the Missourian.

(Cross-posted from my other blog)