Kindle Plays Nice, but Will Mobile Bite the Hand that Feeds It?

Google’s going mobilebut mostly with out-of-copyright titles that have landed in the public domain. With Amazon getting in on the act and making Kindle-formatted books mobile-friendly, are we seeing a migration away from investment in dedicated eReaders?

Miguel Helft in the NY Times technology section says no:

But just as camera phones have not replaced digital cameras, smartphones are not likely to replace dedicated e-book readers like the Kindle or the Reader from Sony, analysts said. These specialized devices have screens about the size of a paperback book and use a technology that does not require backlighting, which makes them easier to read in most light conditions. They also have longer battery life.

A fair pointbut the use cases for mobile content aren’t usually going to include long hours of undisturbed reading. Both mobile and dedicated readers offer convenient, portable content but smartphones are always going to do that better. How much more convenient can you get than something already in your pocket?

The remaining advantages of eReaders over phones, more storage space and longer battery life, suggest that, sure, an eReader is better for traveling where you’ll need a lot of content in a lightweight container. But is that a big enough market to keep the eReader phenomenon alive?

Bear in mind that the camera/reader analogy breaks down quickly: people use digital cameras to produce content rather than only consume it. The difference in production quality between a phone and a camera for a photo matters a lot. Readers are not dependent on device output in the same way when they are reading books.