During FINETECH Japan 2010, Corning gave a presentation titled New Component Technologies for e-paper. Corning has an incredibly optimistic view of the e-book reader market. E-book readers, according to Corning, makes use of a low-power reflective bi-stable display, like the one you see in Amazon’s Kindle. In 2009 the market for e-book readers was just 2 million, but that according to Corning will grow to 8 million in 2010 and then balloon to 77 million by 2014. Incredibly, by 2020 Corning expects the market to hit 400 million. Let’s put this number into perspective. That would be equivalent to the entire population, and then some, of the entire European Union. Or the combined population of the United States and Canada. I don’t presume to know more than the entire marketing department at Corning, but I am scratching my head and wondering if this optimism will bear out. I don’t think it will.
The main reason why I do not share Corning’s optimism for the e-book reader market as the company defines it is because of multi-functional tablets, like the one I’m using right now to type out this post, the iPad. Let’s look at the number of gadgets we carry today. That will help us understand one very important desire of gadget toters: we want to carry less gadgets. A typical gadget toter will have a mobile phone or smartphone, a netbook or full-blown notebook, an e-book reader and maybe a MP3 player. The iPhone and other smartphones capable of playing back music allowed us to keep the MP3 player at home. Some use the netbook or notebook as an e-book reader too but most avid readers still make use of a dedicated e-book reader because it lasts long enough to read a book. Gadget toters tote around too many gadgets and it is my guess that they, we, want less gadgets to carry around. And this brings us to why I think multi-functional devices like the iPad will be much welcomed. 500,000 have already decided that they would at least check out the iPad. I *want* to replace my MacBook Pro with the iPad. I want the iPad to also replace an e-book reader and possibly a MP3 player. I want to carry just two gadgets: my iPad and my phone. What I want is to do more with less.