Based on the number of pre-event press calls and steady stream of press releases, the E in CES 2010 stands for e-reading. Two days before I land in Las Vegas, I envision devices in every form factor each proclaiming to be the best thing to hit publishing since the AP Stylebook. I have now lost count: Alex (Spring Design), Que (Plastic Logic), enTourage eDGe and now something called the Skiff are all set to make their debut at CES. In addition, other devices such as smartphone, netbooks, smartbooks and other products that have a display and processor that defy categorization (at least at this point) will be touted as devices on which consumers can read books, newspapers and magazines.
For those of you whose New Year’s resolution was to forget 2009, I must reiterate a research position stated late last year: devices by themselves just don’t matter. Consumers will buy content and expect to consume that content across a set of devices based on usage scenarios. Sure I will have a ball pushing buttons and asking questions to the device folk this week; what will dictate winners from losers is what standards the device supports, what publishers it is working with to build enhanced content and what formats will be used on these devices to drive new content experiences. Having played with the Kindle, Nook and a few others, reading a book on a device is table stakes; show me what you have that will delight consumers and encourage publishers (and leading authors such as John Grisham) to go full bore into e-publishing.
I hope to see device companies and their partners (service providers, software publishers, developers) go far beyond book experiences to showcasing newspaper and magazine content on varied devices. To date, I have yet to see an e-reader implementation of such content that looks better than the glorified RSS feed popularized by Amazon’s Kindle.
Lastly, it’s expected that much of the e-reading talk will be about a company whose product isn’t even expected to be at CES—the Apple Tablet. Based on the “where there’s smoke” principles of journalism, a device from Apple is imminent (loosely defined) and may be among the first to offer a viable ecosystem (developer community, iPhone OS, device) that will present e-reading experiences to consumers that are based, at least in theory, on Apple’s iTunes LP (Extras) enhanced music downloads.
Stay tuned for on location updates on e-readers and other news from CES.