Photos via Jaymi Heimbuch
Last year it was all about the netbooks. This year, it's all about the e-readers. e-Readers are so hot at CES this year that they received their own Tech Zone. CEA expects that their sales will double in the next year, and considering the explosion of models and accessories being shown off at CES, it's not hard to agree that's a reasonable expectation. But, looking at some of the other technology and buzz words at CES, is this a market destined to become a massive pile of obsolete gadgets in the very near future?
So Many Styles, Designs, Sizes...
There's an incredible range of sizes, styles and capabilities of e-readers, to the point that it's getting tough to be able to make a decision about which to buy. Consumers are going to have to start doing their research. But not one of these manufacturers has ready information about their recycling programs, their choice of eco-friendly materials, or other important aspects of green gadgetry. You've got to dig for it, if it's available at all.
But even the little guys are getting a shot at competing with the bigger companies in this area. Sure, the Kindle and the Nook are getting loads of exposure. But readers like the Cool-er are also great devices that are getting consumer attention now. They're price competitive, and have a huge library of books to download. But, as CES attendees browsed the booths, a common question I heard being asked was compatibility with e-book formats. This is a big issue for e-Readers, and making sure that anyone, with any device, can access any book is one yet to be resolved. Specialized devices with exclusivity on their content is simply not very green.
e-Readers are also getting more involved in their design, like this one which has a e-paper e-reader on one side, and a more interactive tablet-like color panel on the other.
The options are booming, but it's not just the e-readers themselves we should be worried about...
Accessories Galore for e-Readers
...It's also the accessories. We're seeing a major boom in all the little covers, cases and doodads you can get to go with your e-reader, making waste and overconsumption a bigger concern.
There are even accessories that bring out some irony... we're making e-readers to get away from printed materials, and then making covers for the e-readers so that they look like printed materials.
We're also making gadgets for our gadgets, like this light for your e-reader.
Is It All For Nothing?
I'm an e-reader fan, it's no secret. I feel strongly that they have their place, and can help reduce the environmental impact of books. However, I'm also wary of any next-big-thing gadgets. We have a tendency to go nuts over some new device, only to leave it by the wayside later on, and it may be the case with e-readers. You see, the other big buzz here at CES is around tablets.
When you think of tablets, think giant iPod Touch devices. e-Readers can be easily incorporated into these devices. And since tablets will do so much more than e-Readers, consumers will like jump over e-readers and head straight for tablets when they're available...which will be soon. Rumor has it, Apple will debut a tablet in March, and other companies are on the ball with creating their versions. These will be e-Readers for books as well as magazines, and be more interactive entertainment devices.
So...will all these comparatively boring one-trick-pony e-Readers become old news in another year? And if so, what is the environmental impact we're creating by this explosion of electronics that have such a possibly short lifespan in the market place?
e-Readers have their place, but it's time we start getting concerned about the over-production and over-consumption of a device that may be outdated before we can blink.
More on CES 2010
CES 2010 - CEA Takes A Stab At California Television Efficiency Regulations
CES 2010 - Ecotouch Dimmer Lets You Skip Expensive CFL Bulbs (Video)
CES 2010 - Beautiful Freeloader Solar Chargers Finally Hitting the US
CES 2010 - Ultralast Batteries Back With Solar Charger and... Specialized Charger?
CES 2010 - Sanyo's Eneloop Bike May Be a Bike World Game Changer
CES 2010 - Greenpeace Ranks Nokia As Top Green Gadget Company
Consumer Electronics Show 2010 - A Steaming Pile of Hypocrisy? Does it Really Matter?
Gearing Up for Consumer Electronics Show 2010 - Green Products We Can't Wait to See