Winning the E-Reader Wars

Kindle fights Sony, and both try to wipe out the Nook. Now the Internet whispers that Apple may join the battle for dominance in the e-reader market. Except I know who’s going to win. I’m absolutely certain. You ready? Here it is:

None of them.

Every one of these e-readers is going to slide into the margins, used by a mere handful of people. Makes me glad I got my Kindle for free.

The real winner will be the cell phone.

It’s true. The e-reader of the (very near) future will be the cell phone. Okay, let the howling begin: “No one will read on cell phones.” “I hate reading on that little screen.” “You can’t even get a whole paragraph.” “It runs down the battery.” “The e-readers offer a much better reading experience.”

Yeah, and?

Hey, I love my Kindle. Great way to buy books and read them. The Sony and the Nook have their plusses and minuses, too. But cell phones wipe the floor with them in one simple, insurmountable way:


Which device do we carry with us more often, a cell phone or an e-reader? (How many of us don’t even own an e-reader but own a cell phone?) If we’re heading out to run some errands and we realize as we’re pulling out of the driveway that we’ve forgotten our cell phone, how many of us frantically run back and get it? And how many of us, upon realizing we’ve forgotten our e-reader, would say, “Ahhhh, no biggie”?


We take a cell phone to the beach, to the bank, to a hotel, to the office, and to the laundromat. The phone is nearby when we find ourselves unexpectedly alone in the restaurant or on the bus. We forget our cell phones, and we feel lost. It’s like realizing we’ve forgotten a wallet or purse. The Supreme Court of Ohio, in fact, recently ruled the police need a warrant to search through a cell phone because the material contained therein is so personal. It’s become a part of us.

E-readers can’t compete with this. They’re expensive, and they only do one thing, unlike cell phones. Most people have to make an effort to remember to grab one, if they even own one in the first place.

In Japan and China, people are already used to reading on their cell phones. Cell phone novels, or “keitai shousetsu,” are wildly popular and are considered a genre unto themselves. It’s only a matter of time before they conquer the western half of the world.

And remember cameras? People originally poo-pooed cell phone cameras. “What would you want with a phone that takes pictures?” “They take awful photos.” “You can’t focus or zoom.” “The memory fills up really fast.” And lo, time passed. These days when you want to take a quick picture, what do you reach for, your digital camera or your cell phone?


Cell phone cameras won simply because they were handy when people wanted to take pictures. Cell phone e-readers will win simply because they’ll be handy when people want to read. And just as cell phone cameras improved with time and demand, so will cell phone e-readers.

I guarantee it.

–Steven Harper Piziks

Books available on Amazon’s Kindle:



Winning the E-Reader Wars — 11 Comments

  1. Agent Joshua Bilmes, after his second Kindle gave out, already switched to his iPhone. And while I can see the geeky attraction of an e-book reader, I agree that our pocket communicators will win out again, just as they’ve (mostly) done with MP3 players, at least in my household. I won’t buy another phone that _isn’t_ an MP3 device because the ‘pack one thing, have many functions’ thing rocks.

  2. The cell phone, or cell phone-like devices will be the winners. Don’t look for much to happen on that front, though, until you can get an iPhone with anything but AT&T here in the states. I got an iTouch for Christmas–basically the iPhone with everything but the phone–because I didn’t want to deal with the hassles of changing cell phone contracts. I’ve downloaded a bunch of novels (including The Shadow Conspiracy) and find it to be quite useful for reading. Now to download some videos and more music, plus update my contact list and start keeping my calendar on it….

  3. I adore mine, too, but I’m finding that when I’m not at home, I read books on my iPhone using the Kindle app because I always grab my phone when go somewhere, while I rarely remember to grab my Kindle. Now I find myself thinking, “Why grab the extra device when I can read just fine on the phone?” Which is why I have the certain suspicion that e-readers will be secondary to cell phones.

  4. When the cell phone novel phenom first was covered here in the US, I was contacted by one of the providers we are working with here at BVC and asked if I’d be willing to write one day-by-day for free. I gave it serious thought and my agent wasn’t against it, but I thought about that type of schizzy stuff and my attention span is short enough as it is. I don’t think I am the cell phone novel author of the future. If I were writing a brief segment each day, let’s just say that some serious changes would occur in the story and characters between day one and day 365 or whenever the story would conclude . . .

  5. Ohhhh, now that sounds like serious fun! An episode a day! I know the Japanese cell phone novels work on this model, and I think it’d be fun to try, me. It could so easily turn into a trashy soap opera.

  6. I totally agree with you about the short-run winner. Book geeks will still buy a one-feature only product as long as it does that superbly and then there are the people like me who have eye problems already and feel that eink combined with the ability to increase font size is a gift from the gods.

  7. Too small a viewing area for the ageing eyes. I need the tech to take one more stride forward. I want projection screens and virtual keyboards.