That's why I'm troubled when I see so many people opting for tablets as their reader of choice. With e-reader sales declining, far too many people are choosing an inefficient and incorrect medium to consume their text-based media. For me, the advantages of e-ink over a tablet are as follows:
- Reduced eye strain. An LCD is basically a bright light shining at your face. An e-ink reader relies upon ambient light, much like a piece of paper.
- Increased battery life. An LCD takes a hell of a lot of power compared to e-ink, and a lot of it is due to the frequency of the screen's refresh. The more often a screen has to change, the more power it consumes. E-ink displays change only when you switch pages, resulting in batteries that last for weeks. LCD screens change dozens of times a second, resulting in much greater battery usage.
- Reduced glare and contrast ratio improvements. LCD is a light-based medium, emitting light in order to generate the images we see. This means that if you shine a bright light back at it (say, something like the sun) then the image becomes much more challenging to discern. This is not a problem with e-ink readers, as they rely upon the reflection of light off of their surface - just like a piece of paper. This also results in a far higher contrast ratio - the difference between dark and light areas on the screen. This higher contrast ratio on e-readers allows the eye to do the same tasks with less energy, resulting in the reduced eye strain mentioned above.
The issue is all about form factor. The central fallacy that lies behind these choices of gadget is that one form factor can fit every need. You see this confusion all over the place. One example is Microsoft's Windows 8 - a desktop OS heavily designed for touch. Touch interfaces can be excellent for some uses, but with the popularity of the iPad and smartphones far too many people think that a touch interface is the panacea for all computer applications. Touch is imprecise, it lacks sufficient tactile feedback for button presses and such, and requires a flexible display to compensate for the lack of resolution available. Furthermore, it often requires additional software running on a device to handle the input. Instead of a device driver generating interrupt requests, you're filtering the input through an application subject to the whims of an OS.
Human experience, at least in America, seems to be far too focused on fads. A new technology, or product, appears and instantly trumps anything even remotely related to it, regardless of the superior technology. VHS over Betamax. Touch-screen keyboards over physical keys. I suspect that tablet computers are quickly doing this to e-readers, and it makes me sad as both a tech guy and as a reader. I'm not looking forward to the forthcoming headaches once all devices carry a brightly-glowing LCD. I stare at a computer monitor too long as it is.