I read on my Glowlight Nook much more frequently than I read on my Asus Transformer tablet. I'd say there's at least a 10 to 1 differential, so for every hour I read on my tablet I read at least 10 hours on my Glowlight Nook. I'll bet I'm not alone and people who own both an eInk device and a tablet probably do much more reading on the former. So why is the apps ecosystem limited to tablets? Why are there no add-on apps for eInk devices in general?
In a recent TOC newsletter we asked readers "what do you wish your ereader could do?" (Btw, if you're not already receiving our free newsletter you need to sign up right now. I'm confident you'll enjoy each and every issue.) We received quite a few replies from readers but one of the more interesting ones said they'd like to have apps like Flipboard, Zite and Pulse on their eInk device. I found that interesting because those are the apps (along with News360) I use almost every day on my tablet. If there were Nook eInk versions that 10:1 ratio noted earlier would probably become 50:1 as there would be less reason for me to switch to my tablet for reading.
So why aren't there apps like this on eInk devices? One reason is tied to eInk's capabilities. Apps like Flipboard, Zite, et al, offer nice graphics and even a bit of animation. eInk is limited to grayscale and no animation, of course. So why not create those apps without the animation and just show the images in black-and-white? That leads to reason #2: Amazon, B&N and the other eInk device vendors aren't encouraging third-party app development. That's probably because they want those devices to have the highest walled gardens of all, which is a shame and a loss for consumers.
Is it too late for these vendors to reconsider and encourage third-party app development? Maybe. After all, the momentum has already swung towards tablets and away from eInk readers. Nevertheless, as long as tablets weigh more than eInk readers, their displays aren't as easy on the eyes and they don't offer significantly longer battery life I'll remain a two-device reading consumer. I suspect I'm not alone, so I hope an eInk app ecosystem takes root at some point.