December 17, 2012

Report Shows E-book Reader May Be Turning Final Pages

Amazon Kindle Fire vs. Sony Reader
Clearly a more-colorful bookshelf.
A new report shows the e-book reader is declining in popularity nearly as quickly as it popped into existence and changed the way many people read.

The force behind the decline of course is the tablet, which does everything an e-reader can and much, much more.

As a result, shipments of e-book readers are expected to fall to 14.9 million units by year-end, down 36 percent from the 23.2 million units shipped in 2011, according to estimates from the research firm IHS iSuppli.

In fact, 2011 appears to have been the peak year for the e-book reader—the same year in which released the Kindle Fire, making the tablet affordable and light enough to hold comfortably while reading.

ISuppli predicts another steep decline in e-book readers will occur next year, with a 27 percent contraction to 10.9 million units. By 2016 that number will fall to 7.1 million units.

“The rapid growth—followed by the immediate collapse—of the e-book [reader] market is virtually unheard of, even in the notoriously short life cycle of products inhabiting the volatile consumer electronics space,” the report notes.

The e-book reader popped into existence in 2006, and between 2008 and 2010, shipments grew from 1 million to 10.1 million, up by a factor of 10.

But the tablet phenomenon has been even more powerful. Tablet shipments are expected to hit 120 million in 2012, only two years after Apple launched the iPad, the device that has driven the market.

The report expects that number to hit 340 million by 2016.

Fortunately for makers of e-readers including Amazon and Barnes & Noble, they saw the future coming and morphed their e-readers into low-end tablets.

In the case of Amazon, its Kindle Fire wound up being the first serious challenger to the market-dominating iPad, after failed attempts by companies including Samsung Electronics and Hewlett-Packard.

And both the Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble’s Nook are reading-centric tablets, which has certainly steered consumers toward spending a bit more and buying a tablet over a reader.

For reading, the devices beat out the iPad—as readers, at least—by being lighter and easier to hold.

They also top e-book readers in many ways. In addition to clicking on a word for a dictionary definition, with a tablet readers get Internet searches, pictures, video, and more to enhance their reading experience.

And then there are all the other things they can do with their device: playing games, watching Netflix and YouTube and ESPN, and . . .  well, a lot of things that distract them from reading.

Of course, to some degree it is not so much the death of one device as the evolution into something better, along with the accompanying name change.

The e-book reader is in effect a simple tablet computer, able to display books and offer other basic functions such as searching dictionaries, playing music, and so forth.

And with technology improving and cost coming down, the black-and-white, non-Internet-connected e-book reader appears to be turning its final pages.

By John Sailors
(c) 2012 by Story Crest Press. All rights reserved.

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