Analysts issue last rites for e-readers


The e-reader could “go the way of the dinosaurs” in the next few years according to a market research firm that might just be using an overly-dramatic metaphor.

IHS iSuppli says shipments of dedicated e-reader devices will fall significantly this year compared with last and that this pattern will continue for several years as buyers switch to multi-function devices such as tablets.

According to the company, total e-reader sales were one million in 2008 and shot up to 10.1 million in 2010 and then to 23.2 million last year. However, it’s estimating that sales this year will be down more than a third to 14.9 million. Turning to its crystal ball, it reckons the figure will fall to 10.9 million next year and eventually to 7.1 million by 2016.

(We at Geeks Are Sexy would like to take this opportunity to predict there will not be 7.1 million dinosaurs on Earth in 2016.)

The company argues that such a rapid rise and then fall in a specific type of technology is unprecedented.

The problem with the theorizing is that it seems to be based only on one specific piece of objective evidence: that sales are down this year compared to last. The rest seems to be supposition that takes the fact that tablet sales are up this year and does the old correlation/causation trick.

The chances are that some people who would have considered buying an e-reader in 2012 instead decided to get a tablet, particularly considering that Amazon itself is pushing the tablet versions of the Kindle. However, the forecasts seem to be based on the idea that this is the main or only reason for the sales patterns, and that it will continue to hold true for at least four years to come.

To be fair, IHS isn’t alone in its predictions. Rival analyst firmĀ IDC says e-Reader shipments will also fall this year, though its figures are 27.7 million for 2011 and 19.9 million for 2012. It also points to tablets, saying that for some buyers at least a tablet offers a reading experience that is just “good enough” that they don’t want to go for a dedicated device.

IHS concedes that prices will continue to fall for dedicated e-readers, but that to have any hope of avoiding a total collapse manufacturers may have to sell them at or even below cost price — a prospect that certainly favors Amazon over its rivals given the opportunity to make that money back from book sales.

However, IHS doesn’t address the possibility that if prices drop — and devices become even more portable — buyers may no longer need to chose between an e-reader and a tablet, and can instead choose both.

[Kindle Picture Source: Wikimedia Commons (CC)]

19 Responses to Analysts issue last rites for e-readers

  1. I've stopped using my Kindle completely in favour of my Nexus 7 at home, but when I travel I still prefer the Kindle simple because of its fantastic battery life. When tables can go 2 months without a charge then I might believe it!

  2. I would love to have a kindle! but beeing in brazil does not help. I think if amazon comes to brazil and starts shipping the e-reader for a reasonable price around here, the sales would go up quite a lot again =D

  3. I've been anti e-reader for years and pro-device convergence

    For me, my tablet introduced me to the amazon kindle app, but it got me hooked and reading sooo many books that it started to show some drawbacks for using the tablet. So i picked up a kindle paper white.

    There comes a point of heavy use where dedicated devices are just that much better than a do-it-all device.

    Now my eye's are thanking me during long reading sessions
    my hands/wrists are thanking me as well,
    and even my wallet is thanking me now that i have access to kindle lenders library.

    • And if you are stuck in an airport for hours? What are you going to do? Sit next to an outlet? Meanwhile I can spend 2 weeks on a single charge with my Kindle.

      • What part of, "So i picked up a kindle paper white," did you not understand? glitched goes on to say that he's thankful he did.

        Try to read more than the first sentence before responding, please.

  4. Until it’s as easy on both the eyes and the device battery to spend hours reading on a tablet screen as it is with e-ink, I’m sticking with my Kindle.

  5. On the other hand, "analysts" have predicted that just about everything we use now would already be dead, and some think they already are, even while they continue to be purchased in large numbers.

  6. I prefer my Kindle to anything back lit. The eye fatigue and headaches just aren't worth doing my reading on a tablet, especially with the volume of reading I do.

  7. Don't bet on it. Battery life alone makes eInk readers the best devices on the market for reading. What else will get almost 3 weeks of battery life and a day and a half of page turns on a 10 minute charge.

  8. I own neither a tablet nor an e-reader, but I'd go with an e-reader all the way. The only thing that is keeping me from getting one is the fact that I like to have a real book that I can later place in a bookshelf, should I desire it.

    In my opinion book sellers like amazon should simply offer the e-book version of a book free of charge to someone who buys the real book.

    • I thought the Publishers (not Amazon, who's got no control over that) ought to set up a system where hardcover collector editions come with a "free" ebook version. I've always thought it'd boost the value of hardcover first/collector edition versions of a book. Or maybe have a special limited time offer where you buy a paperback book and you get a coupon either gives you a free or half-off for the ebook version. Which, of course, would raise the value of the paperback.

      Which is just my way of saying I agree with you! :)

      • I'm honestly not sure why they don't do this. Giving away the ebook with the physical is pretty much zero incremental cost. Trouble is the publishers would want it on their on distribution system. Maybe its something more suited to amazon running as a special for pre-orders of the hardcover or something?

  9. I'm not sure these analysts know their buyers well. I bought an eReader after my first international move (which put all my books on a boat for 2-3 months where I couldn't read them). Being able to carry around 50+ books in a thin light weight device like this is a dream. It's also got a FANTASTIC battery life… great for long trips on the road or stuck on a 12 hour flight (plus waiting time in airports).

    I'm also not really interested in staring at an LED or LCD monitor for hours on end when reading. I do that enough on my computer and I know that can't be great for my eyes (I read closer to my face too, making the effect way worse). I'm obviously not the only one like this.

    I'll probably buy another eReader at some point. Right now it's just a matter of deciding whether I want to wait for a color version of eInk technology or not (it's gonna happen sometime, I've seen their proto-types already).

  10. When tablets can convert text to e-ink, which is a lot easier on my eyes than a backlit background like is on my Note, then I'll go exclusively tablet. Until then, I'll keep reading my books on my Nook, tyvm.

  11. E-readers are just better at some stuff and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

    If I go to the beach I can read outside. Something emmitive screens still aren't good out.
    If I go on a trip where outlets aren't common I can read for weeks without worrying about charge.
    If I go somewhere I have to leave my gear and it isn't secure, ereaders are getting cheap enough I don't worry about theft too much. A tablet I have much great anxiety over. This is even as simple as going in the pool while your device sits on your chair on the deck. Easy snatch and grab situation.

    Now tablets are okay if you are reading in your own home at night even if the experience still isn't as good. I'm not shocked that tablets are selling better, but anyone who reads much on the go will still want e-readers. I think the unfortunate thing might be that it combines "serious reader" with "person who gets out of the house a lot" and has to overcome "good enough" syndrome. The real savior for e-ink will be sub $50 device prices where its an impluse buy.

  12. I think I agree with most of the people here. The great battery life on a -$100 product is absolutely amazing and that alone will shift any "serious" reader's attention towards a dedicated e-reader.
    I'm not predicting that the e-reader will last forever, but while it can manage way better battery life than a tablet and a price that can be up to half the price of another device, it should stay strong in the market segment of average readers.

  13. I think what this doesn't account for is market saturation. Yes, ereader sales are down, because the incremental changes that they're making don't warrant buying a new ereader unless you break yours somehow. I've used my kindle pretty much daily for the last 2 years, and it's still perfectly fine by me. There's nothing in the later models that has really enticed me to justify getting a newer one.

  14. I bought my smartphone for the high resolution (especially for its price category), and I've completely swapped over from pad to my phone to read books.

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