Media tablets clearly offer better functionality than dedicated electronic book readers and it looks like shipments of the latter will start to drop shortly as media tablets get less expensive. Nonetheless, ABI Research believes that e-book readers will survive as a category since they offer a number of advantages for reading.
“Regardless of the tremendous historical e-book reader success, the market tides have already begun to turn. Despite the average tablet selling for more than $465 as a result of Apple’s dominant market position, tablets are expected to outsell e-book readers 9 to 1 this year,” said Joshua Flood, senior mobile devices analyst at ABI.
ABI claims that eleven million e-book readers are projected to be shipped globally in 2012, down from a peak volume in 2011 of fifteen million devices. The growing popularity of media tablets along with declining U.S. “baby boomer” population and lack of organized digital bookstores outside of the U.S. and Western Europe will reduce the e-book reader opportunity over the next five years.
Over the next five years, annual e-book shipments are projected to drop by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.1%. In contrast, global media tablet shipments are predicted to increase from approximately 102 million annual device shipments in 2012 to nearly 250 million in 2017.
However, e-book readers maintain advantages over media tablets for reading purposes. Electronic paper (e-paper) displays are able to better replicate the print reading experience and are usable in direct sunlight conditions unlike LCD technologies. The e-book reader battery life of weeks between charging is significantly greater than the media tablet. And of course, e-book readers are priced significantly less than entry-level tablets.
“Nevertheless, the e-book reader market will not be totally cannibalized by media tablets. We believe there will always be a niche market for the dedicated reading device for voracious readers, business travelers, and educational segments, particularly ones that are low-priced,” said Mr. Flood.