IHS: Tablets have made e-readers an 'endangered species'

IHS: Tablets have made e-readers an 'endangered species'

Summary: E-book readers are all but extinct thanks to tablets, according to industry analysts. But should we count them out altogether yet?

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Even though e-book readers have only been on the market for a few years now, it looks like their time might already be up soon.

According to the recent IHS iSuppli Consumer Electronics Special Report, annual e-reader shipments peaked in 2011 with 23.2 million units. But shipments for 2012 are expected to drop by 36 percent to 14.9 million units.

By 2016, IHS analysts project that e-reader shipments will drop to just 7.1 million units, which researchers described as "equivalent to a loss of more than two-thirds of its peak volume in 2011."

Jordan Selburn, a senior principal analyst covering consumer platforms at IHS, suggested in the report that rapid growth and "immediate collapse" of the e-reader market is actually unusual for consumer electronics.

The stunning rise and then blazing flameout of ebooks perfectly encapsulate what has become an axiomatic truth in the industry: Single-task devices like the ebook reader are being replaced without remorse in the lives of consumers by their multifunction equivalents, in this case by media tablets. And while other uni-tasking devices—like digital still cameras, GPS systems and MP3 players—also face similar pressures and battle dim prospects ahead, all have had a longer time in the sun than ebook readers, demonstrating even more painfully the depth of the ebook reader’s fall.

It's arguable that industry analysts are getting a bit dramatic by going so far as to say that "tablets make e-book readers an endangered species."

Nevertheless, it is obvious to most tech industry followers that fully-fledged tablets with color touchscreens and more functionality is where the mobile market is headed.

E-readers might still have a place in the mobile space -- albeit a much smaller customer base -- for a few reasons.

For one, e-book readers are getting incredibly cheaper by the year. IHS researchers acknowledged in the report that e-readers are doing better in Eastern Europe and Russia, with growing potential in developing markets in India and Africa.

Furthermore, even though tablets are becoming thinner and lighter with each generation of devices, e-readers are so portable that they can be chucked into nearly any bag without much thought. They're also a lot more friendly for outdoor reading at places like the beach or the park.

Thus, an "endangered species" label for e-book readers might be over the top. It would probably be fairer to say that the e-book reader category is going to become an even more niche market than it already is.

Topics: Tablets, Apps, iPad, Mobility, Tech Industry

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12 comments
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  • Sad if true

    There is no LCD on earth that can match the quality of an eInk screen when it comes to reading text. The tablet is a MASSIVE compromise on screen quality (for text) battery life, and portability.

    The other benefit of an eReader is that I'm not worried to take it to the beach. If I wreck it, I've lost less than $100. If I wreck a tablet? $200+ dollars. I'm very careful with my electronic gadgets but not with my Kindle and that actually brings peace of mind.
    toddbottom3
  • Plateaued

    In my opinion, e-readers quickly became the best they could be. Tablets will make the e-reader extinct when tablets get a display like a full color transflective screen. However, smartphones and tablets together have definitely made the e-reader a niche market.

    The last innovation was an integrated reading light. The rest were slight improvements over the previous generation and not worth the cost of upgrading.
    BorgX
  • Not at all

    They are just over priced. A Kindle without Ads should at most be $39 and yet they charge close to $80 for them. I would have bought several kindle readers for people if not for the pricing.
    slickjim
    • I'd have to agree with you!

      It seems all of a sudden you can buy basic Android tablets for $100 to $200 dollars (Talking Australia here) but e-readers with a lot less capabilities aren't much cheaper.

      I'd love to but a 7" or bigger e-reader for long car trips, but there still to dear for what they offer. 8-(
      martin_js
      • We want edit function back!

        I'd love to buy not but.
        martin_js
  • Prefer my Kindle PaperWhite to my Nexus 7

    Especially for reading in bed. The dimmest setting on the Nexus = brightest setting on Kindle. It bothers my wife very little. I tried white on black with the N7 and I still come back the the Kindle. I must admit the text crispness if far greater on the N7. The Kindle is much lighter and the battery life is incredible compared to the (very good) N7.

    In bright room conditions the N7 wins. Outside there is no comparison---Kindle wins, but I don't read outside often.
    Mike Marquis
  • Certainly my experience

    I limped along with an Android based e-reader, while looking jealously at my partners Nook. When I got the Surface RT, I installed a reader - Amazon Kindle and quickly uninstalled it as it wouldn't read my local ePubs.

    Then I installed another free reader and suddenly I had a large clear pages of text (yes I use it in portrait mode) with complete access to my home network. Suddenly even the Nook's e-ink looked low contrast and with tiny pages. The only drawback was the Surface was heavier than the Nook, but the benefits outweighed that drawback.

    The Surface tablet has completely replaced my e-reader.
    Tony_McS
  • A user's opinion

    I have the latest generation of the Amazon eReaders, an Amazon Fire HD 8.9 and a Google Nexus 7. While the tablets are OK for short burst, my PaperWhite is hard to beat for longer sessions.

    I generally read for hours at a stretch--the weight difference alone makes the PaperWhite my choice.
    Peter Sabin
  • Why Does That Come As No Big Surprise?

    When I look at the relative prices of e-readers and similar-sized tablets in the shops, I figure that the former have to come in at half the price of the latter, or less, to justify the fact that they are really one-trick ponies compared to multifunction tablets. Yet the prices are never that favourable. So why not just get a tablet?

    Looks like the market at large is coming to the same conclusion.
    ldo17
  • Nook VS Nexus

    I own an original Nook and a newer paper-white version. Now that I own a Nexus 7 I mostly read Nook books on the Nexus 7 with the Nook app. I like that the Google play reader feels just like the Nook on Nexus 7. Since the tablet goes everywhere with me, the Nooks sit on the shelf. I will never by another dedicated E-reader, multifunction devices are where it's at. At the current price of 7" tablets they are practically disposable.
    terrydactyl@...
  • I won't buy a DRMed e-book...

    ...so dedicated readers never really appealed to me anyway (if I want it and it's under copyright, I'll buy a paper copy; that way it really is mine). But public domain books on my tablet or phone make great emergency reading material if I need to wait somewhere (definitely better than the magazines at the doctor's office).

    A lot of good stuff has been published during the last 3000 years or so.
    John L. Ries
  • Not for me

    Until there's a combined device that can do the job as well as individual devices, I'll keep my e-reader, my phone (that actually makes phone calls), and my camera.
    Evil(er) Overlord