After experiencing spectacular growth over a period of 5 years, sales of e-book readers have declined in the past year and this trend is forecast to continue. The culprit, of course, is the tablet.
In a research report that likens the fate of e-book readers to that of the dinosaurs, market research firm IHS iSuppli reports that shipments of ebook readers by the end of 2012 will fall to 14.9 million units. This represents a 36 percent fall from the 23.2 million units in 2011. Looking to the future the forecast is that by 2016 only 7.1 million units will be purchased, despite competitive pricing.
In contrast tablet shipments will reach 120 million units in 2012 and are expected to continue to see impressive growth to 340 million systems in 2016.
According to iSuppli's Jordan Selburn:
Sadly for ebooks, which looked like the “Next Big Thing” just a few years ago, its moment of glory came and went all too quickly, the expectations of explosive growth suddenly quashed by the arrival of a much more agile - and insurmountable - rival.
He also points out that it is not just e-book readers that are facing obsolescence.
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 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.
No doubt some consumers will continue to use, and buy, uni-function devices for their superior performance. E-book aficionados point to the advantages of long battery life and their usability in bright sunlight.
And of course the end of the dedicated e-book reader does not imply the end of the e-book which, as we reported recently, are consumed on a wide range of devices.