Amazon's Kindle, Barnes & Noble's Nook and other e-readers could undermine the market for paper books, wrecking publishing industry revenue.
Kindle, Barnes & Noble's Nook, and other e-readers might dangle the
prospect of convenience for millions of bibliophiles around the world, with
their light weight and instant access to whole libraries of e-books, but a new
analyst report suggests the devices could eventually prove bad news for the
publishing industry as a whole.
publishing industry has entered a period of long-term decline because of the
rising sales of e-book readers," reads an April 28 research note from IHS
iSuppli, which predicted a decrease in book revenue at a compound annual rate
of three percent through 2014-a reversal from the period between 2005 and 2010,
when revenue rose.
traditional book publishing industry, the implications of the rise of the
e-book and e-book reader markets are frightening, given the decline in paper
book printing, distribution and sales," Steve Mather, IHS iSuppli's principal
analyst for wireless, wrote in an April 28 statement. "The industry has entered
a phase of disruption that will be as significant as the major changes
impacting the music and movie business."
predicts that physical book sales will decline at a compound annual rate of 5
percent. While e-book sales will rise during that same period, the increase
won't cover the revenue gap created by the decline in the physical book market.
By 2014, the research note predicts, e-books will occupy some 13 percent of
U.S. book publishing revenue, more than twice its current level.
e-readers will find some significant competition in tablets such as Apple's
e-reader shipments will fall short of some expectations, partly because of
encroachment from media tablets, which many consumers will use to view
e-books," Mather wrote. "Price declines for e-readers will be less than many
expect, since makers of such devices already have cut prices to the point where
they earn near-zero margins."
said, e-readers could also become more like tablets: Barnes & Noble's Nook
Color now boasts some tablet-like features, including an integrated email application,
support for Adobe Flash Player and access to applications like Angry Birds.
Amazon could potentially follow suit, at some point, with either a full-color
Kindle or an Android-based tablet that emphasizes e-books.
Noble is not targeting Apple with this device. Instead, it's targeting Amazon,
trying to undermine today's black-and-white Kindle as well as tomorrow's color
Kindle tablet," James McQuivey, an analyst with Forrester, wrote in an April 25 corporate blog posting soon
after Barnes & Noble's announcement of the new features. "Barnes &
Noble may have come to market with its original e-ink Nook second, but its Nook
Color upgrade gives it the upper hand in the war over the serious reader."
moment, Amazon seems focused on enhancing the Kindle's reading capabilities. On
April 20, the company announced a Kindle Library Lending feature, due later in
2011, which will allow readers to borrow Kindle e-books from more than 11,000
libraries in the United States. Amazon is also seeking to broaden Kindle
adoption with an ad-supported device that retails for $114, slightly cheaper
than the basic Kindle at $139 and the Kindle 3G at $189.
But in the
fight for dominance between these e-readers and tablets, will printed books
prove the ultimate casualties?
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.