Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other e-reader manufacturers can look forward to increased interest in their devices over the next year, at least according to a new research note from Gartner.
In Gartner's estimation, worldwide e-reader sales will total 6.6 million units in 2010, a 79.8 percent increase from 2009. Moreover, the research firm predicts that e-reader sales will increase 68.3 percent in 2011, to more than 11 million units.
"The connected e-reader market has grown dramatically during the past two years, driven by sales of Amazon's e-readers, primarily in North America," Hugues De La Vergne, principal research analyst at Gartner, wrote in a Dec. 8 statement posted on Gartner's corporate Website. However, "growth in North American and other markets will remain constrained by the success of media tablets, such as the Apple iPad."
Gartner also sees full-color, Web-enabled tablet PCs-termed "media tablets" in the research note-as the greatest threat to the e-reader market. Some e-reader manufacturers have already taken steps to blunt those tablets' competitive advantages; Barnes & Noble's Nook Color, for example, offers a full-color 7-inch display, WiFi capability, Web surfing and the ability to share selected passages from e-books via Facebook and Twitter.
However, one Gartner analyst suggests that lower prices, combined with targeting a specific customer demographic, will ultimately serve e-readers best in the tablet competition.
"With media tablets offering more functionality, e-reader vendors need to target avid readers who may see the value of a standalone device that performs particularly well," Allen Weiner, research vice president at Gartner, wrote in a Dec. 8 statement. "E-reader vendors will also need to offer lower prices than for more fully featured media tablets."
While Amazon has traditionally held the lion's share of the e-reader market, it faces new competition on a number of fronts. Google launched its own eBooks storefront Dec. 6, offering some 3 million titles via the Web. Google's eBooks software will allow users to read those titles on a variety of devices, including the Sony Reader, Apple's iPad and iPhone, Google Android smartphones, Barnes & Noble's Nook, and even-at least for those e-books without digital rights management-the Kindle.
In response, Amazon is planning a Kindle for Web app, which would allow users to purchase e-books via a Website and then read those titles in their browser. It would complement existing Kindle software for iPhone, Windows PC, Mac, BlackBerry, iPad, Android, and Windows Phone 7 devices.
Amazon is also wrestling with a burgeoning threat from the Apple iPad. A recent survey from ChangeWave Research suggested that the iPad's share of the e-reader market had expanded from 16 percent to 32 percent between August and November, even as the Kindle's dipped from 62 percent to 47 percent. Despite that erosion, the Kindle continued to hold a substantial lead over the Sony Reader, with 5 percent of the market, and the Nook at 4 percent.
Amazon currently offers 750,000-plus titles for purchase on Kindle, versus Apple's 60,000 via its iBookstore.