E-Reader Growth Hinges on Women, $99 Price Tag, Says Forrester

With the release of the Sony Reader Pocket and Touch Edition e-book readers this week, some are asking who will buy these devices. E-reader early adopters have primarily been older, educated, Amazon-shopping men with money, says Forrester, but big-time market growth will likely depend on women, who are willing to wait for prices to fall and who buy from a number of sources.

Who will buy an e-reader?
In a July 29 report, Forrester Research addressed this question, looking at how, for the market to see considerable growth, who buys will have to evolve, as well as where they buy.
Forrester also found that e-reader use is growing, "albeit from a very small base," wrote report author Sarah Rotman. While awareness of the devices is increasing, the number of buyers has yet to increase substantially. In the second quarter of 2008, Forrester reports, 37 percent of people surveyed said they had never heard of an e-reader, while in the same quarter of 2009, only 17 percent said the same.
In same quarter of 2008, 38 percent of people said they had heard of an e-reader but had never seen one, which increased to 40 percent in 2009, and in 2009 the number of people who had seen one but never used one grew to 36 percent, from 21 percent in 2008.
Of the nearly 5,000 people surveyed each year, 0.6 percent owned an e-book reader in 2008, and 1.5 percent did in 2009.

Click here to take a look at two, new e-book readers from Sony.

Rotman describes the "perfect storm" that created an early market for e-readers among educated men with a mean age of 47 and an average income $116,000 per year. "This group reads more than the average online consumer, but as tech enthusiasts, they're really driven by the novelty of the technology," writes Rotman.

"As high earners, they can afford the steep price points of the early e-readers, and as public transit commuters and business travelers, they value the on-the-go reading and shopping convenience that the device offers. And as frequent online book shoppers, they have an existing relationship with Amazon-a perfect storm of demographics that has contributed to the Kindle's early success."
The second wave of adopters, Forrester found, are likely to be men of mean age just nearing 40, whom Rotman calls "tech optimists," and who are more likely to jump at a $99 device with an E Ink screen and that links to a smartphone for buying e-books.
Finally, later adopters-the group with the biggest potential of all-are likely to be women who currently buy or borrow approximately 2.7 books per month. They're less concerned with having the latest device, they'll wait for a $149 or $99 price point, and they buy their books from multiple sources.
"Whereas Amazon was perfectly positioned to sell to the first wave of e-reader adopters, this group may be more likely to buy from a retailer like Wal-mart or Target," writes Rotman.
Later adopters' lack of attachment to Amazon, says Rotman, creates opportunities for Sony, as well as booksellers such as Borders. Also standing to gain from e-reader growth are mobile providers, such as Sprint, which supports the Kindle devices. However, Rotman additionally offers the theory that-like Apple, which has dominated the music player market since entering it-there's a chance Amazon could dominate the market into maturity.
(There's also a possibility, with the introduction of a new tablet, that Apple could continue to play its game of enter-and-dominate.)
"Forrester predicts that it will take a few years, however, for e-reader prices to come down enough for [later adopters] to afford them," writes Rotman, spelling out the bottom line for this market.
"While some will jump on board when prices hit $199 in 2010, others will hold out for a $99 device in 2012 or a $99 E Ink screen accessory for PCs and smartphones that could (and should) come out sooner."
Beating Rotman's timeline, on Aug. 5 Sony introduced a Pocket Edition e-Reader, which features a 5-inch E Ink screen and the market's first $199 price tag.