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back to article Ereader sales to slump as punters snap up cheap slabs – report

The ereader market is heading towards a slump in 2012 as users increasingly consume digital content on their tablets, according to new research from Taiwanese IT news site Digitimes. The report found that overall, global shipments of ereaders stood at 22.82 million units in 2011, a year-on-year increase of 107 per cent. It added …

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Silver badge

Pros and cons.

e-Ink tablets are quite readable in daylight conditions and have excellent battery life but can't (YET) do color and are slow to "turn" pages.

LCD tablets are more flexible since they can do things like comic books and magazines, and they're more useable in indoor and especially low-light conditions thanks to their backlights, and they have higher refresh rates making them more suitable for multimedia content.

The article seems to state, based on tablet, Fire, Nook Tablet, and especially iPad sales, customers are more inclined to take the LCD tablet's flexibility of function over the e-ink's high readability. And of course, nothing has been mentioned on continued development of "converging" technologies that intend to merge e-ink's daylight readability with LCD's quick refresh and color capabilities. The wheel keeps turning...

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Re: Pros and cons.

E-ink, being passive, allows me to read all day (limited only by the wife & kids...) . LCD panels, on the other hand, I find MUCH harder to read for extended periods.

Market saturation may also be playing a factor - I suspect that most people that want a dedicated, easy on the eyes ereader already have one.

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Cheaper e-readers

"“What will be interesting to see is how e-ink technology evolves as a result of this trend, and whether it can survive the onslaught of cheaper LCD-based tablet devices such as the Kindle Fire, which are usable in a wide variety of ways.”"

My prediction; their insane markups will have to be reduced so e-ink readers will become much cheaper. It's already supposedly much cheaper to make an e-ink screen than an LCD one.

That is, unless they invent a decent colour e-ink which would open up a whole new market of decent requires-no-power digital photo frames, magazine-size readers etc etc...

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Anonymous Coward

it's funny, Amazon shot themselves in the foot by muddying the kindle line by adding a shit tablet to it.

Tablets and ereaders arn't the same thing and going over the differences is a waste of energy.

If I want to read a book whilst on holiday or while commuting or in bed, or more or less anywhere where i'd read more than 10 minutes I'll use a real book or an ereader. Also where holding anything bigger than a kindle is a nuisance (rush hour commuter trains) I want an ereader.

For me, personally, a tablet still has no role in my life, it doesn't fit anything I want to do. It can't replace my desktop at home or laptop at work. It does the same things my netbook does but lacks a keyboard for typing. It isn't as small and easy for quick one off things like my phone, the screen and battery life don't suit reading and it can't play games like my portable console. Their success really does still bemuse me.

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Anonymous Coward

Market share slump

Market share could slump further once iPad3 comes out and apple drops the price of iPad2 into eReader territory

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Alert

Re: Market share slump

Now that, my friend, is wishful thinking.

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Re: Market share slump

By that reasoning, it already should have happened when iPad 1 was reduced on iPad 2 launch?

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Facepalm

Re: Market share slump

£89 for an iPad2? Really?

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Re: Market share slump

ROFL an 80 quid iProduct? Maybe if Apple started selling iCola Bottles.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Market share slump

It was a younger market, there wasn't the awareness

Prices of electronics tend to drop

Cheap iPad2 could make a big difference

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Linux

Re: Market share slump

Apple doesn't lower prices. It just updates gear. They have been doing this for a rather long time now. It should not be a surprise to anyone.

iPad3 will follow the same pattern as iMacs, Mac Pros, and Mac Minis in this regard.

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When I can use a tablet everyday but only have to charge it every few weeks I'll be interested until then I'll stick to my ereader.

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Meh

Get your niche sorted.

As always, its horses for courses: LCD for moving colour images, E-Ink for high res B/W. Except for that story to fly, E-Ink really needs to improve the contrast ratio (white please, not grey), then lower cost and faster page turning long before worrying about colour IMHO.

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shirley, they'll give it away

When you buy a set amount of books

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My guess is people who have bought a tablet either weren't going to buy an ereader or don't have the money for both. If you're doing any mount of reading e-ink v LCD is no contest. If the price of ereaders and ebooks came down you might see those figures start to go up.

There is one more thing, the jump in functionality between generations of ereaders is a lot smaller than that between generations of tablets. There isn't as big an incentive to switch.

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Bought a tablet ( a $75 Chinese Android 2.2 model).

Mostly useless for reading books - except for pdf/chm technical stuff

Now have an ereader ($75 kobo) not the greatest model, takes 30secs to start compared to wife's Sony - but use it everyday.

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Boffin

An idea...

Here's an idea that would make me seriously consider getting an e-reader.

I have hundreds of books at home that I would be interested in reading again, and I do re-read some of them very often. This is the big thing stopping me going for an e-reader - I can't format shift my existing library.

So, how about I send my paper books back to Amazon (I would have to pay the shipping) and in return they give me a 75% or so discount on the Kindle version of the same book. They can then pulp the books if they want (so there are the same number of copies of that book in existence, one less paper and one more electronic) but they have made 25% of the cost of the e-book. Alternatively they could re-sell the book as a second-hand item in their own marketplace.

This would require some interesting deals with publishers, but if anyone has the muscle to make this sort of deal happen, it is Amazon.

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Re: An idea...

Agreed and the interesting point in the article is the one about lowering the price of content.

So long as ebook peddlers assume the buyer is too stupid to realise the difference in cost between a paper book and an ebook the market will never reach its full potential.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: An idea...

Ah, well your luck is in. You see I was in charge of the project the record labels started, in the 90s, to allow people who had bought hard digital formats, to exchange them for digital file versions, in order to prevent piracy. So I am ideally placed to advise Amazon on how they should proceed.

Oh shit, I've just realised, I don't exists (vanishes in a puff of irrationality)

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Stop

Re: An idea...

Much as it pains me to defend eBook peddlars, the ludicrous price of (some) eBooks is down to the PUBLISHERS. After geting my Kindle and discovering a few cases where the eBook was WAYYYYYYYY more expensive than the dead tree version, I complained to Amazon. I got a reply within half an hour apologising, and explaining that Amazon had to charge the publishers price, and inviting me to complain to them.

And don't forget, there's VAT on eBooks.

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don't forget upgrades

Also don't forget that e-reader sales will naturally be much slower than tablets. You *have* to buy a new tablet each year because last years model is hopelessly out of date. An e-reader is already pretty good at what it does and I can't see myself buying another one for maybe 5 years.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: don't forget upgrades

I agree.

I think what the analysts are seeing is just market saturation. Now that e-readers have dropped to the £80 level, everyone that wants to own can afford to and newer models aren't tempting enough for people to upgrade.

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FAIL

I think they're wrong

I have a 6" e-reader that I use 90% of the time for reading books these days, because it's small and light and I can easily carry it everywhere. I also have a 10" colour tablet that I use for reading magazines and illustrated books, because the larger screen is barely adequate for that job. I wouldn't use one device to do the job of the other. I think the 7" compromise colour tablets like the Kindle Fire are glorified video players, not suitable for either reading job, as the users are bound to discover.

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LCD is no replacement at the moment

Crossing fingers that the e-Ink would survive on Kindles for at least 2-3 more years - the time when I would want to buy a replacement for my actual Kindle (the Keyboard one).

I have read a lot and on a lot of different devices, and I enjoy reading, and the e-Ink is the first tech I have ever experienced which really replaced to me the traditional dead-tree books. Modern glossy LCD are really no match in readability - but surprisingly also in the weight: my Kindle at 250g is extremely lightweight (my fingers often forget that they are holding it), while e.g. iPad's 800g of bulk, anyway you hold it, tire pretty much any hand within an hour.

But the limitations of the e-Ink tech, though do not bother me personally, obviously hold back its adoption on wider scale. And the mention of the limitations also in a way is the reflection of the fact that, well, most people are not really into the reading - and generally, if available, prefer other forms of entertainment. The forms of entertainment which are currently not possible on the e-Ink.

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Anonymous Coward

I suppose I'll point out, again, that the backlight issue on an LCD screen is an utter and complete non-issue to anyone with half a brain. Every single ebook reader app in existance lets you change the colours of the display to white text on a black background. Do that, and your eyestrain problems go away. I can and do read on an LCD screen for hours on end with no ill effects in this manner. It doesn't even make it apreciably harder to read in sunlight (i.e. its still a pain, but doable if you angle the screen right - not ideal for beaches)

That said, I agree the iPad is just too damn heavy for long term reading. I prefer to read ebooks on my phone.

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How about an e-ink screen

that clips onto the back of a tablet / laptop screen allowing the power wasting eye screwing screen to be sidelined while reading?

And while I'm on my high pony..

And a phone that connects in to it rather than trying to be everything done much better elsewhere?

Or is it really compulsory to have a completely new turing machine with every 'new' idea?

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Re: How about an e-ink screen

"Or is it really compulsory to have a completely new turing machine with every 'new' idea?"

Businesses got wise to the fact that the real moneymaker is REPEAT business. That's why nothing lasts forever, why they try to force things to become obsolete every few years; otherwise, they get no more business from you. Take vacuum cleaners. Old Kirby and Electrolux vacuums still exist over 50 years later. But try to find a 30-year-old Hoover still in working condition.

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Re: How about an e-ink screen

We have a ~30 year old Hoover, and it still works fine.

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Re: How about an e-ink screen

Now there's a rarity. Most Hoovers I see die inside of 15 years (personally witnessed two of them die--motor failure both times). About 25 years ago, the series "The Secret Life of Machines" made a note of that change in design, particularly with vacuum cleaners.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How about an e-ink screen

Hang onto it - they don't make them like they used to. I finally turned in my 20-yr old Hoover (should have tried to get it repaired instead) for a new Hoover 2 years ago. The top handle has already broken off. Cheap crap.

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Re: How about an e-ink screen

> We have a ~30 year old Hoover, and it still works fine.

I don't know that I have any 30-year-old appliances still running, but I recently found the old sales slip for a Panasonic VHS VCR. Turns out I bought it in 1991. I still use it; in fact, aside from power outages, it's been on continuously for almost 10 years now. I rarely use it for playing tapes, but it serves as the modulator between my original-model Playstation and an old TV set that only has NTSC coax input.

I'm not big on upgrading for the sake of upgrading.

(What did a 4-head Panasonic VHS VCR cost in 1991? $330 USD, apparently. About $520 in 2010 dollars, the most recent year for the online inflation calculator I usually use. But I think I've gotten my money's worth.)

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Pirate

Tablet owner here...

I love physical books but travel being a large part of my job, I also love the fact I can take my tablet on the train or plane and when I get bored of reading I can flick to a game or a video. I enjoy reading on my tablet, both ebooks and graphic novels, which it is ideal for.

Sure a tablet may not be a substitution for an e-reader but since I never owned an e-reader I don't feel I'm missing anything. Also I prefer to spend a bit more money to get multi-functionality over does-one-thing-good devices.

One thing that does bother me is in having an extensive collection of physical books and many I haven't read yet. I used to take 2 or 3 books with me traveling but any more just took up too much space. I wanted to convert those existing books I hadn't read to digital so I looked up the prices and baulked at how much they wanted - often more than the paperback. So off to pirate I went.

I would like to see them provide a free digital copy with each hard copy. That way I can still order hard back books and store that at home, whilst taking the digital with me to read whilst I'm away. I would also consider trading some of my physical books for a digital copy (no DRM, free for me to keep, use anywhere). There's no way I'll pay the full price they ask for digital at the moment - so I'll continue to purchase the physical and pirate the digital, and where I can't get hold of a physical, I'll pirate the digital until I can get to an appropriate latitudinal/longitudinal position where I can purchase a physical copy (probably at a reduced price by that time too).

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Poor contrast on e-readers

My brother has a Kindle (and loves it) but I have two tablets (iPad and a Xoom - it was a tabletty Xmas) and happily read books on my iPad.

I do understand that some people find backlit screens hard on the eye. In my case, I find the poor contrast on my brother's Kindle makes it hard work to read. As I get older I am starting (like literally everyone of my age) to suffer from presbyopia and I need good contrast or my eyes get tired quickly. Having battery life measured in months is a great feature but realistically, as long as my battery lasts a day, I don't care - I can always charge it overnight. I also hate the slow page refresh. It isn't a real problem, but it looks ugly and bothers me every time I see it.

Horses for courses, but I'll stick with my tablets thank you very much.

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Re: Poor contrast on e-readers

I have a kindle4 and it is as crisp as it can be, no problems there. what I miss is the backlight of a tablet so you can read in the dark.

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Get one of the cases with a built in reading light. I got one of the Amazon ones and it is perfect for my needs. Protects the Kindle, the light tucks away inside the case when not required and uses the Kindle's battery.

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