Analysts are sounding a proverbial death knell for e-readers, which have declined 36% in 2012 as buyers turned instead to multi-use tablets.
Both IHS Suppli and IDC recently issued dire warnings, if not obituaries, for e-readers. IHS said Monday that e-readers will see a 36% drop in shipments to retailers in 2012 over last year, and another 27% contraction in 2013.
Last week, IDC said 2012 shipments will decline by 28% over 2011. The impact of multi-use tablets with a "good enough" reading experience has meant that IDC expects e-readers to reach just 19.9 million units shipped in 2012, down from 27.7 in 2011.
E-reader popularity has plummeted as consumers switch to multi-use tablets, which have e-reading capabilities as well as other features.
IHS forecast the more serious 36% drop of the two analyst firms and characterized the decline more dramatically. "The ebook reader market is on an alarmingly precipitous decline, sent reeling by more nimble tablet devices," wrote IHS analyst Jordan Selburn.
Selburn said that 2011 appears to have been the peak of the e-reader market, when IHS said that 23.2 million e-readers shipped, compared to 14.9 million shipped for all of 2012. By 2016, Selburn said that just 7.1million e-readers will ship, equal to a loss of more than 66% since 2011.
The decline is occurring even as front-lit e-readers from Amazon and Barnes & Noble have hit the market in 2012, offering a higher quality reading experience sought by a subset of consumers who prefer a dedicated e-reader, the analysts noted.
Amazon sells the 6-in. Kindle Paperwhite for as little as $119, depending on the version. The Paperwhite was announced in September and Amazon has been heavily promoting it with national TV ads in recent weeks. It has been described as Amazon's answer to the 6-in. Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, which also sells for $119.
But such e-readers are proving no match for multi-use tablets, both analysts noted. Tablets are enjoying unstoppable growth, mostly thanks to the Apple iPad, which made its appearance in 2010, Selburn said.
The traditional 9.7-in. iPad starts at $499, although Apple recently introduced the 7.9-in. iPad mini, starting at $329. Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble also make multi-use tablets with prices starting at under $200.
IHS said 120 million tablets will ship in 2012, while IDC put the number at 122.3 million. By 2016, IHS predicts 340 million tablets will ship, while IDC predicts 282.7 million.
Multi-use tablets can work as e-readers of email and e-books but have the added value of Web surfing and play movies, while e-readers are single-task devices that cost less.
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