eReader Market Projected to Shrink by Over 50 Percent in Next Five Years?
Long time readers of this blog will know that I am not a huge fan of market "analysis" "reports" that try to predict the future of the book market. They have uniformly wrong, and good for only laugh.
So when Mike Cane sent me a link to a press release about a report that predicted the future of the ereader market, my first response was to laugh and point out that four of the companies mentioned in the press release stopped making ereaders years ago (Sony, Ectaco, Ematic, and Aluratek), and that another one (Icarus) was D-E-D dead.
But then I reread the lead prediction, and it got me thinking:
The worldwide market for eReader is expected to grow at a CAGR of roughly -12.7% over the next five years, will reach 200 million US$ in 2024, from 460 million US$ in 2019, according to a new study.
English is clearly not their first language. If it were then they would have said that the ereader market totaled an estimated $460 million in 2019, and is expected to shrink an average of 12.7% each year for the next five years.
As fond as I am of ereaders, it would not surprise me if this happened just as predicted. Smartphones and tablets really have replaced ereaders as the leading devices used for reading. They’re not just always available, but they also have more features and functionality.
What do you think of this prediction?
Reader November 27, 2019 um 1:22 pm
Different devices are better for different uses. An e-reader is better for for reading: cheaper, lower battery use, screen is easier on the eyes. For dedicated readers, which is admittedly not the largest niche, these advantages trump smart phones and tablets.
If you want to do things other than reading, an e-reader is worse than other types of devices. Web browsing, for example, is much more cumbersome on an e-reader. If I want to web browse, I will use the most convenient device for me- a desktop. For reading, an e-reader is best.
As dedicated readers- which I would arbitrarily define as those who read at least a book a week- are not a large part of the market, I could see e-reader purchases decline.
A further reason for e-reader purchases declining is that after over a decade, the market is saturated in developed countries. Most e-reader purchases are now for replacements, not for first-time users. In addition, the technology has matured. My five year old Kindle is quite satisfactory, thank you. I see no point in an "upgrade."
Allen F November 27, 2019 um 8:50 pm
I think Reader above pretty much nailed it.
There will be a decline in ereaders as everyone gets one (I have two kindle einks, and a kindle fire which does the internet just fine), and you’re getting down to just replacing as needed.
Of course certain people want you to believe that any decline in the ereader market means a decline in the indie/self-pub ebook market as well. Sadly for them one does not mean the other, the eink doesn’t wear out after reading a hundred ebooks or even a thousand; and people read on more than just eink (I still do a lot of reading on my computer/netbook if I’m in the office.) Amazon offers apps to let you read the kindle format on just about anything.
(Though Amazon wasn’t the one to get me started on ebooks, that was Baen and their CDs in certain hardback books, CDs with 20+ full stories in half a dozen formats so there was no way you couldn’t read it if you wanted to. To be honest I miss those silly things. 😉 )
Xavier Basora November 28, 2019 um 7:31 am
I can see dedicated ebook readers declining just like dedicated MP3 players. There won’t be 8 different types. Just the super basic and the premiums versions. The tablets and phone will take the middle
So ebook readers will become a niche product like vinyl. Fine by me as the market will cater to the demand.
Mike Cane November 28, 2019 um 3:54 pm
Remember the years of high-priced eReaders? And how I — and others — said things would change BIGLY when we got them at a US$99 price? Well… oops.
name December 1, 2019 um 4:54 pm
Let’s hope, this will push manufacturers to improve their devices from mere page viewers to versatile allrounders, just like cellphones. I doubt, this will be, what we’ll see, so the pessimistic predictions appear to be reasonable. What else to expect from a product, that hasn’t seen significant innovation over several years?
Marilynn Byerly December 2, 2019 um 2:02 pm
I’m with Reader. Those of us who are serious readers will always prefer a dedicated ebook reader over a smart phone or smaller tablet. I’d as soon not have Internet bells and whistles on mine. Right now, I’m suffering from too many apps I never wanted and have never used on my Galaxy Nook. Without my permission, Google has just dumped a bunch of over-sized apps on my device with no way to remove them, and I’m running out of space for my books.
Stephen Cole December 2, 2019 um 9:23 pm
I totally agree with your views on this, and with Reader.
It was always a little puzzling why someone would want to carry two similar-looking devices around (phone and reader).
As the functionality of phones and reader apps keep improving, it’s logical that users would leave their ereader in a drawer.
An additional driver for this decline might be generational. Our experience on eBooks.com is almost a 1:1 association — the younger you are, the more you just read on your phone.
Erin December 4, 2019 um 10:53 am
I can’t stand reading on a phone and won’t start, but agree that more do. I read too much for it to be plausible, but this is one thing that will cut into the e-reader market, as well as more portable tablets and notebooks. Print has had a higher surge the past few years as well.
Erin December 4, 2019 um 10:59 am
An exception with the phone is audiobooks, which are increasing in popularity quite a bit. I’d rather use a phone than an e-reader for audio if a computer is not handy. Some have switched exclusively to audio, so e-readers don’t make sense for them to invest in.
David B Huber January 4, 2020 um 5:10 pm
Two articles on Medium.com by Sumit Garg caught my eye this week: "The Dream eReader Folds Like a Book and is Made by Apple" & "Ebooks Deserve a Smarter eReader in 2020". The former garnered 3.6K claps and the latter 2K claps. They certainly resonated with me.
I’ve loved ebooks from the beginning, carrying an IBM WorkPad C3 PDA loaded with .pdb text files. My first-generation Nook brought me closer to the Dynabook ideal. The Sony PRS-T1 was near perfection. I bought a half dozen Pandigital Novels and slapped microSD cards in them, which then ran so slow they became unusable as well as unreliable. The Wexler Flex foreshadowed ny Kindle Oasis in design. So many remain on my shelf, uncharged but not unloved.
So I understand Mr. Garg’s lament and longing for progress. And hate to tell him it’s not going to happen.
I’m confident Amazon, Apple and Microsoft know what we want. It just doesn’t dovetail with what THEY want… For example, Microsoft axed the Courier so it wouldn’t eat into Windows sales.
Do I really think Barnes and Noble deliberately ignored the treasure trove of market research offered by their customers in the Nook user forums, throwing away the significant lead they had in tech as well as market share? Yes, I do. Amazon won by default. Had B&N even only supported subdirectories (the #1 request – strenuously ignored by B&N, presumably because it didn’t mesh with their vision of the product as "carrying B&N in the palm of your hand.") they wouldn’t be as bad off as they are now. I also believe the Nook Classic could have been the ideal "One Laptop Per Child" XO-3 slate computer with just a few tweaks to upgrade the hardware:
1) 8GB standard as internal SDHC Class 6 card (32GB optional) with microSD expansion slot for a device grand total onboard of up to 64GB.
2) Faster CPU and SDRAM increased to 512MB to improve overall responsiveness and PDF reflow
3) Bluetooth in addition to existing WiFi 802.11g (and optional 3G) for HID keyboard option (a physical folding keyboard / dock would enhance eWriter capability)
4) GPS chip for geolocation (LT SiRF Star III GPS chipset?). Everything from Google Maps to personalized travel itineraries and "My Rand McNally" could make use of this.
5) An accelerometer with automatic portrait/landscape rotation is expected by Android (and a shake interface would be nice for page turning), although manual configuration should override
6) Upgrade LCD touchpanel from 144×480 to 200×600. Why? To seamlessly extend the eink panel as the bottom fifth of a 600×1000 display, simplifying the API while providing a scooch more real estate for apps.
7) A simple sliding cover over the LCD touchscreen to prevent accidental command entry
8) A built-in microphone (or at least the ability to use Bluetooth mikes) for voice memos (and possibly Google Voice integration)
9) Slimmer / lighter weight and longer battery life while we’re at it.
The concept of "mesh computing" discarded by the OLPC initiative is a compelling fit for bookclubs, libraries and reading rooms in bookstores…
Here’s the thing. A very vocal majority of eReader customers declare "I just want to READ!" – most vociferously. They loathe the thought of distractions or "extraneous" features on their devices. Innovation equals anathema. Most others are content with little interaction with the content.
Which gives the manufacturers little incentive to innovate and every excuse to maintain the status quo. Passive consumption is a safe business model. "Consensus GOOD! Risk BAD!"
Consider how simple it would be for any wireless eReader to function as a virtual printer, accepting PCL, PDF and PostScript jobs the way uniFlow cloud printing software supports Canon ImageWriter copiers. Print your Word documents directly to your ePaper or save them as ePub format as desired. There actually was an eReader with that feature – Samsung’s E60. Ever heard of it?
Social media is falling out of favor but a simple flash fiction app could double as the journeybook of countless fantasy stories, where whatever you write is instantly echoed to a distribution list of friends or the cloud as a whole. Yes, instant messaging has been a staple for a quarter century, but with a focus as transient comments rather than enduring, accumulating text.
Interactive Fiction is another natural fit, starting with a local Frotz interpreter. But hardly anyone is using eink for content creation, even though Bluetooth keyboards make pocket word processing very practical.
Mr. Garg expresses his needs as a member of the content creator minority without consciously realizing it in the more detailed follow up article "In 2020 I Want a Better Way to Read E-Books", where he laments Apple has no interest in competing with Amazon.
But the most interesting part of both articles are the comments they invoked! Some supportive but many sarcastic or even vitriolic! Evidence the dichotomy between the eReader camps is as divisive as ever.
How to address this and please everybody? Simple. Have the eReader come in two models: eink and LED at the same low price, with the default OS mode being eReader-only to please those desiring distraction free simplicity. But if you want more functionality, enable app mode in the OS to customize your experience. Finally, allow purchase of a second unit to hinge together as an integrated book! Both eink, both LED or one of each!
Kindle Slate Speculation:
Capacitive multipoint touchscreen: 8″ 1440×1920 4:3 aspect ratio 300ppi. Choice of 16 greyscale Mobius Carta E-ink with white to amber front light or 16M color LCD display at same $150 price.
1.5Ghz. octa-core Freescale RK3365 CPU
2GB RAM plus 32GB storage expandable with 128GB microSD slot
3100mAh LiPo battery & USB-C charging/interface
Bluetooth 5 for optional keyboard & audio with TTS / microphone for speech transcription
802.11ac Dual-band WiFi (2.4/5Ghz)
8MP rear camera for OCR
Two programmable buttons along each side bezel + Home button on bottom and top bezels (orthogonal controls)
Inside bezel hinge stores 256-pressure stylus
Outside bezel hinge connects two Slates in tandem so they fold like a book similar to the eBookOne manga device; user’s choice of dual E-Ink, dual LCD or one of each. Software optimizes UI for each experience.
Optional Bluetooth keyboard clipcase / stand
Optional folio case with integrated solar charger
(Either case has front flap which can be detached in dual-Slate configuration where second Slate closes over)
But we’ll never see such a device. I so wish Steve Jobs hadn’t killed the MessagePad or had at least released the Newton OS as open source!