Apple’s market dominating iPad is killing e-readers

“After spectacular growth in the last few years, the ebook reader market is on an alarmingly precipitous decline, sent reeling by more nimble tablet devices that have gained the ardent patronage of consumers, according to an IHS iSuppli Consumer Electronics special report from information and analytics provider IHS,” Jordan Selburn blogs for IHS iSuppli.

“Shipments of ebook readers by year-end will fall to 14.9 million units, down a steep 36 percent from the 23.2 million units in 2011 that now appears to have been the peak of the ebook reader market. Another drastic 27 percent contraction will occur next year when ebook reader shipments decline to 10.9 million units,” Selburn reports. “By 2016, the ebook reader space will amount to just 7.1 million units—equivalent to a loss of more than two-thirds of its peak volume in 2011.”

“The rapid growth—followed by the immediate collapse—of the ebook market is virtually unheard of, even in the notoriously short life cycle of products inhabiting the volatile consumer electronics space,” Selburn reports. “Unknown to consumers before 2006, ebook reader shipments skyrocketed for the next few years after first thrilling readers with a portable device they could take anywhere. From 2008 to 2010, shipments grew from 1.0 million to 10.1 million, up by a factor of 10.”

“But the stunning rise and then blazing flameout of ebooks perfectly encapsulate what has become an axiomatic truth in the industry: Single-task devices like the ebook are being replaced without remorse in the lives of consumers by their multifunction equivalents, in this case by media tablets,” Selburn reports. “And while other uni-tasking devices—like digital still cameras, GPS systems and MP3 players—also face similar pressures and battle dim prospects ahead, all have had a longer time in the sun than ebook readers, demonstrating even more painfully the depth of the ebook reader’s fall.”

Selburn reports, “In contrast, tablets are enjoying unstoppable growth, mostly thanks to the Apple iPad, which made its appearance in 2010. Tablet shipments will hit 120 million units in 2012 only after two short years of the device being on the market, and 340 million systems are expected by 2016—a magnitude of sales exceeded just by mobile handsets.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: iPad and iPad mini, killers.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Sarah” and “Dan K.” for the heads up.]


  1. “The rapid growth—followed by the immediate collapse—of the ebook market is virtually unheard of, even in the notoriously short life cycle of products inhabiting the volatile consumer electronics space,”

    How about netbooks? Those flamed out as fast as they came.

    1. I was thinking the same thing.

      Netbooks came and went. They were such crappy products, I doubt anyone went back for seconds. This also happens to be why I think the Surface Pro will fail. It’s a niche. Very few people need to run full blown Windows on a smallish device.

      Netbooks, UMPC, TabletPC, etc.

      1. I had completely forgotten the recent history of entering a café and seeing a dozen people hunched over their tiny netbooks, wedging their finger tips onto the wee keyboards.
        And the tech pundits daily predicting the demise of Apple for not releasing the absolutely-necessary-for-any-hope-of-corporate-survival Apple netbook.

        If memory serves, that’s when I began to see more and more MacBook Airs.

  2. my mini is a perfect ebook reader. I get content from the Apple store, as well as my public library for free, where I download DRM’d Adobe epub formatted books and read them in the Overdrive reader. Finally I can upload virtually anything in .pdf format for reading on this nimble little guy. Who need a fucking Kindle?
    Oh yeah, I seem to remember having bought a couple of books from Amazon as a proof -of-concept that the Kindle app works OK on my iDevices. It’s OK, nothing great.

    1. I like using my iPhone as an ebook reader, but I can see that the iPad mini would be an ideal size, screen resolution, and weight, for an ebook reader.

      Still, using my iPhone is very convenient. When I hold it sideways, the width if the screen is very comfortable for a line of text. I don’t mind the length (height) of each page being short, because I’m less likely to lose my place when there are fewer lines per page. I find it easier to read faster. The slightly wider screen of iPhone 5 (and new iPod touch) would be even better. Because it’s so light, I can be in ANY comfortable position (even flat on my back) and hold the iPhone in front of face with one hand. Plus, I can inconspicuously pull it out from my pocket and do some reading any time I have a few minutes.

  3. “Unknown to consumers before 2006, ebook reader shipments skyrocketed for the next few years…”

    Er, no.

    E-readers from Microsoft and, I believe, Sony were available back in 2003. A fellow student did a report on them. They may have been “little known,” but they were around and gaining every bit as much traction as Microsoft’s attempts at tablets.

    Somewhat off topic, I attended an educational technology conference yesterday, and of the hundreds of computing devices I saw used by attendees, only two were Windows machines. Most people had iPads and the rest had Mac laptops. Just eight years ago, when I attended the same conference for the first time, the proportions were inverse.

  4. The hardware be in decline, but Kindle, the app, seems to still be okay on the iPad. I hope it stays healthy. We need a little competition out there and Amazon has been pretty efficient supporting its Kindle operations. Book prices have sometimes been cheaper than at the iBook Store.

    1. Kindle App’s killer feature is that content can be read in iPads and Macs alike – in addition to the Kindle readers. I wish I could read iBooks in my macs; it irritates me to no end. Having books in a Mac is great for research; for instances when you need to move information from an iBook to other work for reference purposes.

      In spite of it, I still buy mostly iBooks instead of Kindle books; just because I prefer the iBooks App, and because I am an Apple investor and have a vested interest in iBooks’ success.

      1. I’m an investor, too. But I spend plenty of money with Apple. I don’t think it should bother me if I buy as many books from the Kindle Store as from the iBooks Store. Kindle still has a number of pluses – and you named one. I’m sure iBooks will improve. But Kindle might end up keeping up. If Apple loses all competitors, what incentive will Apple have to push forward? Anyway, Amazon is not Google.

    2. I used to have the Kindle app on my iPad & iPhone but after a couple of uses which were desultory at best I deleted it from my devices. I still find iBooks a superior reading platform. I like the page turning animation most of all. At least it looks like a physical rendition of a book, not an electronic white page.

      An ePUB format I think is more widespread than MOBI format.

  5. Ebook Readers’ greatest feature is expensive ebooks. Besides the high cost of the books and the fact that you can’t lend them to someone, most people don’t read books anymore. This has been true for at least 10 years when my son did a speech about his favourite thing: reading. I was surprised to find out that 80% of high school grads will never read another book in their lifetime and 50% of university grads will also not ever read another book in their lifetime. Most books purchased are never read beyond page 17. Most families in the US have not been in a bookstore in the last 5 years.

    One high school librarian I know who has a doctorate in neuroscience owns an ebook reader but says that she can buy the real books cheaper and lend them to others if she wants. She never uses the Kindle now.

    1. I have some difficulty accepting those statistics, although it’s true that recreational reading has declined over the past few generations, as other modes of entertainment became available.

      I got a Kindle reader early on but use an iPad for reading now. I do more recreational reading (mainly fiction) than ever, because it’s so convenient to find an enjoyable book via the Amazon site. Probably go through a couple of books a week on average.

      That said, still most of my reading is non-recreational, for professional purposes. Stuff that’s typically not available via Amazon or as iBooks. 🙂

    2. 20% of all high school grads is still a large number. Even 10%, when combined with the other 50% of university grads. All the authors have to hope some of those might read their books. I don’t know if people are more likely to get through an audio book during long commutes in their cars, but I would think that, too, would be a small number.

      Stats about American education are increasingly bad. This is an indicator – that students and adults simply don’t read books as much anymore.

      On the other hand, we should not say they don’t read. I would guess that the amount of actual reading has increased substantially. Every time a student or adult is on the computer, they are reading. News & stories. Entertainment. Directions. Email. Text conversations. Ads. I think a case could be made that the amount of reading is up substantially. But the amount of QUALITY reading, where people consider important issues of life, where people are influenced by the deeper experiences and thoughts of others…that is what has suffered.

      Personally, I am a fan of eBooks. They are easy to carry around. I can read them at a moment’s notice if I find myself unexpectedly waiting somewhere (hopefully w/o Internet).

      Sometime, I would like to read for pleasure. The only times I find myself reading real books is for research or some requirement. Rarely do I get to read a book just because I want to. And, when I do, I feel guilty that I’m not doing something more “productive.” Not good thinking at all.

        1. I can agree that books are sometimes only partially read. But I also think that should relate to the type of book. Did your son’s research show differences between technical reading vs novels, for example? I would assume people jump to areas of interest in tech, training, or educ reading vs. a straighter reading all the way through for a novel – if it catches their attention, of course.

          I will be publishing another book over the next few weeks. I feel that the audio format for it will be the best way for someone to really enjoy the book. I have been getting my nephews more interested in audio listening by sending them drafts in audio form. One only has interest in the audio format of the book now.

    3. 80% of high school grads never reading another book. 50% of university grads….

      I think of that is not just stupefaction, but suicide. What are they supposed to do in this world if they can’t continue learning and growing? What is the point of their lives? Consumption? With money from what income, considering their high ignorance factor? Very bothersome from my POV. No wonder today’s politics and culture is dominated by ignorance.

      Some bright person here at MDN once told me [paraphrasing] that the sign of a declining civilization was their increasing ambition to emulation the most ignorant of their society.

      √ Accomplished. 😥

      1. Thanks for your thoughtful words. J.K. Rowling has done great things to get many to read books in the last 10 years. The vast majority however, wait until the movie to enjoy the experience. Just imagine how many people only watch TV and don’t even read a news paper.

      2. Derek, I think that the sad truth is that these high school and college “grads” who never read again are INCAPABLE of further learning and growth; in fact, they were likely pushed past their inherent capability simply by graduating from the institution in question; an educational Peter Principle, if you will.

        Unfortunately, these societal incompetents have the same ability to vote as everyone else; witness the current state of the country, and its future state as exemplified by California.

      3. I think the shift in reading does not necessarily mean no learning. Look at this MDN thread. Isn’t there a lot of READING you are doing here? I would postulate there is even LEARNING and thinking going on here. When you add together all the on-line reading many people do, it can add up to a fair amount of not just reading, but exposure to other ideas, reevaluation of our own, and…learning.

        I admit it is of a different quality. And to miss reading a full book on one subject is…well to miss a full book on one subject. But defining the lack of book reading (bad though I also think it is), may not equate to an actual loss of reading generally and of learning (though often of lower quality) through that reading.

        I learn from many of you when I read your posts and thoughts. As in this thread, that reading (even though just opinions of the not always perfectly informed) helps me to take another look at the state of the world and of my own thoughts.

        Reading continues. It has shifted to a new paradigm. Now, reading can take several forms, not available in the past.

        I, too, believe we have lost something that only some of the master writers and thinkers can give us. But there are also many fools who are authors and whose books we hope coming generations might skip.

        1. Yes, Mr. Wells. (Love your books!) There is plenty to read online without having to touch a formal ‘book’ of information. But I consider books to be the opus form of written communication. It is very sad that the very best written works in human history remain alien to these people.

          1. Agreed! I think the loss is often in the beauty of the “old form” rather than solely in content, though it is hard to separate one from the other.

            There are still some good teachers who try to familiarize their students with classic reading, even if the books are more recent. They often fail. In many schools, students absolutely refuse to read assigned materials, or cheat their way through them. Failing the class is not a concern to them. Parents then back their children: “Why does my child need to read this book anyway?!” Doesn’t take many such encounters for good teachers to back away towards mediocrity. I’ve seen it happen.

            1. I can believe it. I specifically stayed AWAY from teaching because of the bad management and disrespect. I like to teach and I teach a lot, to ADULTS. I don’t deal with anyone being there and NOT wanting to learn. Disruptive kids get my boot.

              What are these worthless parents expecting life to give their deliberately damaged kids? Hell is what they’re going to get. I hope mummy and duddy aren’t surprised. It is deliberate dummy behavior like this that justifiably upsets anyone with a sense of personal responsibility for their lives.

            2. People today blame parents for their failed children. But they do not realize that those parents ARE the failed children of just a few years before. They never learned how to be parents and never understood the real priorities in life. And respect was not made a value when they grew up and they continue that as adults. We are in terrible shape in this country because of people’s attitudes, not because of bad teachers (necessarily). If kids would read more of the older classic books, they might also pick up the important life values that many teach. As it is, traditional values are gone.

            3. Major *DING* there HG. I’ve been extremely lucky to have dedicated parents and dedicated teachers. I had no idea that was the case until I got out into the rest of the world where the lowest common denominator is the rule. I’m grateful to know and strive for better. That’s one reason I’m an Apple fanatic.

      1. If you read my post carefully, you will not find a single word saying that we read much more in the past. The fact is that people don’t read BOOKS much at all. Ebook readers are a phenomena that popped up recently and are a ‘gift giving’ opportunity just like a fruit cake. We all might be tempted to give one but would never buy one for ourselves.

  6. I saw the post above where the writer was using a third party app to read downloaded ePubs. That’s fine if you prefer it, of course, but don’t forget iBooks displays ePub books just fine.

    I really like the iBooks app, and hope its store contents continues to grow, but when I can’t find what I want there, I look for an ePub version.

  7. Considering the fact that BOTH Google and Amazon sell their OtherPads AT A LOSS, they clearly knew their devices could NOT COMPETE with the Apple iPad. Therefore, they had to BUY MARKET SHARE a la Microsoft.

    It is no surprise therefore that even lesser devices than the OtherPads are sinking into oblivion. I suspect they have their users and fans. But they are too small a niche to sustain sales beyond what amounts to a saturation point.

  8. I bought a kobo recently and have read half a dozen books in a month, as opposed to none in recent years. As such it has surely served its purpose. I like it purely because I prefer reading on an e-ink screen. Software wise it’s ok, which is fine as it’s just for reading, but it’s not suitable for anything else. Books are ok on an LCD screen, but not for really extended periods. I wish Apple would launch a cheap e-ink reader just so you can buy iBooks and use them in both kinds of devices. An e-ink device would act as a great companion to an iPad. Students can have a reference book on their e-ink screen then work on their iPad without having to switch in and out of apps on one device.

  9. I have an iPad and a Kindle, and I prefer reading on the e-ink display. One exception is books that rely heavily on charts or illustrations – those are much better on the iPad. I’m looking forward to future LCD / e-ink combo displays that Apple is no doubt working on.

    One reason I could see for the quick collapse of dedicated e-readers is this: they are relatively cheap, so if you have any interest in reading e-books, you probably already have an e-reader. And once you have one, there’s no incentive to ever upgrade to newer ones. Being able to store another million books or turn the pages 2x faster just aren’t important enough to make anyone want to change.

    There just doesn’t seem to be a long term business model there – you can only really sell someone an e-reader once, and then hope they buy e-books instead of using the any of countless sources of free reading material.

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