According to the latest market study by International Data Corporation (IDC), the market for ereaders in the EMEA region more than doubled in 2011 compared to the previous year, reaching total shipments of nearly 4.8 million units. There's growing mainstream adoption of these devices, which is creating the potential for incremental digital multimedia revenue.
Although EMEA still accounts for just over 17 percent of the worldwide market, IDC forecasts sales in this region to exceed 24 million units by 2016, generating a 37 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the forecast period.
The fall in prices greatly contributed to the sales momentum in 2011. The average price for ereaders continued to slide as Amazon aggressively brought the price of its WiFi Kindle device down to €99 in eurozone countries. In 2011, the company experienced strong acceleration in sales thanks to the the rapid uptake of Amazon Kindle devices in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain.
In these countries, the opening of local Kindle stores has been very successful, prompting strong growth through Amazon's direct channel. The company now has in place numerous agreements with local retailers and is therefore broadly present in physical stores around Europe as well as through its traditional direct channel. Amazon led the market for ereaders in EMEA in 2011, followed by Sony.
The level of competition increased as new vendors made their entrance in the EMEA market. Canadian vendor Kobo Books established a strong presence -- due to marketing campaigns, aggressive prices and partnerships with local retailers in the UK, France, and Germany.
The end of 2011 also saw rapid uptake of Android TFT screen devices retailing for less than €60. German vendor Trekstor posted remarkable results in Germany due to a drop in price and a key partnership with local bookstore chain Hugendubel und Weltbild. Color TFT devices are gaining momentum among low-end users on a budget.
"The EMEA market for ereaders is developing fast," said Mario Lombardo, senior analyst at IDC EMEA. "The rapid fall in prices is making ereaders increasingly accessible to consumers, transforming the way they access content."
2012 will be a crucial year for this market. Prices will continue to fall, driven by pricing strategies of major vendors that can increasingly count on a substantial content revenue stream. On the other hand, vendors mainly counting on sales of the mere hardware will face very challenging times, and some are likely to be forced out of the market.
As the installed base of ereaders continues to grow, the European publishing industry is inevitably going through a huge transformation process in order to meet the increasing demand for digital content.
Not only are publishers in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain working frantically to provide digital content in local languages; more importantly, they are also adapting to a completely new business and facing intense pressure from the channel to reduce the price of ebooks.
In most of the major publishing markets in Western Europe, publishers still impose fixed prices on ebooks and content vendors are only allowed to apply a maximum percentage of discount. Furthermore, in most Western European countries, tax regulations impose the maximum VAT on ebooks instead of the reduced VAT level used for printed versions. Shifts in these regulations will undoubtedly help the market for digital content to flourish in the coming years.
The EMEA market for ereaders is expected to grow by 37 percent CAGR between 2012 and 2016. Western Europe will be the fastest growing region in EMEA, generating 41 percent CAGR. Although they will continue to be a mainly consumer product, ereaders are expected to increasingly be implemented in the education sector as more text books become available in digital format. In the ereader market, as well as in the digital content market, price will be key.
On one hand new decreases in the price of ereader devices are likely to force minor vendors out of the market; on the other hand, relaxation of governments' and publishers' price policies on ebooks will help major vendors to capitalize on their digital content business.