Media tablet adoption is already having an effect on other mobile reading devices. Eleven million eReaders are projected to be shipped globally in 2012. That's down from a peak volume of 15 million devices in 2011.
Moreover, the growing popularity of media tablets -- along with declining U.S. baby boomer population and lack of organized digital bookstores outside of the America and Western Europe -- will reduce the eReader opportunity over the next five years.
“Regardless of the tremendous historical eReader success, the market tides have already begun to turn,” says Joshua Flood, senior mobile devices analyst at ABI Research.
Despite the average tablet selling for more than $465 as a result of Apple’s dominant market position, tablets are expected to outsell eReaders by a factor of nine to one this year.
Nevertheless, the eReader market will not be totally cannibalized by media tablets. We believe there will always be a niche market for the dedicated reading device for voracious readers, business travelers, and educational segments, particularly ones that are low-priced.
Over the next five years, annual eReader shipments are projected to drop by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.1 percent. In contrast, global media tablet shipments are predicted to increase from approximately 102 million annual device shipments in 2012 to nearly 250 million in 2017.
However, eReaders maintain advantages over media tablets for overall reading purposes. Electronic paper (ePaper) displays are able to better replicate the print reading experience and are usable in direct sunlight conditions unlike LCD technologies.
The eReader battery life of weeks between charging is significantly greater than the media tablet. And of course, eReaders are priced significantly less than entry-level tablets.
The decline of buying audiences for dedicated digital readers in the U.S. market is more rapid than the digital publishing ecosystems organizing for growth in Asia or Eastern Europe. Development of digital content production systems and services in all world regions should continue without delay as the effort will be necessary for creating mobile app catalogs that provide easy search and discovery.