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Segmenting the Demand for Mobile e-Reader Devices

According to the latest market study by Informa Telecoms & Media, e-reader sales are expected to peak at 14 million units in 2013, before falling by 7 percent in 2014 as the device category faces increased competition from other consumer electronics (CE) devices.

This decline will be driven by a shift away from dedicated e-readers, such as the Amazon Kindle, towards other multifunction device types -- notably mobile smartphones and tablet form-factor computing devices.

Informa believes that this transition may lead to a segmentation of the e-reader market into two distinct groups -- low price, low feature models and higher price devices with more advanced features.

The current e-reader offers a good reading experience, high levels of portability and extended battery life. However, it is under threat from the availability of electronic book (e-book) content on multifunctional devices such as mobile phones, tablet computers, netbooks and other portable CE devices.

"Mobile broadband e-readers will also face competition from much cheaper non-connected models that are targeting a lower retail price in order to stimulate adoption," said Gavin Byrne, senior analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media.

In order to better fit the application needs of customers, there are a number of design alternatives for device vendors. They can develop low-cost e-readers with minimal features that can be used in conjunction with a PC or USB dongle to access additional content. For example, e-readers like the Kobo may appeal to the cost-conscious reader -- 100 classic book titles are included on the device.

Alternatively, verdors can improve feature sets in mid and high-end e-readers to transform them, over time, into tablet-like computing devices. These will in effect become more like smartbooks than e-readers.

Early steps in this direction include Barnes & Noble's latest software update for the Nook which adds games and a more open web browsing functionality.

Many e-reader companies are already looking to develop an electronic reading platform -- initially based on their e-reader devices, but that will extend across e-readers, mobile phones, netbooks, notebooks and desktop PCs.

"There are certainly a number of things that vendors can do to counteract this growing threat. However, the current absence of an obvious subsidy model for mobile network operators, the launch of the iPad and market dynamics are likely to limit the size of the e-reader market in the long-term," concludes Byrne.

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