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eReader Demand Gains New Momentum in EMEA

According to the latest market study by IDC, more than 1.9 million eReader units were shipped in the EMEA region during 2010, with most of these distributed in Western European markets. Although EMEA accounts for just over 15 percent of the worldwide market, IDC forecasts sales to reach 9.6 million units by 2015 -- generating a 37.9 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

Since their first appearance in 2007, eReaders have experienced much higher growth in North America than in EMEA, mainly as a result of the rapid uptake of Amazon Kindle devices by consumers in the U.S. market.

However, as many European markets experience double-digit growth rates, the EMEA region is now set to expand, roughly matching the size of the North American market by 2015.

Many factors are contributing to this growing trend. Firstly, e-ink technology and long-lasting battery charge have proven to offer an appealing reading experience for avid readers in EMEA -- which justifies the purchase of a specialized reading device instead of an LCD multifunctional device, such as a media tablet.

The price advantage also plays a key role in saving this product category from cannibalization. Current eReader prices are on average much lower than media tablet prices and are expected to decrease yet more throughout the forecast period. Growth potential has also been boosted by recent developments in the education sector.

After successful initial trials, eReaders are being implemented in universities, schools, and public libraries across main European markets as an additional consultation tool for students and users.

"The EMEA market for eReaders is still at an early stage," said Mario Lombardo, senior analyst at IDC EMEA. "Recent developments in the education sector, combined with the inevitable price decrease, are likely to convert these reading devices from trendy gadgets into very accessible commodity goods in the coming years."

In this industry scenario the only real revenue will come from digital content rather than the actual reading device sales. Leading vendors are clearly anticipating this trend and are increasingly positioning themselves as eBook providers rather than mere hardware vendors.

Although all the main vendors are eager to ensure access to content in different languages, availability of eBooks in languages other than English is still fairly limited. Therefore, the U.K. was the main market for eReader shipments in EMEA in 2010, followed by Germany and France.

After success in North America, Amazon has now established itself as a leading vendor in European markets. Having already been selling in Europe through its U.S. Web site for some time, in 2010 the company started direct sales of its Kindle eReaders through local Amazon Web sites in all the main European markets.

This has helped boost Kindle sales, enabling the company to overtake Sony in terms of shipments and capture more than 35 percent market share in EMEA in 2010.

Although eReaders will continue to mainly be a consumer product, the education sector will increasingly drive growth, especially as digital content will be made more available in different languages and the industry will converge even more to an industry standard digital format.

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