As an author, I’m always scanning headlines for news about ebooks, ereaders, etc. And after writing a thread of posts about the “Death of the eReader,” I just had to click on a piece in the WSJ entitled “The E-Reader Revolution: Over Just as It Has Begun?“
Selfishly, I want to see if the WSJ agrees with my take… of course (they do, BTW). Even more importantly, with so many digital authors investing their time, effort, and money into ebooks, the state of ereading seems kinda, well… absolutely pivotal.
Or is it?
Judging from all the comments on my last eReader post, I clearly underestimated just how much people LOVE their readers. I also didn’t take into account another factor that the WSJ did.
Rate of Replacement
Kindles, Nooks, Sony Readers… they’re great devices, maybe too good. Because they’re so simple and perform so few functions, these devices just don’t really need to be upgraded very often.
In other words, Amazon and B&N — unlike Apple — didn’t fully appreciate the importance of “planned obsolescence.” If you bought a Kindle 3 years ago, and it still works fine, why buy a new one?
“For most consumers, a multi-use tablet is a better fit, particularly at the price points at which tablets can now be had,” Tom Mainelli tells the WSJ, “E-readers will eventually become a niche product.”
Dedicated eReaders don’t need to keep up with the mobile revolution (which moves fast), they just need to keep up with the publishing revolution (which moves much, much slower).
That’s one of the many reasons that eReader sales are dropping like a rock. But here’s why this isn’t such a bad thing for authors…
eReadership on the Rise
Here’s the thing: For digital authors, this trend is still very positive.
Given what we know about the low rate of replacement, we can deduce that a high percentage of the eReaders sold each year are going to new readers.
So while this is all bad news for B&N and Sony, lower eReader sales are still good for authors and publishers.
“For most consumers, a multi-use tablet is a better fit, particularly at the price points at which tablets can now be had,” says Tom Mainelli, IDC’s tablet research director. “E-readers will eventually become a niche product.”
NO, dedicated eReader devices are not going away. Yes, they will continue to lose market share to tablets.
eReaders will become increasingly the domain of hardcore bookworms. eReader apps will grow as more of the casual readers adopt multi-use tablets.
The superiority of the Kindel’s glare-resistant screen and amazing batter life is irrelevant. Technology is on the move and the data shows it’s going away from dedicated eReaders to tablets.
The best analogy I can come up with is my iPhone. Back in 1999, I had a Nokia phone that almost never dropped a call; I don’t care if I talked for 2 hours in a car. It worked great… as a phone.
As phones got more advanced, they did everything better… EXCEPT facilitate phone conversations.
My conversations are regularly cut short by interference and dropped connections on my iPhone. But man can it do some other things real well…
Know what I mean?