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Eleven million eReaders are projected to be shipped this year. Down from a peak volume in 2011 of 15 million devices. The growing popularity of media tablets along with declining US baby boomer population and lack of organized digital bookstores outside of the US and Western Europe, will reduce the eReader opportunity over the next five years, according to ABI Research.



Regardless of the historical eReader success, the market tides have begun to turn, says senior mobile devices analyst at ABI Research, Joshua Flood. Despite the average tablet selling for more than US $465 as a result of Apple’s dominant market position, tablets are expected to outsell eReaders 9 to 1 this year. Nevertheless, the eReader market will live. “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%. In contrast, global media tablet shipments are projected to increase from 102 million annual device shipments in 2012 to nearly 250 million in 2017. However, eReaders maintain advantages over media tablets for 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 greater than the media tablet. And, eReaders cost less than entry-level tablets. The decline of buying audiences for dedicated digital readers in the US is more rapid than the digital publishing ecosystems organizing for growth in Asia or Eastern Europe, says senior practice director Jeff Orr. Development of content digitalization systems and services should continue without delay as the effort will be necessary for developing mobile app catalogs that provide easy search, discovery and monetization.

The mainstay of the reader industry has been Amazon with its Kindle range of products. Arguably Amazon has the largest and most organised collection of digital ink publications in the world. It has seen considerable success with its stable of competitively priced readers, which when coupled with its digital book stores has enabled it to transition seamlessly from printed media sales. However, even Amazon realises that as both battery life and displays continue to improve on mainstream tablets, creating a compelling consumer argument for a dedicated reader will become difficult. For this reason alone it has released the full color Kindle Fire, which is a hybrid Android reader with the ability to run Android applications.

This is a pivotal marketing strategy for Amazon, since it has opened its own Google competing Android apps store, which extends an already seamless reader user experience right into Google’s own backyard. Right now, the App store is only available in North America and other strategic markets, but this will certainly change as Amazon rolls out more hybrid readers. Ultimately, the dedicated reader market is likely to shrink. The expectation of the general public as a whole is that like its smaller cousin the smartphone, a tablet device should be able to do everything.


The future is for dual mode displays. Staring at a back lit LCD or AMO LED display for long durations strains eyes, non backlit LCD found on a reader is much easier to read, consumes substantially less energy and is cheaper to produce. However, this type of technology makes producing vibrant color difficult, which is why the dual mode display would enable a super power saving mode with perfect text readability for offline, and regular full color tablet mode for Web browsing and multimedia applications. Whether this becomes a reality, only time will tell.

By Angela Sutherland

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