When e-ink screen ereaders first hit the market, there was a mixed bag of feedback; some users loved the combination of technology and readability, others hated the slow refresh rate. Over time, the devices made a significant dent in the market, gave the ebook industry a major boost, and prompted writers to challenge traditional publishing conventions. Now it looks like the device, for better or worse, is already losing its appeal as sales numbers dip.
The problem is not with the device itself, but rather the competition it is up against. When given the prospect of choosing either a dedicated ebook reader that can do little else than display text or a tablet running Android or iOS, the choice is obvious for most consumers. The increase in affordable Android tablets in particular has hurt the dedicated e-ink ebook reader market.
This information comes from the research firm iSuppli, which looked at sales data from the last five years and noted a sharp drop in sales. This comes after a rather robust and steady sales increase that held firm for five years. Perhaps the biggest blow to the market was when companies began offering Android tablets specifically as ereaders, such as the Kindle Fire and certain Nook devices.
In 2011, over 20 million dedicated ebook readers were shipped worldwide. If the current drop in sales figures holds, however, iSuppli estimates that only 7 million dedicated readers will go out in the 2015 – 2016 time span. As the agency points out, this is not an unexpected fate given the dedicated ereader’s rather singular function. Consumers are gravitating towards gadgets that can function as multiple pieces of technology, which tablets offer.