Welcoming the E-Reader Era

Industry analysts predict surging sales this holiday season

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On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Barnes & Noble was set to release its own wireless, touch-screen reading device in time for the holiday season. That came on the heels of Wednesday's announcement from Amazon that it was cutting the price of its Kindle e-reader by $40 and launching a new (more expensive) international version. Is the age of the e-reader finally upon us?

  • Sales Up  Forrester Research, a company that specializes in analyzing and predicting tech trends, recently upped their projection for how many e-readers would be sold this year by 50%, from 2 million to 3 million. Forrester blogger Sarah Rotman Epps notes that retailers haven't fully caught on to the devices:
"Walk into your typical Borders bookstore, as I did recently, and you're likely to get quizzical looks from sales staff when you ask about eReaders and have a hard time finding the kiosks where the devices are on display…We're realistic about the limits of what they can change in a single season. Our holiday projections should be seen for what they are: An acknowledgement that 2009 has been and will be a year of breakout success for eReaders, tempered by realism that retailers, despite their best intentions, are still learning how to sell these products to curious but uninformed consumers."
  • Sony Skepticism  Scrutinizing the Forrester report, All Things Digital blogger Peter Kafka says that soaring predictions of sales "may even be right," but quibbles with the idea that Sony's e-reader will be a hit: "I gather that Sony’s device is supposed to have created a footprint overseas, but while I see the occasional Kindle on the subway or an airplane, I have never, ever, ever seen a Sony reader in the wild. Have you?"
  • Convincing Consumers  At Forbes, Andy Greenberg is highly optimistic about the possibility of an e-reader sales explosion this holiday season, but even he acknowledges that the Forrest report reveals a potential sticking point for consumers: "Price is still the biggest barrier to mainstream e-reader adoption: 60% of respondents to a Forrester study still say they'd only buy a digital reader for less than $100." PaidContent's Staci D. Kramer doesn't shy away from the fact that e-readers remain a mysterious product to many consumers: "Forty percent of US online consumers still say they’ve heard of but haven’t seen an e-Reader. The percentage of those who haven’t heard of an e-Reader dropped from 37 percent in Q209 to 17 percent in Q309. The hype factor—which doesn’t always equal success - is in hyperdrive: Kindle media mentions so far this have nearly doubled over last year, while Sony’s are up 250 percent."
  • E-Readers Already Face Threats points out Time's Adam Rose. Providing a brief history of the e-reader phenomenon, Rose notes that the gadgets are becoming more ubiquitous thanks to entries from big-name manufacturers and reductions in price. However, as he observes, the e-reader faces its own set of threats: "Currently more people read e-books on their smartphones than they do on dedicated devices like e-readers…Apple, the king of cool handheld devices, is rumored to be readying a tablet computer with all the functions of a laptop as well as iPhone-like touch capabilities for release early next year. Microsoft has been secretive about its plans for a tablet, but a video making the rounds of the blogosphere show a dual-LCD-screen prototype that closes like a book."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.