E-reader sales expected to hit wall in 2014

iPad tablet, other devices with e-book content will cap e-reader sales

E-readers like the Kindle and Nook are surging in popularity but will hit a wall in 2014 when sales drop off due to competition from a wide range of consumer electronic devices, including the iPad, according to Informa Telecoms & Media of London.

Sales of e-reader device are expected to soar to 12.2 million in 2010, up from nearly 5 million in 2009, Informa said Thursday. Growth in sales will continue to a high of 14 million e-readers in 2013, but will drop off by 7% the following year to 13 million, Informa said.

"Overall, Informa is skeptical about the sales growth for mobile broadband e-readers," Informa analyst Gavin Byrne said.

While today's e-readers, with mostly black-and-white e-ink displays, offer a good reading experience, are highly portable with solid battery life, they face stiff competition. They are "under threat from the availability of electronic book content on multifunctional devices such as mobile phones, tablet computers, netbooks and other portable consumer electronic devices, " Byrne added.

With the iPad available in the U.K this week, it will be "perhaps the highest-profile competition for dedicated e-readers," Byrne said.

As the e-reader market matures, Byrne predicts the devices will evolve into two groups, one group at a lower price with few features and no wireless connectivity, and the other at a higher price with advanced features.

The low-cost e-readers of the future could be used with a PC or USB dongle to access content, he said. They could include future iterations of the low-cost Kobo e-reader , which is available for $149.

At the higher end, more future e-reader devices could be transformed into tablets like the iPad, making them more like smartbooks than e-readers. Byrne said an early step in this direction is the way Barnes & Noble recently shipped a Nook version 1.3 update wirelessly to users that adds games and a beta of a basic Web browser.

The Nook's software upgrade was described in a Nook blog . The upgrade includes a feature that allows users to read selected books inside a Barnes & Noble store for up to an hour a day at no cost. Other improvements include a faster page turn speed and enhanced touchscreen navigation on the color panels at the bottom of the device.

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