Tablets gain at e-readers' expense
Is the writing already on the wall for dedicated e-reading devices?
Exploring that question recently in a story headlined “The E-Reader Revolution: Over Just as It Has Begun?”, The Wall Street Journal's Greg Bensinger writes that “the shrinking sizes and falling prices of full-featured tablet computers are raising questions about the fate of reading-only gadgets” such as Amazon's original Kindle, Barnes & Noble's original Nook and their reading-focused successors.
Bensinger cites market-research firm IDC's 19.9-million-unit estimate of 2012 global e-reader shipments — 28 percent less than 2011's 27.7-million-unit figure — and 122.3-million-unit estimate of 2012 tablet shipments.
What's changing is how people read, not whether they read.
The same day that Bensinger's story appeared, Publishers Weekly reported that Nielsen BookScan found unit sales of print books fell a little more than 9 percent in 2012, “roughly the same percentage decline posted between 2010 and 2011.”
Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project findings released in late December, which Bensinger notes, are in keeping with the Nielsen BookScan data: Among Americans age 16 or older, 23 percent had read e-books in the prior year, up from 16 percent in December 2011, and 33 percent had either an e-reader device or a tablet, up from 18 percent a year earlier.
Nielsen BookScan gathers data from about 12,000 point-of-sale locations nationwide, covering only about 75 percent of U.S. book sales. The most obvious locations omitted are Wal-Marts and their corporate Sam's Club and BJ's siblings. Still, with Nielsen BookScan showing print sales down almost 16 percent from 2010 to 2012, it's clear that however e-books are read, they're continuing to grab market share from ink on paper.
Bensinger observes that many people who have e-readers see little need or reason to upgrade. If they do, they're increasingly likely to go for a tablet with full-fledged web browsing, a full-color screen and app-running capability. And the more that the price gap between the two kinds of devices narrows, the more attractive tablets are.
Time will tell whether tablets push e-readers to the brink of extinction, but e-readers' particular strengths shouldn't be underestimated. Compared to tablets, they're generally lighter and more compact, offer far longer battery life and are simpler to operate. That makes e-readers generally more comfortable to hold and easier to use.
Add screens optimized for displaying text that's easy to change in terms of size and font to enhance readability, and e-readers have many advantages — particularly for an aging America coping with arthritic hands and diminishing eyesight.
Even as tablets take the upper hand, the best-case scenario for e-book lovers is a market in which both tablets and e-readers remain viable options, providing choices to suit individual needs.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Russian winger Plotnikov could join Penguins in August
- Pittsburgh Regatta will go on without boats, water events
- Rescuers use hoist to lift horse from Washington County sinkhole
- FBI questions Allentown mayor, seizes contract documents
- Rossi: Rutherford shines as old boss pouts
- Hempfield woman seriously injured in crash
- LaBar: What’s killing professional wrestling
- Crane tips over, smashes into roof of building at Pitt
- Shaken by economic, political turmoil, MLB forsaking Venezuela
- Former Jeannette coach held for trial on charges of assault on teen girls
- Young Nebraska girl’s organs give 2 Pittsburgh-area boys a chance to live