E-Ink Holdings the company responsible for the most popular screens found in e-readers today have posted strong September gains. During that month the company saw 126 million dollars in sales, which is up 143% from the same period last year.
There is no dispute that e-readers sales continue to rise because of the large quantity of new devices utilizing the technology. More players have entered the market in 2011 and companies such as Amazon, Sony and Barnes and Noble have all released new devices this year.
Releasing new devices and making more of them to meet the needs of a ravenous public addicted to technology is strongly increasing e-Inks bottom line. During the period from January to September the company saw close to 928 million dollars in revenue. This is more then the entire company made during the entire year of 2010.
Scott Liu, the chairman of E Ink, commented, “This year our customers have launched a number of affordable, light-weight e-readers with exciting new feature sets. I anticipate that the e-reader will become a best-selling holiday gift this year.”
In the North American market dedicated e-reader sales continue to do well. Companies are offering more affordable devices and the public is becoming more aware of the tremendous benefits. Advertising campaigns are mostly the driving force informing the public to the very nature of the low-power devices that have a myriad of benefits. Low cost, saving trees and cheaper books continue to be the driving factors of the popularity of them.
In 2010 we did not see many readers in retail locations and mostly were relegated to a online business. Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Sony were three companies with retail clout and high visibility to potential customers. It has really only been since 2011 do we see e-readers sold everywhere. Walmart, Best Buy, Circuit City, Target, Staples, Office Depot, Radio Shack and Futureshop have ALL got into the e-reader game and you can find every popular device being sold. This is increasing the amount of units sold and manufactured which is a boon to e-ink Holdings.
I surmise 2011 will be the biggest year ever in the e-Reader industry as a whole, and more particularly to the tech companies responsible for providing the parts and screens. Freescale and e-Ink are two companies seeing unrepresented profit, but the real question is can it be maintained?
2010 was the year e-readers matured from being a fringe device to something people were aware of. In 2011 was the huge success commercially and drastically reduced the prices. They are really as low as they can get, with entry level Kindles costing $79 and companies trying to follow suit. Can this trend be maintained throughout 2012, or have we hit our peak?
There is a convergence in the air with smartphones and tablets blurring the line of a one in one, multimedia device. You can’t really go a day without new phones and tablets being released. Phones are getting bigger while tablets continue to decrease in size. There is no dispute that the tablet sector is making a pile of money right now but what bearing does it have on e-readers? Phones and Tablets are a merriment of the same technology and e-readers full in an entirely different segment.
Many younger people are growing up with full color touchscreen devices from a very early age. We hear from parents all the time that their three year old is playing with their iPad. Who will grow up from these high level color interactive devices and go with an e-reader? I would say it would be the same amount of young adults these days that use the computer all day long and never read a book.
Tablet sales in a whole are doing billions of dollars each year and e-readers continue to sell well, but is there a glass ceiling? Tablets have more of an innate ability to provide stronger processing and visual power then e-readers are able to provide. The Tablet PC space is accelerating rapidly and dual cores and more then 1 GIG of RAM is commonplace now. In 2012 will we see the new Nvidia Kal El Tegra 3 Quad Core Processor in many tablets AND smartphones. This will be a huge increase in performance on a hardware level and provide content developers with a higher range of options to deliver better experiences. This means PC quality gaming and full application suites such as Photoshop and Dreamweaver. Not to mention all of the different app companies drooling over the prospect of developing better quality content.
Tablets have really matured in 2010 and 2011. e-Readers, not so much. We basically have the same amount of RAM, Pixel Resolution, screen refresh rate and even the processors. The technology found in almost 90% of all e-readers is basically stagnant. Of course Freescale constantly releases new processors and e-Ink Pearl is found in more readers, but there is no quantum leap in the core hardware.
I think in 2012 unless color e-ink Triton is available in more devices the technology cannot effectively move forward and still remain low cost. Bookeen is doing very interesting things with displaying high frame rate video and a next gen web browsing. There is room to move in the e-reader sphere and if they can adapt color, audio, video and a better internet experience. If the technology basically remains the same and we see only the same small increases in hardware, it might not be enough to continue to the strong sales figures. After all, we have have done many polls lately on what devices people read the most on, tablets led by a wide margin.
2012 will be a very interesting year and e-Ink Holdings projects that they will have enough record year. The company is doing well, but how will the industry as a whole mature? Will tablets continue to chip away at the market share and will more people gravitate towards the Kindle Fire, Nook Color 2 and Kobo Vox? I guess, we’ll see.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.