After spectacular growth in the last few years, the ebook reader market is on an alarmingly precipitous decline, sent reeling by more nimble tablet devices that have gained the ardent patronage of consumers, according to an IHS iSuppli Consumer Electronics special report from information and analytics provider IHS.
Shipments of ebook readers by year-end will fall to 14.9 million units, down a steep 36 percent from the 23.2 million units in 2011 that now appears to have been the peak of the ebook reader market. Another drastic 27 percent contraction will occur next year when ebook reader shipments decline to 10.9 million units. By 2016, the ebook reader space will amount to just 7.1 million units—equivalent to a loss of more than two-thirds of its peak volume in 2011.
The rapid growth—followed by the immediate collapse—of the ebook market is virtually unheard of, even in the notoriously short life cycle of products inhabiting the volatile consumer electronics space. Unknown to consumers before 2006, ebook reader shipments skyrocketed for the next few years after first thrilling readers with a portable device they could take anywhere. From 2008 to 2010, shipments grew from 1.0 million to 10.1 million, up by a factor of 10.
In contrast, tablets are enjoying unstoppable growth, mostly thanks to the Apple iPad, which made its appearance in 2010. Tablet shipments will hit 120 million units in 2012 only after two short years of the device being on the market, and 340 million systems are expected by 2016—a magnitude of sales exceeded just by mobile handsets.
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