The Death of the eReader

ebookereadersalesI think I’m a prophet. At least when it comes to the future of books and eReaders (like the Kindle or Nook).

A prophet that has the impressive power to tell… the present.

As I was swirling around in my office chair, ruminating about eReaders and how they’re probably going to be obsolete in the next few years, BAM.

A study conducted by IHS iSuppli confirms that eReader sales have dropped by 36% this year and are expected to plunge another 27% next year.

The reason?

The tablet tornado

Despite all of the innovation behind the incredible “e-ink” technology that apparently no one was able to develop until decades after the first personal computer, Amazon’s top scientists forgot one thing: people don’t care about reading stuff on screens anymore.

eReader Sales. Source: IHS iSuppli
eReader Sales.

As screen resolution becomes increasingly higher-def, there’s theoretically less eyes strain when you read something on a screen, be it monitor or tablet.

Not only that, we’re increasingly moving toward what tech people are calling a “one screen” user experience.

Anything that we can’t do everything with is going to become obsolete. In this case, that means the lowly Kindle, Nook, and other eReaders.

Ereader sales mean a lot for authors

In 2012:

  • 14.9 million eReaders were shipped
  • 120 million tablets were shipped

In 2016:

  • 7.1 million eReaders will be shipped
  • 340 million tablets will be shipped

Just as books abruptly piled up on the internet over the past few years, vanishing without a papery trace, boring, black-and-white ebooks could follow.

The problem with someone reading something on a tablet as opposed to an eReader is the same  problem you’re having while reading this blog entry:

You’re distracted

There’s stuff to click. There are social media accounts and email to check. There are videos of cats in hats to watch.

When books are read on tablets, authors aren’t just competing with other books. They’re competing with every kind of media available, all of the time.

Publishers already know that ebooks on tablets are a double-edged sword, with a blade for a hilt.

According to Forrester Research:

  • 46% of publishers believed tablets were an ideal ebook platform in 2011
  • 31% of publishers believed tablets were an ideal ebook platform in 2012

What the heck is a book?

Over the next decade, everyone’s going to be scratching their head, wondering what, exactly, defines books.

As tablets absorb most ebook sales, it will be interesting to see how publishers and writers react. Here are my predictions:

The breakdown

1. Tangible books will get more popular as people choose to immerse themselves in a calmer medium.

2. Multimedia experiences will be critical to sustaining a reader’s attention on tablets

3. Start-ups will help energize a “book” revolution to redefine how we experience a writer’s creation

4. Books are going to get shorter

5. Everything about the way ebooks are distributed is going to change

6. Change isn’t going to happen as lightning-fast as sensational headlines predict: people will keep reading on eReaders and tangible books to escape the buzz of their other devices. Keep writing.

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eReader Photo Credit: jblyberg

7 thoughts on “The Death of the eReader

  1. Interestingly, when I was in Waterstones book shop yesterday, there was one person at their e-reader desk while the queue of people buying actual books swirled around the shop like a neverending snake.

    1. I think “you’ve got to live it because you’ve got to live it” are very wise words: as writers, we’re going to have to learn to swim with the tide, to whichever sea it ends up bringing us.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. I’m not surprised that e-reader sales are slowing as tablet sales rise. Now that I have an iPad with the Kindle app, I’ve pretty much forgotten my Sony Reader exists. It’s in a drawer somewhere, and I haven’t looked at it in months. But I don’t think that e-books will disappear. I was out yesterday on a train, and finished the book I was reading. All I had to do was click on another book, and I was reading a new one within seconds. Would I have left the house with TWO paperbacks in my purse? No. But with my iPad, I can read as many books as I like, and also get some work done. It’s just convenient to carry around.

    Everyone has a different reading preference, and I think that will open the market up to more options in the future. Maybe more books will be available on audio…perhaps there will be all-new formats that we have yet to imagine. The future of publishing is pretty exciting.

    1. Hi Holly,

      I agree — I think that books as we know them will be consumed in a lot of different formats. Some people will be diehard paperback fans and others will love the ease and black-and-white display of the ereader… then a lot of people will always reach for their tablet or even smartphone.

      I’m worried about the burden that this can put on writers, but if publishers act as the force to both help publish and promote through all of these channels, it could be awesome.

      I’m excited and apprehensive at the same time, haha.

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