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Survey: iPad, Kindle dominating e-Reader market

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By Charles Starrett

Contributing Editor
Published: Tuesday, November 30, 2010
News Categories: iPad

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According to the results of the latest ChangeWave survey, the Apple iPad and Amazon Kindle are dominating the e-Reader market, despite differences in the devices’ usage patterns. When asked what eBook reader they currently owned, 47 percent said the Kindle—down 15 percent since the prior survey—while 32 percent said they owned an iPad, double the 16 percent of the market it held in August. Other entrants in the market included the Sony Reader at five percent and the Barnes and Noble Nook at four. In terms of customer satisfaction, 75 percent of iPad owners said they were “very satisfied” with their device, compared to just 54 percent of Kindle owners; overall satisfaction numbers, which include both “very” and “somewhat” satisfied responses, were even at 96 percent.

Another question the survey posed was what type of content users read on their respective devices. While Kindle owners were more likely to read books on their device than iPad users—at a count of 93 percent to 76 percent, respectively, iPad owners were nearly five times more like to read newspapers and magazines than Kindle owners, and 15 times more likely to read blogs and news feeds using their devices. Finally, while just five percent of respondents said they were very likely to buy an e-Reader over the next 90 days—10 percent said they were somewhat likely—42 percent of those respondents said they were most likely to purchase an iPad, compared to 33 percent who said they were most likely to buy a Kindle. The survey was completed November 8 and included responses from more than 2,800 consumers.

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Comments

1

The iPad and Kindle may target different market segments:

* Kindle: For people mainly interested in reading eBooks.
* iPad: For people with more varied usage preferences. Some may use the eBook features part of the time, but this is probably not the main reason for purchasing an iPad.

Therefore, there might be not much real competition between the products, if not:

* The eBook customers “warm up” to the additional functionality of the iPad
* And the iPad is considered a “good enough” e-reader for the eBook customers

The eBook community tend to perceive e-ink technology (as used on the Kindle) as superior to LCD technology (as used on the iPad), therefore the iPad may be dismissed as a “serious” e-reader. This has some merit, but it depends on the usage scenario:

* In bright sunlight, e-ink technology wins (as illustrated in the brilliant Kindle commercial).
* However, in a darkened room (reading in bed without disturbing your partner), LCD technology wins because it is not dependent on an external light source.
* In “normal” light conditions, both technologies work well. It is often mentioned that e-ink is less tiresome because of higher resolution and no “ghosting” (parallax) effects, but this is probably a myth.

The most surprising result of the survey, was the low Nook market share. Personally, I like the Nook, but the non-existent international availability will probably be it’s downfall. You cannot afford to ignore the international market, something both Apple and Amazon understand.

Posted by NilsO on December 1, 2010 at 2:19 AM (PDT)

2

In addition to the international aspects, I think another thing killing the nook is consumer orientation around the respective companies. Today, B&N dominates brick & mortar book sales, Amazon dominates everything else. When most think looking up a book online and ordering it, they think Amazon. When they think of getting into their car or on a bus and traveling to a store, browsing the stock, and then buying a book, that’s when they think B&N.

Also, I’d go one further then #1 there: In truth, an iPad shouldn’t even be classified as an e-Reader if the owner hasn’t purchased at least two books and actually read one of them. An iPad is just a multi-function device, the Kindle or Nook are undoubtedly e-Readers bought for that function. Without the accompanying purchases to demonstrate intent, there’s as much reason to compare an iPad sale to a Kindle’s sale as comparing a touch or an iPhone sale with a Kindle’s sale. I’m sure plenty have purchased the iPad with the intent of using it as an e-Reader, but plenty have purchased without even caring, and then there’s people like my wife who chose to get an iPad after waffling for a few months about getting a Nook, and then never buying a single eBook several months later wink

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on December 1, 2010 at 5:28 AM (PDT)

3

Very good observations from #2 here. I have both an iPad and an iPhone, and often switch between them when reading eBooks, due to the fact that the iPhone is always available, whereas the iPad may be left at home or used by other family members. Also, the iPhone is more handy when in bed. Reading eBooks on an iPhone works remarkably well, although I would not recommend reading an entire novel on the iPhone. Still, iPhones (and smartphones in general) are usually not regarded as eBook readers.

This makes market share analysis difficult. Not all iPads (and certainly not all smartphones) will ever be used as eBook readers.

Another aspect should also be mentioned: The iPad’s flexibility. The iPad can function both as a Kindle and a Nook (and as Apple’s own iBooks e-Reader), whereas “native” Kindles or Nooks are locked to their respective eBook vendors. This opens up for better competition, the customer can shop a particular eBook where it is available or cheapest. Granted, this means 3 different eBook Apps, each with it’s own library and user interface. This is not optimal, but my own experience (I use them all) is that this is no big problem, except remembering which e-Reader contains the particular book I wish to read.

Posted by NilsO on December 1, 2010 at 7:28 AM (PDT)

4

Flexibility is important, but it works in both directions. The fact that I can use Kindle purchases just about anywhere because Amazon understands opening up their platform is a big factor in Amazon’s favor (compared to Apple’s standard i-Device only silliness). How this continues to trend in the future is going to have a lot of affect on the stability and longevity of the platforms as e-Readers.

Monetary value also can’t be discounted easily. That $140 Kindle is going to function just fine as an e-Reader for years to come and there’s not really much in the way of things likely to fail, but even if they should, the price is now getting into “mostly painless replacement” territory. The same cannot be said of the iPad.

While that $500 (and up) iPad may work just fine as an e-Reader for years to come in theory, the longevity of the product is still up in the air. More importantly, its role as a multifunction device will affect its longevity in more practical terms: though it might, in theory, function great as an e-Reader for however long it continues to function, the truth is that it’s not going to continue to function very well as an iPad in all its glory for more than a couple of years. This is a double edged sword as the feasibility of the iPad as an e-Reader when compared to the Kindle has to take this into account: you can’t very well buy the iPad over the Kindle unless you place a premium value on the other functions, but if you do place a good value on the other functions, you have to consider it’s going to need replacement every three years on the outside to remain a decent iPad. Conversely, even if you upgraded a Kindle every single year for some reason, that would still be cheaper than replacing an iPad every third year (and, in practice, it will probably only be necessary to replace a Kindle when it actually fails, even eBooks are rather low tech).

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on December 1, 2010 at 8:00 AM (PDT)

5

Not necessarily. The Kindle is quite flimsy, and might easily break or malfunction. Also, the Kindle steadily improves with each new model. You might not be satisfied with a 1st generation Kindle next year. A Kindle color might even be in the works.

Environmentalists beware: e-readers might save some trees, but the race to keep up in the gadget evolution means that millions of e-readers need to be produced every year. A gadget geek will upgrade every year, whereas more conservative users might upgrade every three years. But only very frugal users will keep their gadgets more than 4-5 years.

Posted by NilsO on December 1, 2010 at 2:15 PM (PDT)

6

“Not necessarily” in this case isn’t much of a counter argument wink Kindle’s can break and/or malfunction all they want, they’re still considerably cheaper than iPad as far as an e-Reader goes.

$189 gets you the “top shelf” with 3G (free for life I might add) Kindle. $629 gets you the entry level 3G enabled iPad (with data plans costing at least 15/month). Just a single year’s connectivity for an iPad is effectively as expensive as a 3G Kindle for however long you hold onto it.

Ignoring 3G connectivity, you’re comparing $139 to at least $499 - that Kindle can break and/or be upgraded four times for the entry cost of an iPad.

And you seem to be willfully ignoring the simplicity of the Kindle in your observation. They *aren’t* for gadget freaks, and just like how I can read my 30 y.o. B&W paperbacks without losing anything today, or in another 30 years, the paperback sized Kindle is going to function just as well at that purpsose at any point it continues to function. What exactly am I going to upgrade it for? Sure, a color Kindle will be attractive at the right price for periodicals, but those are going to be for niche users initially, and probably be more like how an iPad doesn’t replace a touch or other iDevice, it simply becomes another piece of the gadget home.

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on December 1, 2010 at 4:22 PM (PDT)

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