back to article Tablets to eclipse e-book readers

Tablets will outsell e-book readers this year, and will continue to put even more distance between the two gadgets over the next two years. By 2012, tablets will outsell readers four to one. So says market watcher IDC, which is expecting sales this year of 17m iPads, Galaxy Tabs and co., and 10.8m Kindles and its like. Here' …


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  1. Thomas Wolf

    Where do these figures come from?

    The article states that Amazon has sold 1.1/10.8 million units. Where does the author get the information from as Amazon famously doesn't divulge this information? So, at best it's some statistical "guess".

    1. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Where do these figures come from?

      FYI, 1.1m is Amazon's Q3 2010 total. 10.8m is the 2010 total e-book reader sales, across all vendors.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    dunno about that

    If you want to read books, you won't get red eyes reading on a kindle. A backlit screen forces you to look away/move your eyes every couple of minutes and makes you more tired.

    so much that I am transitioning towards buying myself a kindle...

  3. bigjokerfish

    Better ebooks please

    I'd predict that ebook readers will do what the ipod did, they'll start with no additional functionality and slowly gain pictures, video, little apps until finally the front runners are indistinguishable from the back end of the tablet market.

    I hope this does come true so that I can read my picture laden PDFs, CDisplay comics in a nice, colour, high res format without having to pay a phenomenal premium in both cash and battery life for an ipad-esque slab.

    In short, as long as ebook readers continue to improve without making massive battery life sacrifices, they'll continue to sell - but in their own place in the market - with the ipod.

    And really - just because they're a similar size and shape, why compare ebooks with fondle slabs? It's like comparing an MP3 player to a PC - yes they both play music but PCs will probably always outsell MP3 players

    1. FARfetched


      eBook readers and tablets are two different critters. There's some overlap, which may be unavoidable due to near-identical form factors, but they're really meant for different functions.

      Bottom line: I have a Kindle and an iPad, and I do the vast majority of my reading on the Kindle. As if I can ever pry the iPad out of the hands of all the hangers-on at FAR Manor anyway.

      1. DrXym Silver badge

        Not really that different

        The B&N Nook is already basically a glorified android tablet and more book readers will follow suit. So they're not that far removed.

        While e-ink has it's advantages (low power consumption, high readability), tablets can simply do more than just read books and that's suit more people. Ereaders have a price advantage but not as much as it should be and cheap tablets will steamroller over that soon enough.

        I expect once reflective mode LCDs pick up steam (e.g. Pixel Qi's), there will be precious little reason for e-ink to exist in its current incarnation. Of course someone might produce an e-ink with a high refresh rate but for the time being the market is going towards LCD devices.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ereader price must come down dramatically

      The 8" eInk on my irex is barely enough to read a proper PDF, and I have a lot of those to read. Too bad the thing is already dying on me after mere weeks of light use. But then it was a second hand buy. Thing is, eInk is still Far Too Expensive for the niche that the iPad and other tablets are leaving. That's of course a bit of a bummer for the technology; getting pushed out by a similar but not quite the same form factor and application appliance using established and therefore cheap technology. Drop down the price to, say, 350 for an ereader with an a4 sized screen* and 150 for one with an a5 sized screen*, hitting 120 and 50 inside a couple years, and there may still be a market for these things, iPad prices willing. Oh, and do something about the interface. irex truely is** a philips spinoff in that they got the engineering licked but fscked up everything else down to the manual, and most damningly, the user interface.

      * Slightly longer than that for the inevitable permanently on-screen menus.

      ** Was, they're apparently dead. Why doesn't plastic logic buy up the remnants? Drop the price and add some user interface sauce and they'd have their first product ready for shipping inside half a dozen months. Give a breather on the learning Russian front, it would.

      1. Geoff Campbell

        @ AC Pricing Fail

        "Drop" the price to £150? Even if you meant $150, you fail, because the Kindle is currently £109, and the much better built Sony PRS-305 not much pricier at £130.


        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Dear Geoff

          Please do tell, what size screens do the devices you mention have? Can you find eInk devices with _a4_ or even _a5_ sized screens for those prices? I did indeed fail to find devices with that spec for that price. Last time I checked even the second hand price of a device with a suitably large screen was well above what you quote.

          The currently popular smaller-screened devices are fine for "eBooks" that are suitable for reformatting, such as fiction, but not so suitable for showing the original page layout and still have the text remain readable. And sometimes, that is what is needed. I happen to have a lot of such material to read, and so I naturally would prefer a large-screened reader. Did I somehow miss a suitably cheap device with such a nice and large eInk screen?

  4. Timfy67

    In other news...

    ... apples to outsell oranges.

    Consumers buy book readers as they are terrific devices on which to read books, eink displays, 1 month battery life etc.

    Consumers buy tablets as they are terrific devices to do things that don't quite warrant firing up the laptop, bit of facebook, quick email and a trip to you tube

    I can access the internet on my Kindle... it drives me batshit within five seconds.

    I can read books on my tablet... it will send me blind in 5 seconds.

    apples / oranges

    1. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: In other news...

      If your eyes are so feeble as to risk going blind looking at a tablet, you should turn off your effing monitor...

      1. Anonymous Coward

        "Put that light out!"

        Indeed, I just turn the backlit down a bit at night and avoid direct sunlight during the day (being in the UK the latter is depressingly easy).

        Mobile computing is here (after almost 15 years of product initiatives) and very popular thanks to the mainstream breakthrough of the isNotAMobilePhone (or just plain old iPhone). Nice thought I'm sure the Kindle and such products are, the wider world has woken to the fact that they don't need to take two or more bottle in to their showers and they'll not likely want to lose the freed up pocket space.

        Now if you're worried about blindness just wait for those contact lens displays, or laser displays drawing on to your retinas... [/drools].

      2. Mahou Saru

        Too much and I might go blind!!!

        @Tony Smith - I dunno about others, but when I get into a book and can easily do an eight hour stint with the reader about 10 - 15 inches from my nose. Can't do that with a shiny screen!

      3. Bear Features


        You don't stare at a monitor like a book. Different products.

    2. Magnus Ramage


      If they're making you go blind, don't read those sort of books then!

    3. DrXym Silver badge

      LCDs are okay but useless outside

      I'm in favour of LCDs over e-ink in general but there's no denying how useless they are outdoors or in bright sunlight. E-ink might be as slow and monochromatic but it does produce a highly readable display. I am hoping that LCDs will commonly include a reflective mode (e.g. Pixel Qi) so people can have the best of both worlds - watch indoors with a backlight, watch outside or on low power with reflective.

  5. Simon Bullough


    the point being??

    If you want to read books go for an ereader. I got my Kindle over the weekend - didn't even consider buying a tablet to do the job - jack of all trades, master of none!!

    The only thing I was torn between was a Sony or a Kindle...!!

  6. jay_bea

    Re: dunno about that

    Having used a Kindle for a few weeks now, I can't see it being replaced by a tablet, although I might get a tablet as well at some point. It is a pleasure to use a device where the first thought is not where the power socket it and is easy on the eyes.

    I think that there are limits to convergence. I can see Tablets replacing Netbooks, as many of the functions are similar. I won't be replacing my Thinkpad with a tablet as I want a big screen and keyboard for writing reports and working on spreadsheets when travelling. This means that the household will end up with PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones, MP3 players and Kindles. A common power supply for them all would be good though!

  7. Timfy67
    Dead Vulture

    Easy Tony...

    I don't think that there is any doubt about the effects on eyesight when using backlit display technology.

    Read 10 point text for an hour on a backlit device... even the manufacturers tell you to rest your eyes every fifteen minutes. Now try the same with e-ink... oh, thats better isn't it?

    And thats the simple point we're making.

    PS my eyes are in no way enfeebled and I don't think I need to turn off my "effing monitor" Thanks for the input though.

  8. MrJP

    I agree with most of the above...

    ...If money was no object I'd rather use a dedicated, quality (Kindle etc) e-reader to read an e-book. To paraphrase something else I once read (on my PC that time), "I don't want the book I'm reading to "ping" everytime my email account gets a new message." And in the same way, I don't want my browser to be in B&W either. I have to agree, just because they happen to have similar form factor and *some* similarities in function, this doesn't warrent a head-to-head comparison.

    What I find kind of frustrating is that I could find out pretty much everything about an iPad by just watching the TV ad breaks a couple of times. Then one day I saw 35 seconds of absolute non-sensical, flashing garbage that p*ssed me off only to see "Kindle by Amazon" splashed on the final screen...w...t...f...No voiceover, no dialogue whatsoever, no shots of the actual product, no spec, nothing, aaarrrrggggghhhhh. I know Apple are one of the greatest marketing machines on the planet but I really could have done much, much better for the Kindle than Amazon did. Shame!

  9. David Lucke

    Avoid tired eyes with tablet ebooks

    For the love of god, people! Its not that hard!

    Switch the reader on the tablet to have white text on a dark background (as can be done with every single reader on the market). No more tired eyes (and if you eyestrain after using your monitor for too long, the same thing fixes that).

    1. Pigeon

      Its harder than that

      I haven't got an e-book yet, but on a CRT monitor, I find anything with a black background unreadable. If it is a website, I assume it is junk/weird, and leave. The most amazing (unwanted) things happen to your eyes when they are tired or old. Mine have been looking at various types of CRT monitors since they appeared around 1980 or so, and I still like the green monitors best.

      1. The Brave Sir Robin

        Showing my age

        but I used to love the amber CRT VT100 terminals I used to use back in the late 80's. Ah those were the days, programming in C using nothing but the command line and good old vi editor.

        Back on topic though, I've been reading electronically for a while now, using my Dell Axim pocket PC, my ASUS EEE PC and my HTC Desire to read. However, since I got my Kindle for Xmas, I've not looked back. I won't go back to reading novels on a backlit screen again. The Kindle screen is so restful and I can still use it at night due to the clever case I bought with a retractable LED light on in. Kindle is definitely the way to go for people like me with poor ageing eyes.

    2. Rattus Rattus

      White text on black

      Exactly! I can read books for hours at a time on my Nexus One when I switch to white-on-black. The default of black-on-white leaves my eyes sore and watering within a couple of pages.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A couple of questions

    1. What's the definition of "tablet" and what's the definition of "e-book reader"? Currently the typical tablet has an LCD display and lets you install apps, while the typical e-book reader has an electronic ink display and doesn't let you install apps, but I rather suspect that both categories are going to mutate fairly rapidly over the next few years, particularly as screen technology evolves.

    2. Does anyone know why Amazon, who actively sells paper books in several other countries, has hardly tried to sell Kindles outside the USA and the UK?

  11. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Apples to - well kindles

    It is a fair comparison, the only real ebook reader is the Kindle and the only tablet worth having in the last year is the iPad.

    People look at a $200 kindle and think, well for $500 I could have an iPad that does colour and movies and t'internet. Your average iPad/Kindle buyer at the moment is the early adopter (aka flash-git) who isn't short of the odd $300.

    There's also the problem of supply, to get a kindle for xmas here you had to have pre-ordered when it was announced in September, and no sneakily buying one from the US and trying to ship it.

    When kindle does colour (the prototype is good enough to read comics) and you can buy Android tablets for $200 the race will be on.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Already happening

      Granted, it's cheap Chinese crap, but just yesterday a certain one-day-one-deal outfit sold 7" colour tft android tablets for about 110 USD. Elsewhere you could get the same thing for USD 170 or so. Modulo taxes and shipping and such, of course. Bigger screens can be had for some 300 and prices are wont to drop as the volume cranks up.

      Just hope the kindle runs enough volume to get eInk prices down some, or the technology is going to get sidelined in a hurry. Which would be a pity. But perhaps a tablet with one of pixelqi's 3qi dual day/night mode screens would make for a nice ereader/tablet combo. The rest of the hardware would have to be less boring than an atom netbook though.

  12. Bear Features


    Pointless stats and pointless article. Despite tablets pretending to be ebook readers, they aren't. These are two different products.

    Organisations have realised there's another product that they can make us buy every 5 mins, tablets! First there was computers, this has slowed up and they are lasting longer, mobile phones are going outof date as soon as you buy it, now ... tablets!

    My ebook reader replaces a book. I don't ever want it to check email, or do anything else. And I certainly don't want anything other than e-ink. I hope I won't have to replace it as often as I do tablets/netbooks et al. So of course, tablets will outsell them.

    Different products.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    I think the point...

    I think the point is that if someone has a tablet, what proportion of that tablet owning population will *also* by an ebook reader for reading ebooks.

    I think there is some legitimate debate in this area.

    Of course, if you just want to read ebooks, then the ebook readers are the best choice.

  14. Richard Porter


    "I can read books on my tablet... it will send me blind in 5 seconds."

    That depends on whay else you're doing at the same time ;)

  15. Richard Porter

    Chalk and Cheese

    I'm not buying an e-reader until it will let me scroll the text like an autocue, but you can't do that with "electronic ink". What's the point of an electronic book if you're stuck with all the limitations of printing on paper, to wit pages?

  16. Charles 9 Silver badge

    So what happens...

    ...when a tablet comes along with a color e-ink display? Then the two will REALLY converge since you'll have an all-readable display capable of doing a lot more than just reading (if you choose). All in the same common form factor shared between the devices.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      @So what happens.

      Colour is easy (at least low end color) the problem is speed.

      An e-ink display isn't going to be scrolling text or handling mouse pointers any time soon.

      Then there's the problem of input. Leaving off the touch screen - especially a resistive one - makes the display a lot clearer

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Not so slow.

        There are already several persistent color displays being developed, all of which can refresh quickly enough for multimedia applications. There's Qualcomm's Mirasol tech which relies on mirrors (and we should be seeing the first devices this year), there's an electrowetting system Reg itself talked about, and there's at least one other that has similar benefits. They're working on it, and it's going to be a matter of sooner rather than later.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    As so many above have said - tablets and e-readers are not mutually exclusive. JP Morgan surveys show 40% of ipad owners also own Kindles and another survey shows 23% of ipaders intend to buy a Kindle. If I choose a smartphone based in part on it's ability to read epub, am I buying a phone, an e-reader, or a small tablet with voice capabilities.

  18. Martin

    OK, so it's not exactly scientific....

    ...but I travel on the tube every day. On each journey, I see maybe two or three people using a kindle - to the extent that I hardly notice them now. I have seen - in total, since they came out - three iPads in use on the tube.

    iPads may be outselling Kindles (though I doubt it), but it seems pretty clear that Kindles are actually being used more.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Photographing an iPad and a Kindle

    I have one of each. I can criticise them both, but I use them both every day. I told a publisher I know I could take some pictures of them displaying books he publishes.

    Photographing the Kindle was easy, indoors or outdoors, and I got some good photos.

    Photographing the iPad turned out to be rather hard because of the reflective screen. I guess the people who take publicity photos for Apple must have some tricks.

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