Tech analyst firm Gartner reckons e-books will boom next year – provided they overcome hurdles in price, availability and lack of popular mainstream content.
The market-watchers at Gartner have boldly predicted that e-readers and e-books “will dramatically increase in popularity in 2010”.
Barnes & Noble’s Nook is already sold out until January, and as such looks set to be one of the year’s top Christmas gifts for the digerati. Amazon not only put its Kindle onto the world stage last month but has just released a free firmware-based upgrade which adds native PDF support and extended battery life to the ground-breaking e-reader. And then there’s the rumour-that-won’t-go-away Apple tablet reader.
So you could be forgiven for thinking that Garner’s forecast sounds like a statement from the Department for the Bleeding Obvious.
But Gartner has pinpointed a few key areas where the e-reader market needs to pick up its game in order to be the hero category of 2010 and move from the geek elite to becoming “popular consumer electronic devices, culminating in e-reader mania for the 2010 holiday season”.
The readers themselves need to be seen, held and experienced in a wider variety of retail channels, ranging from major retailers to ‘digital lifestyle’ stores, says Allen Weiner, Gartner’s research vice-president.
The price of e-readers needs to drop by 50% before they can achieve lift-off. “At the moment it appears that US$199 will be the lowest price for fully featured e-reading devices for the 2009 shopping season, but prices will need to drop closer to US$99 to gain significant consumer traction.”
Weiner also wants more publishers to jump onto the e-book bandwagon, especially those with high-profile authors. “For example, there’s been news about the success of Dan Brown’s e-book sales of The Lost Symbol
, however other noted authors such as John Grisham and J.K. Rowling do not have their works available as e-books.”
Gartner believes that smartphones could also have a signifciant role to play in the e-book market. While dedicated products like the Kindle and Nook enjoy most of the attention, e-book readers on smartphones “have the potential to become a bridge to other devices such as tablet readers and netbooks.”
“Apple, for example, could migrate the more than 500 book applications in the iTunes store to a tablet device” Weiner suggests. “Google, which recently announced a browser-based e-reader, could offer applications for Android-based devices of various form factors.”