Apparently eReaders are not as endangered as the iPod Touch

We have another survey of questionable origins being used as evidence to support the supposed demise of eReaders. This one however cuts both ways. It’s a Morgan Stanley/Alphawise survey from March 2010.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Surveys

This is a survey that questioned customers and collated results from consumers who planned on buying an iPad. Note that these are customers ‘planning on buying an iPad’ so it’s even more unreliable than normal surveys.

The results were –

  1. 44% of US consumers who were planning on buying an iPad were buying it instead of a notebook computer or a netbook. Of those over half (24% chunk out of 44% chunk) were going to buy an iPad instead of an Apple Macbook.  
  2. 41% of US consumers planning on buying an iPad chose it instead of an iPod Touch. 
  3. 28% of US consumers planning on buying an iPad chose an iPad instead of an eReader. 
  4. 27% of US consumers were planning on buying an iPad instead of a desktop. Of those over half (14% chunk) were going to buy an iPad instead of a Mac.

Those figures add up to more than 100% (140% to be precise) because consumers probably considered 2 or 3 choices. This is interesting because it means people were even less serious about reading – If you want a device to read on and you’re deciding between a laptop, a Kindle, and an iPad you’re less likely to be the typical eReader owner.

Is this survey correct?

To be frank it’s a bit of a joke. Customers who are planning to buy something can’t really be used as an accurate measure. We also don’t know how many people were surveyed – How convenient to not mention that or any other details such as the wording of the questions.  

You also have the fact that the numbers add up to much more than 100% because customers were deciding between multiple choices.

If this survey is an accurate gauge of user behavior

We get some fascinating things –

  1. There’s a lot of cannibalization. People planning to buy an iPad chose it over Macbooks (24%), iPod Touches (41%), and Macs (14%). There’s overlap – However, at least 41% of the time these are sales that would probably go to other Apple devices.  
  2. Only 28% of people planning to buy an iPad were considering eReaders. Plus there’s no guarantee they wouldn’t have gotten an iPod touch or a netbook instead of an eReader if the iPad wasn’t available (and they haven’t bought anything yet). 
  3. Only 17% of people planning to buy an iPad were considering handheld video games.
  4. Only 20% were considering notebooks and netbooks.

Isn’t it interesting that the three categories of devices supposed to be most endangered by the iPad (handheld video games, eReaders, netbooks) have such low figures (17%, 28%, and some portion of 20%) while Apple’s own products have much higher figures. 

Not only is the iPad a giant iPod Touch it’s also a giant iPod Touch killer.

The rumored death of Netbooks

Netbooks had a year over year growth rate varying between 180% and 641% in the last 6 months of 2009. The growth rate is now rather low – it fell to just 5% in April 2010, and was never above 68% (January). 

This is being attributed to the iPad. However, it’s worth considering a few things –

  1. It’s probably the unknown i.e. not knowing what’s coming out, that caused a lot of the drop.
  2. If you’re selling 20 million plus netbooks a year it’s unrealistic to expect another year of growth rates between 180% and 641%.
  3. You have to compare total netbook sales with total iPad sales. Since iPad is starting from zero comparing growth rates is rather unfair.  

It’s typical Apple marketing to take a figure like declining growth rate and focus on that. It’d be much less fun to point out that Netbooks outsold the iPad even after all the hype and publicity.

While the iPad did take away a chunk of the netbook market we have to wait and see how big that chunk was and  whether it was the promise of the iPad that stalled sales as opposed to the actual device stealing sales.  

What devices do people who love reading consider?

We’re getting quite a list in the survey – iPod Touches, netbooks, notebooks, eReaders, iPads, desktop PCs.

Do people who read books really consider all of those devices as reading devices?

That’s a good question and it hints at why Apple is pushing the iPad as an eReader. Since it’s a very new market, is not very well-defined, and eInk hasn’t evolved in years, the eReader market is ripe for taking over. All you have to do is change the concept of what an eReader is from ‘a device built for reading’ to ‘a device you can read on’.

That’s exactly what Apple is doing and its smart strategy. It is going to lead to less reading because people with dedicated readers will read more books (it’s not like you can watch a movie instead). However, it sells iPads so Apple will obviously paint it as the best eReader available.

Kindle 3 and Nook 2 and the next generation of Sony Readers have to ramp up their offerings or they might end up losing sales to a device that isn’t even an eReader.

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