11% of US buying an eReader by Aug 2011?

When the Kindle 3 arrives we’ll probably see a lot more Kindle and eReader coverage – that ought to greatly increase awareness of eReaders and translate into higher eReader sales.

However, there’s a new survey out which suggests eReader awareness and interest are already pretty high. The survey is probably as dependable as a typical survey (totally undependable) but it’s worth looking at.

11% of US customers planning to buy eReaders by Aug 2011?

Wired are using a survey to claim US customers are hungry for Tablets -

Fourteen percent, or 27 million U.S. online consumers, intend to buy some kind of tablet in the next 12 months, says a Forrester research report published Thursday (chart below).

The survey covers 3,990 US consumers (finding another 10 would have made calculations so much easier).

According to the survey 1.9% of consumers already own a Tablet and 14% plan on buying one within the next 12 months. Coverage of the survey by the Press is missing out one little detail.

Interest in eReaders is about as high as interest in Tablets, ownership is more than double

The survey shows that 4% of people surveyed already own a dedicated reading device and another 11% intend to buy one within the next 12 months.

That leads to an interesting situation -

  1. Perhaps the margin of error is a few percentage points which would mean interest in eReaders is about the same as interest in Tablets.
  2. Perhaps the margin of error is less than a percentage point which would mean there are twice as many eReader owners as Tablet owners.

If it’s the latter then eReaders must have sold 6 million or more units. If it’s the former then interest in eReaders could be as high as interest in Tablets (or it could be lower than the stated 11%). The survey suggests that tens of millions of customers in the US plan on buying an eReader in the next 12 months.

Basically, Tablets are neither killing eReaders nor reducing interest in eReaders.

Hey – it’s the same survey everyone’s using to claim Tablets are the ‘it’ device for Christmas season. Surely, you can’t take one part of the survey as gospel and pretend the other part doesn’t apply. 

Could we really have 6 million eReader owners in the US?

Yes, it’s quite possible.

We know that Amazon has sold ‘millions of Kindles’ and Sony had sold 500,000 Sony Readers by March 2009. Nook sold out last Christmas and Kindle 2 had its best sales ever in November and then again in December.We have ebooks accounting for 8.5% of book sales and Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi have sold out.

The most pessimistic projections would say millions of Kindles translates to 1.0001 million Kindles and that all other eReaders together double that to 2 million. However, if you make more reasonable assumptions (neither overly optimistic nor overly pessimistic) you get pretty high worldwide ereader sales estimates (these are from a prior Kindle Sales estimates post) -

  1. 3.9 million Kindles sold.
  2. 1.4 million Nooks sold.
  3. 1.4 million Sony Readers sold.
  4. 0.6 million eReaders from other companies sold.

That’s 7.3 million eReaders. It’s quite possible that 5 to 6 million of these were sold in the US.

Could 11% of US customers really be planning on buying an eReader in the next 12 months?

This one is hard to believe. Wired’s sketchy math says 14% of US consumers translates to 27 million – which would mean 11% of US consumers translates to 21.2 million sales.

Are we really going to see 21.2 million eReader sales in the US in the next 12 months?

7.2 million to 11.2 million seems a far likelier range. If we assume we’ll sell 5 million to 7 million eReaders in the rest of 2010 and 3 to 5 million eReaders in the first 6-7 months of 2011 we get a total of 8 million to 12 million eReaders. That range seems much more reasonable and would be quite good given that eReaders were being pronounced dead in March 2010.

The survey’s predicted 21.2 million sales seems a bit ludicrous. Another survey found that 60% of US consumers were planning on getting an eReader or Tablet within the next 3 years. That 60% figure steps from the realm of fantasy right into the realm of the absurd.

Hundreds of millions of Americans carrying eReaders and Tablets by April 2013? Really?

Basically, all these surveys seem to replace ‘would consider getting an eReader’ with ‘am definitely getting an eReader’ so that they can throw up big numbers and excite everyone. They’re nothing more than malleable tools you can mold and morph into ‘token’ facts which can be used to support your point of view.

The Press is taking a survey that shows about the same total interest in Tablets and eReaders. Its using the survey to claim Tablets are the big new thing while conveniently neglecting to mention eReaders. At the same time it’s continuing to write articles about how Android Tablets will kill eReaders and iPad 2 will kill eReaders – It’s so endearing.

2 Responses

  1. Tablets are primarily displacing netbooks, rather than e-readers. There was an article on one of the tech sites recently, that suggested that one reason was that netbooks are no longer a relative bargain. They’ve changed little in the past couple of years — only incremental improvements, and no price drops. In fact, another couple hundred bucks gets you a full-function laptop.

    You can read on a netbook as well… my first laptop was an old NEC Versa, a little wider (and a LOT thicker) than today’s netbooks, but one of the things I set it up for was to read ebooks off Gutenberg. I named it “bedbug” because I’d read in bed with it. It would be interesting to see how many people read e-books on their portable or even desktop computers.

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