Paltry eReader lineup at CES 2011, eReaders vs Tablets

The Kindle and Nook Color have little to fear so far.

Mirasol’s Color eReader is mighty impressive – and not scheduled to release until Q3, 2011. Pixel Qi is pretty impressive too – except the lowest priced version of the Pixel Qi screen Adam tablet is $499.

Which means that until Q3, 2011, iPad 2 is the only real threat to Nook Color, and Nook 2 is the only real threat to Kindle 3. Apart from those two potential giants, there are just a couple of minor threats.

The Paltry line-up of eReaders at CES 2011

As compared to CES 2010, when there were dozens of eReaders being shown off, there are just a few eReaders being shown at CES 2011 -

  • The Eee Pad Memo is a very impressive eReader + eWriter – Except, it uses a LCD instead of eInk and is priced between $499 and $699.
  • iRiver has the new Story HD eReader – a 6″ eReader with 1024 by 768 screen resolution. It supports WiFi, and also supports ePub and PDF with Adobe DRM. It has 3 weeks of battery life. It’ll be available in Q2, 2011. Not really much of a threat.
  • Aluratek has its Libre Air eReader – an eReader with a 5″ reflective TFT LCD screen, WiFi, and a $130 price point. Hardly a threat.

If you’re counting, that’s 5 eReaders and eReader-threatening tablets in all of CES 2011. Two of those, Eee Pad Memo and Notion Ink Adam, are closer to Tablets than to eReaders, and priced at $499. Another 2 of those, iRiver Story HD and Aluratek Libre Air, aren’t much of a threat.

That means we have just one new eReader which is a danger to existing eReaders and Reading Tablets. That eReader, Mirasol, doesn’t arrive until Q3, 2011, and might turn out to be the Kindle 4 – which means Kindle would be in zero danger.

Thanks to Engadget for covering eReaders at CES 2011.

There’s so little happening with eReaders at CES 2011, we can’t even do an entire post. Let’s look at other eReader news.

B&N is beginning to beat Amazon in the Vagueness Contest

B&N issued a press release, on January 3rd, to announce that it had a great holiday quarter. It gave no specifics, and said that details would be released in a later January 6th press release. Until Amazon releases a press release that does nothing except announce a future press release, B&N’s Vaguest Press Release Crown is intact.

Well, it’s the 6th, and here are the details which unsurprisingly reveal nothing about Nook sales figures -

  1. 67% increase in total sales at BN.com, which were $228.5 million.
  2. 8.2% increase in total store sales, which were $1.1 billion.
  3. It sold ‘virtually its entire inventory’ of Nook Color and Nook devices. Which is 2 steps below ‘actually its entire inventory’, and 1 step below ‘not shipping outside US and UK’.
  4. December 23rd was the biggest sales day in the history of B&N. Probably had to do with last-minute Christmas shopping.
  5. Sales in B&N’s Toys & Games Department increased 48% during the holiday season.

On February 22nd, 2011, B&N will discuss in greater detail how it sold virtually its entire inventory of Nooks. It will also attempt to convincingly match Amazon’s habit of Earnings Call Vagueness by not releasing actual Nook sales figures.

One gem, courtesy Publishers Weekly -

B&N CEO William Lynch stated: “Nookcolor was one of the most sought-after gifts this holiday season and has quickly become the bestselling device at Barnes & Noble. 

… 60% of Nookcolor owners are new customers of our Barnes & Noble digital bookstore.”

That suggests at least 40% of the people buying Nook Colors are either using them as Android Tablets and not reading on them, or using Kobo for books, or are rooting them and using Kindle for Android.

Other B&N developments including B&N vs Borders

B&N released a Nook Kids app for the iPad with 100 interactive children’s books available at launch. It’s certainly covering all the bases when it comes to books for children.

B&N is also complaining about the special terms almost-bankrupt Borders is getting from Publishers. That’s interesting – so it’s suggesting that either Publishers give B&N better terms, or let Borders go bankrupt and make B&N super powerful.

Again, courtesy Publishers Weekly -

“We think the playing field should be even,” the B&N statement says.

“We expect publishers to offer same terms to all other booksellers, including Barnes & Noble and independent booksellers.  We fully expect publisher’s will require Borders to pay their bills on the same basis upon which all other booksellers pay theirs.

B&N is being a bit ruthless here. It sees an opportunity to hasten Borders’ slide  into bankruptcy, and is taking advantage.

Are Tablets a threat to eReaders?

With a million different Tablets being introduced, the question is bound to come up – Are all these Tablets a threat to eReaders?

It’s hard to say.

  1. For readers, an eReader will always come first.
  2. For readers who are LCD compatible, a Reading Tablet like Nook Color is very tempting.
  3. For casual readers, it depends on the Tablet. Nook Color is $249. The only three Tablet that look like serious contenders are iPad/iPad 2, Adam, and BlackBerry PlayBook. None of those are close to Nook Color’s $249 price.

Then you’re left with the old argument – ‘Get a device that does more than just read’. Yes, some people will prefer iPad 2 and the Playbook. However, not as many as you’d think.

Firstly, Kindle and Nook are cutting prices relentlessly. Secondly, Nook Color is capable of a lot.

Tablets might take 25% of the reading market. But dedicated eReaders and reading tablets are well-placed to keep the other 75% for themselves.

What about Tablets being a threat to Reading Tablets?

On the surface, there’s little difference. However, the Nook Color focuses you on reading. If you hack it into an Android Tablet, you’ll instantly realize what you’ve lost – that focus on reading. Which is the whole point of making a reading tablet.

So, again, Tablets aren’t really much of a threat to Reading Tablets. If you consider the target customers for a Reading Tablet to be a subset of the people who read 1 or 2 books a month, then the Nook Color is pretty safe.

The big threat to Nook Color will be a Kindle Tablet and color eReaders. General Tablets are not really a threat.

11 Responses

  1. I don’t see why ipad2 is the “only real threat to Nook Color.’ The iPad is not a dedicated reading device. Otherwise, it seems like then just about any tablet device could be considered a rival to Nook Color.

    I have to also say, other than price, if you only read 1-2 books a month, why you would buy a device that is designed to ‘focus you on reading’? 1-2 books a month, unless you read horribly slowly, is just a few hours here and there. It seems uneconomical to buy a device solely for that, vs. buying a multi-purpose device. Also, a lot of the pricing on the tablets at CES has yet to be revealed, and some of them may be significantly below $500.

    • Because there are rumors that iPad 2 will be focused on reading with a special screen type that reduces glare.

      It’s a good argument – why buy a device focused on reading if you read just 1 or 2 books a month. I think a lot of people are buying Kindles and Nook Colors for the heck of it. Then theyll use them and figure things out later.

      • These are just rumors though. So far Apple’s attempts at selling ebooks have been rather half-hearted. I think iPad2 will be more focused on Facetime and video chat than reading.

        They must have a lot of disposable income if they are buying a $250 device ‘for the heck of it’! I’m wondering what Honeycomb tablets are going to be going for at Christmas 2011.

  2. I got a kick out of the “vagueness contest” comment. Spot on, there.

    “60% of Nookcolor owners are new customers of our Barnes & Noble digital bookstore”

    – That means they created new accounts, i.e. 40% of new nook owners had not previously purchased anything (original nook, e-books from apps, physical books) at the BN.com website. Not that they didn’t make e-book purchases.

  3. “Which means that until Q3, 2011, iPad 2 is the only real threat to Nook Color, and Nook 2 is the only real threat to Kindle 3.”

    Unless Google signs a deal with Sony (or anyone).

  4. Paltry Lineup?

    Don’t you think you jumped the gun? CES has only been going on for 1 day. I haven’t even posted anything from today yet.

    • 2 days.

      Last year there were 20+ eReaders announced in the first 2 days. This year there are 2. If you count the leaked Mirasol eReader and the tablet+ereader Adam then it’s 4.

      Why wait for the event to end? It’s not like I have to print a once a month magazine and can’t write another post later.

  5. Okay, where to start…hmmm, perhaps B&N’s “60%of Nook Color buyers are new accounts” does not suggest the other 40% are hacking them into Android tablets but maybe, just maybe, already have a B&N account for their b&w generation 1 Nook. It’s a simple upgrade story.

    Now, about the 1 tablet that’s out there competing for ereaders? Would that be the Samsung Galaxy Tab (an Android device introduced this fall with the same form factor as my Nook)? Or would that “1” only be the iPad and not include the half-dozen Galaxy Tab lookalikes from Chinese manufacturers? Or is there a volume requirement for sales before it’s considered to be on the market…some # in excess of the million & a half Galaxy Tabs?

    As for the “millions” of Android Tablets not posing much threat to ereaders, what happened to the “only 1 tablet” or the comments about how little was coming out of CES? Confusing “analysis” to say the least. And by the way, I’m one of your projected 25% of ereaders who use their Android Tablet as a Nook & Kindle replacement. I haven’t turned my Nook on in a couple of months & have been reading my books on the Android Nook & Kindle apps. (I don’t own a Kindle but I do have an account and a library of Kindle books all accessed on an Android device or my PC.)

    A little more research & a little more thoughtful rumination might yield higher quality blog postings.

  6. The other 40% of the Nook color purchasers might also have previously owned a nook and are now upgrading to a nook color. Also, with multiple devices on one account they might have jumped on a family member’s account rather than repurchase books.

    Just my two cents.

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