A recent report from the prestigious DigiTimes Research claims that global shipment volumes of e-book readers will drop during the first quarter of 2012 to an estimate of 2 million units. During the fourth quarter of 2011, global e-book shipments reached the impressive figure of 9 million units. Simple math tells us that’s a 77% quarter over quarter decrease in shipments. Is the e-book reader industry dead and gone? Not by far!
During 2011, almost 23 million ebooks were shipped, 9 million of which in the last quarter alone, so it’s safe to assume that the end-of-the-year holiday season heavily contributed to the increase in sales & shipments during Q4 of 2011. But there’s more to the low Q1 2012 figures than just a simple return to normality.
According to the same Digitimes Research report quoted earlier, the introduction of Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet (released November 15, 2011) caused sales of the Kindle e-book reader to drop, so Amazon has now reduced the number of Kindle e-books they’ve ordered from their hardware suppliers. This makes a lot of sense, since the Kindle Fire is not exactly a tablet by the true meaning of the word. Running on a heavily-modified version of Android (with no Android Market, just the Amazon Appstore), the Kindle Fire is still an e-book reader in the customers’ opinion, but with a color touchscreen instead of the E-Ink display, and added overall functionality thanks to the aforementioned Amazon Appstore. The same train of thought applies to the Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet and Nook Color when compared to the original Barnes & Noble Nook e-book reader. They are still e-book readers, not genuine tablets, although the distinction is increasingly harder to make, as time passes and technologies converge.
Even so, it is expected that annual global shipments of e-book readers will increase to north of 60 million units by the end of 2015.