iPad gains on Kindle for e-reader lead in U.S.

Apple tablet owners more likely to love their gizmo, says U.S. consumer survey

Apple's iPad is challenging Amazon's Kindle for the lead in the U.S. e-reader market, a retail research firm said today.

But while iPad ownership among readers of electronic books still lags behind the Kindle, users of Apple's tablet are more satisfied with their devices, said ChangeWave's director of research Paul Carton.

According to ChangeWave's survey earlier this month of more than 2,800 American consumers, 75% of iPad owners said they were "very satisfied" with their tablets. Kindle owners, meanwhile, were less kind: Just 54% answered the same when asked how they felt about Amazon's e-reader.

However, when the "somewhat satisfied" numbers are added to each device's total, the race is much tighter, with the iPad leading the Kindle by 96% to 92%.

The iPad may be more than three times pricier than the Kindle -- Apple's least-expensive tablet costs $499, while Amazon's current Kindle starts at $139 -- the iPad has doubled its share of the e-reader market since August, said Carton, and is now within 15 percentage points of the Kindle.

"The Amazon Kindle is hanging on to a rapidly diminishing lead over the Apple iPad among current e-reader owners," said Carton in a research note published to the ChangeWave site Tuesday.

ChangeWave's November consumer survey pegged the iPad's share of the U.S. e-reader market at 32%, up 16 percentage points since August, and put the Kindle at a 47% share, down 15 points from August's 62%.

"The e-reader market has essentially become a two-horse race between the Kindle and the iPad," said Carton, who noted that the also-rans -- Sony's Reader and Barnes and Noble's Nook -- collectively accounted for only 9% of the market.

And Apple has the high ground in the next 90 days, Carton said as he pointed out other survey results.

Of those consumers who said that they plan to buy an e-reader in the next three months, 42% told ChangeWave that they would purchase an iPad. One-in-three, or 33%, picked the Kindle.

"The iPad will be the biggest beneficiary of the expanding e-reader market this holiday season," said Carton.

The e-reader business is expected to expand even more in 2011, when some analysts believe prices for devices with black-and-white displays will drop to as low as $50.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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