Hot e-reader sales will continue into 2011, Gartner says

Market projected to grow by 68% growth in 2011 despite increasing competition from media tablets like Apple iPad, Galaxy Tablet

Global sales of e-readers like Amazon.com's Kindle will reach 6.6 million devices by the end of 2010, and then jump 68% to 11 million devices in 2011 as it battles popular media tablets such as Apple's iPad, Gartner said Wednesday.

The dramatic growth projected for 2011 follows an 80% jump from 2009 to 2010, Gartner noted. About 3.6 million e-readers were sold in 2009.

Amazon's Kindle are driving e-reader sales -- accounting for some 45% to 50% of all e-reader sales, according to anaysts from analyst firms, including Forrester Research and Yankee Group.

Yankee has predicted sales of million e-readers for 2010 , nearly matching Gartner's projection. Both firms define the e-reader market as separate from the market for media tablets like the iPad or Samsung's Galaxy Tablet.

North America will account for some 4 million e-reader sales in 2010, or nearly two-thirds of the worldwide total, Garner said. Hughes de la Vergne, an analyst at Gartner, said North America will remain a key e-reader market through 2014.

E-readers generally tend to be lower cost and smaller than media tablets, and have a longer battery life. Most are still black and white, though Barnes & Noble introduced the color Nook e-reader this fall. Media tablets are the biggest threat to e-readers, Gartner said, primarily because they can be used for so many of the functions that are seen in many laptops.

Allen Weiner, another Gartner analyst, said e-reader makers will need to retain a price advantage to remain competitive. The third generation Kindle sells for $139, compared to an iPads starting price of $499.

Google this week announced Google eBook and eBookstore while Amazon.com announced an update for the Kindle for the Web application.

Both systems allow reading of books on a range of devices, not just e-readers, and invite readers to buy books from their separate e-book warehouses.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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