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.
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 email@example.com.