Ebooks, at least in the modern sense, are pretty new. In 2008, e-readers began to surface. Lightweight, technologically simple devices designed specifically for digesting digital books, equipped with long battery life and reader-friendly e-ink displays. In 2009, they started to take off.
By last year, ebooks had hit the big leagues: nearly 24 million units were shipped in the US in 2011. It seemed like the iPad, which launched in 2010, wasn't going to kill the e-reader.
But now we can observe that tablets are indeed killing e-reader sales. This year will see an almost 40% drop in units sold, according to new data from iSuppli.
"After spectacular growth in the last few years, the ebook reader market is on an alarmingly precipitous decline, sent reeling by more nimble tablet devices that have gained the ardent patronage of consumers," iSuppli says.
This decline will continue through 2016, at which point the device will be selling a paltry seven million units annually. It won't die, but the e-reader will become a niche product, with tablets taking over as the mainstream, all-in-one counterpart.
"Single-task devices like the ebook are being replaced without remorse in the lives of consumers by their multifunction equivalents, in this case by media tablets," iSuppli says. "And while other uni-tasking devices—like digital still cameras, GPS systems and MP3 players—also face similar pressures and battle dim prospects ahead, all have had a longer time in the sun than ebook readers, demonstrating even more painfully the depth of the ebook reader’s fall."