The e-reader has had a hard year: shipments are projectedto fall 36% this year, with competition from cheaper, smaller tablets mounting. The trend of making a smaller tablet started with the BlackBerry PlayBook, which was a failure due to a confusing UI and a lack of apps. Various Android-based tablets in the smaller form-factor were then released, though none had a high enough build quality or the right software to become a popular tablet.
During all of this, Apple’s iPad was selling like gang busters and the idea of a 7″ tablet was widely scorned as being a failure. Also during this time, e-readers continued to experience growth as brands like the Nook and Kindle soared in popularity and sales.
Amazon then released the Kindle Fire, a $199, 7″ tablet which technically ran Android. The Kindle Fire was based on the PlayBook, and ran every Android app that was in Amazon’s app store. With Amazon’s extensive entertainment library and the thousands of available apps, the Kindle Fire was a popular device. However, it was criticized as being both underpowered and laggy, and not in the same category of devices as the iPad. Updated versions of the Kindle Fire were launched roughly two months ago.
Google then released the Nexus 7, a much more full-featured tablet, for the same price at Google I/O this year. This tablet likely solidified the place of the 7″ tablet in the hearts’ of consumers, as the Nexus 7 struck the perfect balance between a small tablet and the features of a larger one. The Nexus 7 continues to sell well.
Apple’s iPad mini launched in November, and has also sold well. Many praise the mini as being the best sub-10″ tablet available, with its high-quality design and armada of powerful apps. However, the iPad mini is more expensive than other options.
With all of these great options, it’s easy to see why the e-reader is on track to see a hit in shipments. For about the same price, one can have a tablet which can browse the web, play games, and do dozens of other tasks that an e-reader simply can’t.
Still, some swear by the e-reader: the e-ink screen is useful for reading, as it eliminates the LCD which can cause eye strain in some people. However, these advantages don’t seem to be enough to stop the platform from experiencing a hit in sales, even after several big launches.