E-reader Sales Will Double Again This Year, CEA Says

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Just weeks after Amazon announced its Kindle e-reader was the most gifted item ever from its Web site, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) predicted the good times will continue in 2010 as e-reader sales double again.

Shipments of the popular devices are expected to continue their momentum after doubling last year, according to researchers from the CEA, and double again in 2012.

"Expect to see significant offerings in the e-reader category over the next few days," said Shawn DuBravac, director of research at the Consumer Electronics Association, speaking at a meeting in Las Vegas ahead of the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

A number of new companies are expected to announce e-readers during CES this week, and some have already jumped the gun.

Skiff and telecom giant Sprint said they will team up to provide newspapers, magazines and e-books over 3G networks for the Skiff Reader, an e-reader with an 11.5-inch flexible touchscreen created by Skiff and LG Display. Another company, Spring Design, said its Alex eReader, which uses Google's Android OS, will have access to over 1 million books online through a deal with Google. Other companies have announced new e-readers, too, including Interead's Coolreaders.

Glen Burchers, a marketing executive at Freescale Semiconductor, says his company is working with at least 20 different companies trying to bring e-readers to market this year. Freescale makes the chips used in most e-readers, including Kindle, and will display some new e-readers at CES.

Burchers believes estimates for e-reader growth in 2009 were too conservative. Most market researchers targeted about 3 million units in global sales, he says, "but I'd say that number is 25 percent light, at least." Freescale also expects unit shipments to double this year.

Part of the reason he's optimistic is because Freescale plans to launch new e-reader chips this year that will reduce the cost of the materials in an e-reader by about 25 percent. Other companies are also dabbling in new screen technology that could result in a price breakthrough for e-readers, he said.

Price is a major consideration for consumers, according to Allen Weiner, a researcher at Gartner. The lowest price for a full-featured e-reader today is around US$199, but prices will need to drop to about $99 to really grab consumers, he said.

He expects the holiday season in 2010 to be the time e-readers boom in popularity due to the launch of new models. Barnes & Noble's upcoming Nook e-reader will join a growing playing field, and prompt new innovations from market leaders Amazon and Sony.

Forrester Research estimates that Amazon accounted for 60 percent of e-readers sold in the U.S. last year, followed by Sony with 35 percent and other makers, such as Foxit and IREX Technologies, taking the remainder.

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