One thing appeared certain when Barnes & Noble announced Thursday how much money its Nook e-readers brought in over the past three months: The news would be lousy.
And it was. Revenue from the company’s Nook division for its fiscal 2013 third quarter declined 26% from the same period a year ago, primarily as a result of slumping sales of the devices.
Is the bookseller just losing ground to rival Amazon and its market-leading line of Kindles? Perhaps. But many tech analysts see something else happening: the booming market for tablet computers is starting to make the dedicated e-reader obsolete.
“It’s not that the Nook failed,” said James McQuivey, a digital analyst at Forrester Research. “It’s that the world of tablets exploded, going faster than anyone expected, putting us in a place where tablets are now a fundamental part of our computing and lifestyle entourage, not just a handy device to consume a bit of media.”
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Competitors struggled to come up with a worthy alternative until late the next year, when Amazon — already a leader in the e-reader market – rolled out its simpler, smaller Kindle Fire, priced at $199, far lower than the iPad.
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Anyone interested in a tablet now probably has a price point with which they’ll be comfortable. And tablets, which are priced similarly to top e-readers, also work well for reading e-books. Throw in Internet, apps and e-mail — all on a full-color tablet screen — and e-readers suffer by comparison.
This trend has been particularly unkind to the Nook.
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But analysts expect that even Amazon’s success with dedicated e-readers will fade.
“It’s a rough market to compete,” said Michael Gartenberg, a tech-industry analyst with research firm Gartner Inc. “On one hand, devices like the iPad dominate the consumer tablet experience which includes reading. On the other hand, less demand for dedicated devices had helped Amazon, which already established a strong brand presence with Kindle as part of a much larger personal-cloud ecosystem.”
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And unlike Barnes & Noble, which is strongly branded as a bookstore, Amazon has created its own online universe of sales, McQuivey said.
“As part of Barnes & Noble, the Nook is stuck as a media device offered to media consumers when in reality the tablet business is poised for much more than this,” he said.
Many reviewers actually liked Barnes & Noble’s response, the Nook Tablet, better than the first-generation Kindle Fire. But, as McQuivey notes, its lack of an expansive ecosystem hurt it.
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The general consensus among observers is that they haven’t caught up to the dedicated e-readers in text quality quite yet, but give them time.
“If you love reading and are looking to invest a chunk of money into a device as a dedicated e-reader, then the iPad is not your best bet,” Cesar Torres, of CNN content partner ArsTechnica, wrote last year in a review comparing the third-generation iPad to e-readers such as the third-generation Kindle. (That iPad has the same screen as the most recent one).
“The value you can get from devices like the Kindle (or several other competitors like the Sony Reader or Kobo), will allow you to save money to spend on what is presumably your main passion: books.”
Link to the rest at CNN and thanks to Brad and others for the tip.
PG has a Nexus 7 tablet with which he’s very pleased, but still prefers his e-ink Kindle for reading books and longer essays/articles because the tablet is notably heavier than the Kindle.
Additionally, the tablet’s shiny surface, which makes video and photos look great, tends to reflect PG’s face back to him when he’s reading in bed whereas the Kindle screen does not. Perhaps if PG were more narcissistic, this wouldn’t annoy him.
OTOH, Mrs. PG is very happy reading on her Kindle Fire HD and says the weight doesn’t bother her.