Sunday, September 29, 2013

Divide Appears in Markets for Tablets and e-readers

In March, market research firm IDC said it expected e-reader shipments to grow modestly in 2013 and 2014 after peaking at 26.4 million shipments in 2011. The bifurcating market of tablets, smart phones, phablets, etc. is positioned for Barnes & Noble to dominate the low-end e-reader market where they have better technology, cheaper prices, and far and away the best selection of content. Apple, Samsung, Google and others will compete for the $200+ per device market. Amazon is increasingly forced to compete on the higher end as they push for their tablets to be positioned as e-catalogs. iPhone users will have iPads and the rest of the market will be a crapshoot. The e-readers are about reading, not watching reruns of TV series. Amazon, we expect, has bigger fish to fry (e.g. Wal-Mart) than either the book or the pad markets.

In late August, IDC issued a slightly lower forecast (227 million) for 2013 worldwide tablet sales but continued its optimistic prediction for 2017 of over 400 million units with up to 50% of sales in emerging markets, especially in Asia. Tom Mainelli, IDC Research Director said, "We expect average selling prices to continue to compress as more mainstream vendors utilize low-cost components..." IDC analysts also noted the slow rise in tablet adoption in education markets. This split of the tablet market from the e-reader market will continue as applications involving primarily print will be predominantly displayed on e-reader devices.

On the e-reader hardware front, Taiwan-based E Ink Holdings—the display supplier for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others, reported a 46% decline in revenues y-o-y for the 2nd quarter of 2013. E Ink offered guidance that they expect their global e-reader shipments to be around 10-15 million units. Although the company reported a net loss over $33 million for Q2, they expressed optimism about a pickup in demand for the rest of 2013. “Customers have put off their new product launches to the Q3 from Q2,” the CFO told investors, “There is enormous growth momentum to arrive in the third quarter…”. (Taipei Times) Chen, the CFO, added that revenue is expected to at least double this quarter, as customers were scheduled to ship new e-readers for the holiday shopping season. Note: E Ink has worked with B&N, Amazon, Sony and others to use the E Ink technology. "Vizplex" is used by Nook, Kindle 2, txtr Beagle and Kobo Mini e-readers and "Pearl" by current Kindle models, NOOK Simple Touch, Kobo Touch, and the Sony PRS-T1.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Boehner's Toast

Tablet wars and e-book readers

With Amazon's announcement of the Kindle Fire HDX mini-tablets, the continental drift between the tablet market and the e-book reader market continues. Jeff Bezos is excited about the small 7" and 9" displays (looking ahead to a future Amazon phone?) and seems confident Amazon's investment in pad devices will survive competition with Apple, Samsung, and Google. Most likely he sees the application of the pad as a portable ordering device, an e-catalog, allowing potential Amazon customers to roam the physical stores of the world, shopping with device in hand, ready to put in an order to Amazon when some item strikes their fancy. Tesco, the UK-based retailer (2nd largest in the world by revenues and, oops, seller of occasional horsemeat) is taking a similar approach to catalog shopping with the Hudl, a new child-friendly tablet with media content (Tesco is already active in those markets) and other consumer applications. Priced somewhere between the Kindle Fire HD and the HDX the company touts the Android-based 7" Hudl's screen resolution as a sign that this is a serious tablet, not just a tool for accessing Tesco's many online services.

So what does all the competition in the tablet market mean for the e-book reader market, which is mostly the low-priced Nooks and Kindles. Barnes & Noble is doing it right by focusing their R&D on the e-book reader as a low-priced reader, end of story. In a year or so, as the tablet wars between Apple, Samsung, Amazon and the rest continue unabated Barnes & Noble will continue to generate a tidy profit with the simple Nook.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Some small and non-U.S. based e-readers

Bookeen (a French company) began in late 2007 selling the Cybook Gen3, their first eBook reader to use an E-Ink screen. At the end of 2008, Bookeen started to claim future support for the ePub eBook format.  In 2009 they also announced a new product the Cybook Opus a smaller version of the Cybook Gen3 but with some improvements. In August 2011, Bookeen launches its own e-book store called with ePub and PDF format books, and a selection of free e-books with no DRM.

Aluratek has several models of e-readers including the Libre Air and Touch.  Both eBook readers will work with many library eBook programs and can use Adobe Digital Editions to purchase, download, view and manage eBooks.

The EnerGenie ePP2 eReader is a 9.7” device  positioned as an ePaper are able to “print” documents directly to the eReader, which is in a similar manner as to how you use a virtual printer that allows you to save a document as a PDF on your desktop. The EnerGenie ePP2 has a 9.7” display at 1,600 x 1,200 pixels and runs on Android.

PocketBook International S.A. produces e-book readers under the PocketBook brand.
Introduced in 2007 and initially targeting Russian-language readers, since mid-2010 the manufacturer for PocketBook has been Foxconn with PocketBook focused on software and design. PocketBook e-readers are known for supporting a large number of text formats and PocketBook distributes products through the site:

The Tesco Hudl

Tesco, the UK-based superstore chain is one of the top 4 or 5 retailers on the planet and, presumably pushed by Amazon's release of new tablet models such as the Kindle Fire HD, is introducing a budget tablet called the Hudl. The 7-inch Tesco Hudl runs Android and is available in the UK for £119 starting September 30.

The appearance of this device is another sign of the split between the-tablet-as-catalog and the tablet-as-reader.

The Kobo eReader

The Kobo eReader is produced by Toronto-based company Kobo Inc.. The original version was released in mid-2010 and was marketed as a minimalist e-book reader. The Japanese conglomerate Rakuten bought control of Kobo in January 2012. Kobo uses an electronic ink screen. The LCD tablet versions were released in 2011 and 2012.

Rakuten, Inc. is a Japanese electronic commerce and Internet company based in Tokyo. Among its numerous online properties, its e-commerce platform Rakuten Ichiba is the largest e-commerce site in Japan and among the world’s largest by sales. The Japanese word rakuten means optimism. In 2012, the company's revenues totaled US$4.7 billion with operating profits of about US$770 million. In June 2013, Rakuten, Inc. reported it had a total of 10,351 employees worldwide.

In 2005, Rakuten started expanding outside Japan, mainly through acquisitions and joint ventures.
The group's 2010 annual report shows that its online shopping business, Rakuten Ichiba, was Japan's largest online shopping mall. As part of the group's globalization initiative, Rakuten Ichiba started offering international shipping. In 2010, Rakuten bought French online retailer Priceminister for €200 million and US-based for US$250 million. The next year Rakuten launched Indonesia's Rakuten Belanja Online, and bought Brazilian e-commerce firm Ikeda, the German e-commerce start-up Tradoria and rebranded it Rakuten Deutschland, the UK online retailer and e-commerce marketplace and a minority stake in Russian online retailer, dubbed 'Russia's Amazon'.

In 2012 Rakuten bought Canadian e-book reader company Kobo in January and in May announced that it was leading a consortium investing $100 million in the Pinterest picture sharing social network. Rakuten owns, a Spanish (Barcelona, Catalonia) video on demand (VOD) service/company that is one of the largest in Europe and the market leader in Spain, where it has over 600,000 registered users. By late 2012, Rakuten had also moved into online retail in Austria, Canada, Spain, Taiwan and Thailand and into the online travel markets in France — with Voyager Moins — and China, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan — with its Tokyo-based international Rakuten Travel platform. In North America, Rakuten Golf made booking tee time online possible. In May 2013, Rakuten acquired a majority share in “citizen commerce” site, The Grommet. In June 2013, Rakuten announced its acquisition of U.S.-based logistics and services company Webgistix.