Thursday, December 2, 2010

Survey shows misunderstanding of iPad's place in e-reader market

The subject title of this piece belongs to TechGear's Tim Conneally, who is one of the very few writers who seem to have noticed the glaring flaw in the basic premise of the survey by ChangeWave Research which asked consumers which "e-readers" they were likely going to buy this holiday and presented them with the choices of the iPad, Kindle, Nook, Sony, A Smart, and "Other."

  The survey conclusions were regurgitated without any analysis by about 95% of the news stories on the first day.

  The iPad is the portable equvalent of a small computer that runs multimedia apps, and only secondarily is it used for reading e-books.  Has anyone ever expected that it would sell less than a dedicated e-reader which is by design a niche product?

  Never mind that although it was roundly predicted that the Kindle  (UK: K3) would be 'killed' or even entombed by the iPad (or, earlier, by the Nook) by the end of 2010, the Kindle is an item for which demand is so great since April that columnists often mention the error of those predictions and the now-obvious happy co-existence of the two types of very popular gadgets.

  Add that the consumers surveyed include those who would have little interest particularly in getting an e-reader and are drawn to the web-surfing, video, and games features of the iPad (per just about every other survey I've seen, most put the e-reading feature last).

 In other words, does any serious survey pit two entirely different types of gadgets against each other and declare a 'loss' for the one that offers one finely tuned capability at considerably less cost for those wanting that one capability?

  The basic question (as asked in this survey) of what "e-reader" a person might be interested in buying assumes that each participant is actually looking for an e-reader rather than showing an interest if asked -- though many will certainly be interested in an all-in-one.  Should they stop making dedicated, inexpensive printers because all-in-one printer/fax/scanners gaining ground on the less-costly, dedicated ones ?

  Should Canon stop making sub-compact cameras because the iPhone has a very good little camera in it?  Would a serious survey ask people to choose between an iPhone camera and dedicated cameras?

  Actually, the comparisons are based on expected hardware sales rather than on the actual way the hardware would be used.

Here's some of what TechGear had to say about the survey:
' ... ChangeWave said Amazon's Kindle holds a "rapidly diminishing lead" over the Apple iPad in the e-reader market, and that the iPad's overall presence in the space has doubled since August.
[Yes, the iPad sold 3 million in 80 days -- and after that, Amazon's can't keep Kindles in enough supply for shipping to other countries without large delays.]
According to buying intent stated by consumers, ChangeWave also concludes the iPad "will be the biggest beneficiary of the expanding e-Reader market this holiday season, followed by the Amazon Kindle."

Naturally, this has led to headlines today declaring that the Kindle is somehow "losing" to the iPad.

Unfortunately, the entire survey is based on an unsound premise, because it seeks to compare hardware e-readers with software e-readers.
. . .
Interestingly, the survey goes on to illustrate exactly why the iPad and smartphones should not be placed in the same category as hardware e-readers.

ChangeWave asked consumers "which of the following types of content do you currently read with your e-book reader?"
  Unsurprisingly, the majority of Kindle users said they're reading e-books, while iPad users said they tend to read newspapers, magazines, blogs and RSS feeds.

  In short, this shows not that the iPad is stealing market share from the Kindle.  But instead that consumers who read e-books are buying e-readers, and consumers who read colorful and web-derived content are buying tablets. '

Yes, and one tablet in particular, but people are really taking to the Samsung Galaxy 7" despite Steve Job's insistence that people are not interested in that size tablet (rather like his earlier insistence that the Amazon Kindle was not going to work because "people don't read anymore."  And there is coming a rain of capable tablets in a month or two.
  UPDATE 12/2/10 - Already there is the Archos 101, a 10" tablet for ~$294.

Here are some really blunt and insightful comments to Conneally's story:
' ___
By Frankwick:
From a purist point of view the ipad (I own one) is a horrid e-reader.  It is too heavy to hold for long periods of time.  Plus, the screen is way way way too glossy in certain places which makes reading a pain in the eye socket.  As far as ibooks goes, it is miniscule compared to the nook and Kindle stores.  Then there is the cost of the ipad - OUCH! '

By skapig
E-reader versus tablet appliance with a very large difference in price between them.  Not the most well-conceived study, but the point is really to get the name of the research firm out there by pushing something with these popular keywords down the wire.
[ Exactly what came to my mind because it is such a carelessly designed study, but today's focus on getting stories out quickly more than anything else means the survey makers will get their name out there when stories are done for "first" announcement and then auto-duplicated wildly rather than the news-seconders actually looking at the story to see if there's anything there.
Nice to finally find a breath of sanity in this debate :-)  I use both and they are definitely horses for courses.  The Kindle is vastly superior for prolonged reading and reading text (it's much lighter, easier on the eyes, has better batter[y] life and enjoys sunlight).  The iPad is much better for browsing the web and flicking through items that require colour. '

In the meantime, ChangeWave itself describes the following questions answered, in its brief online report
' Going forward, e-Reader demand remains strong for the holidays, with 5% of respondents saying they are Very Likely to buy an e-Reader and 10% Somewhat Likely over the next 90 days. '

Here's their full Consumer Electronics Report ($1,500).

Kindle 3's   (UK: Kindle 3's),   DX Graphite

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  1. hi andrys,

    what do you think of the nook color? have you had a chance to check it out in person?

    you do a great job with this blog, btw. i check here daily.


  2. amanda,
    Thanks! One way to find out is the search bar at the top RIGHT of the blog. Just under the Deals box.

    Put in

    I've said a few things about it already.

    It received one big rave this week, while it was also pointed out that if you want to read it outdoors or under bright lights or want long battery life (it's "up to 8 hrs"), it's not so good for that, but otherwise it's beautiful for magazines, children's books and books with color illustrations.

    Search youtube for it also to see what people are showing.

    I've mentioned I may want to get one as a secondary or supplemental reader for my travel and photography books, but I have to have e-ink for regular books.

    On the other hand, I'm watching the field because a true Android tablet will let us put all the online store apps on it. That means Kindle, Nook, Sony, Kobo apps will make their books buyable and readable when accessing with a regular full Android tablet.

    But I'd like good resolution, which the Nookcolor has.

    The Archos 101 tablet just came out but it's 10" -- however, it is $294 so I'll probably decide which color one I would want in about a month. But I have a netbook that does my color books too and it's 10", light, has beautiful color and speed, whicih is why I'm in no hurry.

    I don't like looking at LCD displays to read long-form (books) because even when I dim the netbook's display, I still have a max 30 minutes I can read a book on it (though I can web forever). I can read books on the Kindle for hours though even if my eyes can been bleary from more than a full day at the desktop.

  3. I've got a Kindle 1 and plan to buy a Kindle 3 (or 4). Since I create about as much as I consume, I don't plan to get an iPad. My next major purchase will probably be a MacBook Air. I'll have a clear role division, with the MBA to create and the Kindle to consume. But I am not sure I am typical.

    I can understand why most people might prefer an iPad to a Kindle, particularly if the iPad can replace a computer, making the cost equation favor the iPad. One gadget, an iPad, will trump two gadgets, a netbook plus a Kindle.

    Also, keep in mind that many of those surveyed probably think that a Kindle still costs what it originally cost, which was almost as much as an iPad. Don't forget that when the iPad was first announced, news stories focused on how much more it offered for only a little more than a Kindle. That's still in a lot of people's minds and only a media frenzy about a sub-$100 Kindle is likely to break that hold.

    Finally, thanks to the app store, the iPad is being pushed to its limits as a device. The Kindle is not even remotely close to what it might do. The apps are a joke, mostly dull games. There's lots of things a Kindle could do that doesn't seem to be happening.

    And I'm not just talking about obvious, digital document stuff like bringing a Instapaper app to the Kindle as full-featured as that on my iPhone. The epaper screen isn't a nothing-but-documents screen. There are many things that don't require a fast-updating screen that it could do. Why can't it find its location (via cellular towers and WiFi) and display a map with nearby businesses? The advertising for that should pay for the cellular time. And why can't we look up phone numbers or other useful information without going through a clumsy web interface that wasn't designed for a Kindle? Why can't a Kindle be a phone book or even a remote version of my own, Mac-based address book? That doesn't require a 30 frames per second screen.

    And why doesn't Amazon take advantage of a screen whose static display requires no power? When we're not using a Kindle for reading, why does it display line art. Why can't it display a calendar of the day's activities or a to-do list that synchs with the ones on our computers and smart phones? There are apps on the iPad that do that, but we can't leave an iPad on.

    Sadly, I'd love for the Kindle to succeed. I like how the Kindle 3 makes carrying 3,000 books in your coat pocket so easy. But I fear that, if it survives at all, it will survive purely as an Amazon book reader that even most Amazon customers don't use. The limits of the Kindle should be the limits of its epaper technology. They shouldn't be the apparently limited vision of an online bookstore.

  4. Popular criticism of the smaller form factor, at least for book reading, seems unjustified.

    There's been a lot of online speculation about what the ideal size is for an eReader, and it seems to me that issue has already been worked out. From an evolutionary standpoint, the smaller form factor has been honed by several hundred years of book reading and carry. Books can only be so small before the print is unreadable, and only so large before it's inconvenient to carry.

    But even with books, there's a range of tolerable sizes, tho 7" pretty much pushes the upper limit, for me at least.

  5. Mike,
    Actually, I've no problem understanding why people, if choosing only one new gadget, would prefer an iPad for its do-all capabilities.

    But what I was saying in the blog entry is that the iPad is not "an e-reader" like the others are, but a multimedia tool that also allows you to do e-reading under often trying conditions for long-form reading (books) but has its strength with color magazines and image-heavy newspapers as far as e-reading goes.

    Of the Kindle owners I know (many locally), they use their Kindles constantly and tend to always have these with them. One of its features is that people who use the Kindle to any degree tend to feel they need it with them as much as they do their cellphones, maybe more.

    Not that many of us view it as 'just' an online-store thing, as we use the web (text features) quite a lot and with the Kindle 3 that kind of access is actually quite fast for e-ink. The main problem is they defaulted it to normal pages and those will load slowly so I tend to use mobile versions.

    When you get a K3, try the downloadable mobile-access links file here, at

  6. Anonymous,
    Those are good points about the long-developed workable size/form for a 'book' ...

    As for pushing the limits with the 7" you'll likely appreciate it when trying to read a PDF, as those are difficult even on 9.7" e-readers...

  7. "...with the 7" you'll likely appreciate it when trying to read a PDF, as those are difficult even on 9.7" e-readers".

    This is true, but that also seems an entirely different form of reading. I believe most PDFs exist for the ability to merge substantial graphics with text, common in the domain of text books and instruction manuals. I can see people using a 10" eReader for work/school, but that's a different domain than leisure reading (novels and novellas with mostly text).

    I think Bezos got it right when he targeted the people wanting to immerse themselves in the reading with the Kindle.

    Mult-functional gadgets are convenient and economical, but there's a trade-off, like trying to convince a carpenter or electrician to give up their tools for a Swiss Army knife. If that works for people then its fine, but it usually means their specific needs are light. It'd be interesting to gather stats on how many complete books have actually been read, on average per person, on iPads vs Kindle ... and Cliff Notes don't count!

    My guess is that what works for you depends on whether you're mostly a reader or browser.

  8. Anonymous,
    Agree re the 10" for non-portable (mostly) use but there comes a time when you are used to e-reading that you will want to read PDFS that you have with you for guidance, info, etc., and then you need something for that (I have, all along).

    Bezos did get it right but he'll get it wrong if he doesn't do supplementary models -- in one sense he already has, with the DX (which I brought on a 3 week trip to Egypt and Petra, rather than my smaller one). I'm one who has always used the experimental web browser to look up information (since Kindle 1), which is of course mainly text and if focused on getting that, access is not bad when it is free.

    As people see tablets coming at them from everywhere, they will get used to the ease of accessing web info. There is no reason why he can't have a Kindle AND an Amazon Android tablet, and company sources have already told TechCrunch (I think it was -- but it's on the blog) that they ARE bringing out a tablet.

    No company should just stop with a good product, and Bezos doesn't really seem to do that. He has brought out great e-Ink ones in the K3 and DX Graphite and now he'll need to provide a color tablet of some kind, not to lose that large audience to others.

    In other words, he wouldn't change the Kindle to LCD but can (and it seems almost sure that he will) produce *another type* of device to meet developing needs/wants of a supplemental or secondary type.

    With sheet music and instruction/educational PDFs of all types, I'm one of those who will need the supplemental type of reader.

    And the audience for that is a good market for them of course. Academia and business.

    Some still think they're just booksellers -- no, their current big thing is providing network spaces in the clouds for businesses who had been used to providing their own hardware/software. Yelp! has gone to Amazon to handle their enormous data. So it's not a company that stands still...


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