David Morgenstern has an editorial on ZDNet in which he predicts a grim future for e-book device manufacturers that aren’t Apple. He notes that over the last few days, not one but two high-profile tablets have been cancelled—Microsoft’s two-screened Courier and HP’s Windows 7 slate—and he lays their cancellation squarely at the feet of the iPad.
He also suggests that the three million unit guesstimate being tossed around for the Kindle device’s sales may be grossly overinflated, and it might well have sold below one million. (Though, given Amazon’s reticence to release numbers, either guess is probably equally valid.) Meanwhile, Apple sold 500,000 iPads—the model without 3G, yet—in a single week.
A prediction: When the dust clears and the sales figures are finally known, we will discover that in a short time frame, perhaps in the span of a few months, Apple will have sold more e-book readers than have ever been sold in the history of the category (I saw my first reader in the late 1990s). And by the end of the year, Apple will have a similar market share in the e-reader category that it has with the iPod and iPhone, in the 60 to 70 percent range.
Morgenstern doesn’t discount the discomfort that some people have expressed for reading from an iPad’s LCD screen as opposed to a Kindle’s e-ink, but suggests that the iPad’s other advantages might outweigh that disadvantage in the eyes of consumers.
He may well be onto something. In 2008, Stanza went from 85,000 to 300,000 installs on the iPhone and iPod Touch in about five weeks. In 2009, Shortcovers (now called Kobo) gained 100,000 users in about two months. And those were for a much smaller device, and didn’t have Apple actively promoting the fact that these devices could read e-books the way they’re pushing iBooks now.
(I have little doubt that a lot of people will respond to this post complaining that there’s no way they could stand to read off a bright LCD screen. And that may well be true for those people—but judging by the download figures I just cited, there are at least hundreds of thousands who don’t seem to have that problem.)
If hundreds of thousands of people were willing to read (or at least try reading, granted that many or even most of those installations might not actually have ended up being used) on a tiny device, the iPad might well have a bright future as an e-reader—especially given that at least three different e-book stores have iPad-customized apps already (iBooks, Kindle, and Kobo) and will probably be joined by more soon.
Is the iPad going to take over e-books the way the iPod took over music? Will it kill the Kindle device, if not the Kindle bookstore? David Morgenstern thinks it has a good chance. And he may be right.