Old man reading iPad tablet computerEarlier today, I stumbled upon yet another article about yet another e-reading study. True, that’s not exactly breaking news. But because the theory preposed by the market analyst firm that conducted the study was definitely one I’d never heard before, I figured it was worth sharing. Before I explain the study’s findings, though, let me say—and I’ve said this before in this space—that I don’t really have a whole lot of faith in most of these research firm. But then again, who knows? This one’s goofy enough—and simplistic enough—that there may just be something to it.

Here’s the bottom line of the study’s findings:

Sales of dedicated e-readers are not dropping precipitously because of competition from tablets. Instead, sales are dropping because only old people use e-readers—baby boomers, specifically—and old people are dying. (ROFL!)

Here’s the money quote from the story in question, which ran in PCR, a tech publication based in the UK.

“A study conducted by ABI Research found that most of the world’s e-reader sales were being made in the US market, where most of the people buying them were of ever increasing ages. The decline is sales, therefore, is due to mortality among the customer base.”

Wow. The best bit of the story is the final graph, which is where the author, PCR deputy editor Matt Grainger, manages to squeeze in a subtle little dig at the ABI brainiacs: “Unfortunately,” he writes, “the research doesn’t seem to examine whether or not a stable and simple device with a long battery life might naturally have a slower replacement cycle than a product with a contract life that acts as an incentive to upgrade, such as mobile devices.” (HA!)

All joking aside though, what do the rest of you think? Is this complete inanity? Or is it perhaps somewhat valid?

Also: I’m in the process of filing a media request with ABI Research to view a copy of the study in question. I’ll update this post tomorrow if I make any progress worth mentioning.


  1. Seriously? I *might* give them some tiny amount of credit for that conclusion if e-readers had been around in quantity for 20 years or more. However, e-reader purchasing exploded with the first Kindle, which was only released in November of 2007. So, basically, for their conclusions to be true, people would have to be dropping off within a year or so of buying a Kindle. If that’s the case, I think we have a bigger problem and a much more interesting headline. “Buying Kindles leads to sudden death.”

    Okay, I’m not serious about that last bit. But I think it’s premature to look at such a young industry and make a prediction like that.

  2. Agree with Juli that the results just aren’t consistent with what we’d see if only dying boomers bought eReaders. That said, it may well be true that boomers (and older) are the primary market for dedicated eReaders. Multifunction tablets are going to appeal to young people who enjoy the music and video aspects of these. Of course, young eyes do better with phone-based apps. So, I’ll argue against the dying but I’m willing to give some credence to the idea that demographics are involved.

  3. Rob—I think you’ve got it about right. I’m sure there was some data in the study that led ABI to conclude that seniors play a large role in the dedicated e-reader market; I don’t think they would fabricate something like that. But it also seems as if they extrapolated a fairly random set of data without considering the dozens (hundreds?) of other possibilities; the possible meanings, etc.

    And Juli, as you pointed out, it’s just ridiculous to suggest that the primary market for e-readers is literally dying out! I mean, aside from the fact that ABI only sort of suggested that they were referring to baby boomers specifically, the premise itself barely make sense. That is to say, while I do understand that the baby boomer generation is much larger than either generation that came before or after it, it’s also true that various people age just as quickly as other various people pass away.

    And what’s more important is the fact that the vast majority of baby boomers aren’t even old enough yet to be dying from old age! True, the very oldest boomers are about 67. But the youngest are about 49. People in the 50-to-65 year age range do not normally die from old age. Just sayin’.

  4. Keep in mind that many seniors are retired and have less money to spend. At the public library where I do much of my writing, it’s typically the seniors who’re using netbooks. The others are split about 50/50 between traditional-sized Macs and Windows laptops. And for that locale, tablets don’t seem to be replacing laptops.

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