The Latest Read on e-Readers

The e-reader phenomenon continues to grow. In fact, sales of e-readers have turned out to be one of the brightest spots in the consumer electronics segment during the 2009 holiday season.

And 2010 is starting out with a bevy of new e-reader product introductions from a half-dozen different manufacturers.

“Way back” in August 2008, research firm iSupply released projections for e-readers that anticipated 3.5 million units to be sold worldwide in 2009. That was up dramatically from 1.1 million units sold in 2008 – almost all of them Kindle or Sony e-readers.

Those projections were considered highly optimistic by some observers. But now that the year has passed, it’s looking like the prediction was on the low side; iSupply’s revised sales figures for 2009 are closer to 5 million units. And Forrester Research estimates that 2009 e-reader sales in the U.S. were very strong, with ~30% of the sales occurring during the holiday season in November and December.

In fact, Amazon has reported that its Kindle e-reader emerged as the most-gifted item ever from its web site.

Now, hard on the heals of the recent Nook e-reader introduction by Barnes & Noble comes news from the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) of a host of new entrants in the e-reader game. Ranging in price from under $200 to nearly $800, each new entrant is aimed at meeting the needs of different target groups – from those wanting business news to people who wish to read full-length books. Not surprisingly, many of the new enhancements are centered on making the e-reader experience as “easy on the eyes” as possible.

Among the more interesting introductions at CES:

Que (made by Plastic Logic), which incorporates advanced polymer technology to create a shatter-proof screen.

Skiff (Hearst Corporation), which offers a store for digital newspaper/magazine subscriptions.

eDGe (from Entourage Systems), which provides two screens that fold up like a book. (One offers color display and the other a b/w display for newspaper reading.)

Not to be left on the sidelines, the granddaddy in this business – Amazon – is introducing an international version of the Kindle DX. Amazon now offers both larger- and smaller-sized Kindle units in prices ranging from $250 to $500.

With all of these new options in e-readers, what’s in store for 2010 volume? Observers are now predicting that unit sales will be twice as many as in 2009 … which certainly qualifies e-readers as the latest “rage” in the consumer electronics world.

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