13 Dec 2012, Shaun Nichols , V3
The growing range of form factors and costs among the tablet market spells the end of the e-book, according to analysts.
Research firm IHS said that the market for e-book reader hardware appears to have peaked in 2011 and is set to drop some 36 percent in 2012. It estimated that 2012 will see some 14.9 million e-book readers sold, by comparison, 2011 logged some 23.2 million sales.
The drop comes as the market for multi-use tablets is booming. Analysts have suggested that the iOS, Android and Windows RT tablet space will explode in the coming years as better-than-expected sales have put vendors on track to sell as many as 261.4 million units during 2016.
By comparison, analysts forecast e-book readers sales will dwindle to some 7.1 million units over the same period.
The drop follows what was a meteoric rise for the e-book reader market. Between 2008 and 2010, IHS logged an increase in annual sales from one million to more than 10 million units sold.
Analysts credited the sales plummet to the limited nature of e-book readers in comparison to more sophisticated tablets which feature web browsing, e-mail and app support.
"The rapid growth — followed by the immediate collapse — of the e-book reader market is virtually unheard of, even in the volatile consumer electronics space, where products have notoriously short life cycles," said IHS consumer platforms senior principal analyst Jordan Selburn.
"The stunning rise and then blazing flameout of e-books perfectly encapsulate what has become an axiomatic truth in the industry: Single-task devices like the e-book reader are being replaced without remorse in the lives of consumers by their multifunction equivalents, in this case by media tablets."
The readers are one of several markets which have suffered from the rise of tablets. Analysts also believe that ultrabook and PC shipments will fall short of sales expectations this year.