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Report: eReader Sales Down -- Way Down

Place Amazon's Kindle Touch and Kindle Fire side by side. Which display looks more dynamic and compelling?

Place Amazon's Kindle Touch and Kindle Fire side by side. Which display looks more dynamic and compelling?

The answer, of course, is obvious--which may explain why consumers, when given the choice between conventional (i.e. drab) eReaders with e-ink displays, and splashier color tablets, are opting for the latter in a big way.

Global shipments of e-readers will reach two million units in the first quarter of 2012--down dramatically from nine million shipped in Q4 2011, according to new data from Digitimes Research.

It appears that color tablets, including the Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet and Nook Color, are luring eReader customers away from less expensive, less flashy e-ink models. Digitimes Research calls the phenomenon a "substitution effect," one that has forced Amazon to reduce orders of e-ink eReaders from its suppliers thus far in 2012.

The big-picture view of the eReader market isn't dire, however. Global shipments of eReaders climbed to 22.82 million units in 2011--up 107 percent from a year earlier. And annual eReader shipments should exceed 60 million units by 2015, Digitimes Research estimates.

Declining consumer interest in monochrome e-ink displays may explain another recent rumor--that Amazon will soon unveiled a Kindle eReader with a 6-inch, color e-ink display.

Barnes & Noble may have similar plans, says IDC display analyst Bob O'Donnell.

The price gap between LCD and e-ink displays is narrowing, but "LCD is still significantly better for color reproduction," says O'Donnell, who adds that the ideal display might be a hybrid, switchable LCD/e-ink model: color LCD for tablet-oriented tasks like games and video; and monochrome e-ink for reading.

"That would be interesting," says O'Donnell.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci at Today@PCWorld, Twitter (@jbertolucci) or jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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