EMEA Market for eReaders Expected to Match the Size of North American Market by 2015, Says IDC

LONDON, ENGLAND – April 20, 2011 – Figures recently released by International Data Corporation (IDC) as part of its Quarterly eReader Tracker program show the huge momentum behind ereaders in the EMEA region. According to IDC, more than 1.9 million units were shipped in 2010, with most of these distributed in Western European markets. Although EMEA still accounts for just over 15% of the worldwide market, IDC forecasts sales in this region to reach 9.6 million units by 2015, generating a 37.9% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the forecast period.

Since their first appearance in 2007, ereaders have experienced much higher growth in North America than in EMEA, mainly as a result of the rapid uptake of Amazon Kindle devices by consumers in the U.S. However, as many European markets experience double-digit growth rates, the EMEA region is now set to expand, roughly matching the size of the North American market by 2015. Many factors are contributing to this growing trend. Firstly, e-ink technology and long-lasting battery charge have proven to offer an appealing reading experience for avid readers in EMEA, which justifies the purchase of a specialized reading device instead of an LCD multifunctional device such as a media tablet.

The price advantage also plays a key role in saving this product category from cannibalization. Current ereader prices are on average much lower than media tablet prices and are expected to decrease yet more throughout the forecast period. Growth potential has also been boosted by recent developments in the education sector. After successful initial trials, ereaders are being implemented in universities, schools, and public libraries across main European markets as an additional consultation tool for students and users.

"The EMEA market for ereaders is still at an early stage," said Mario Lombardo, senior analyst at IDC EMEA. "Recent developments in the education sector, combined with the inevitable price decrease, are likely to convert these reading devices from trendy gadgets into very accessible commodity goods in the coming years. In this industry scenario the only real revenue will come from digital content rather than the actual reading device sales. Leading vendors are clearly anticipating this trend and are increasingly positioning themselves as ebook providers rather than mere hardware vendors."

Although all the main vendors are eager to ensure access to content in different languages, availability of ebooks in languages other than English is still fairly limited. Therefore the U.K. was unsurprisingly the main market for ereader shipments in EMEA in 2010, followed by Germany and France. But the great majority of local publishers in Continental Europe seem to fully recognize the potential offered by digital books and are gearing up to offer them in local language.

After a huge sales push in North America, Amazon has now established itself as a leading vendor on the other side of the pond too. Having already been selling in Europe through its U.S. Web site for some time, in 2010 the company started direct sales of its Kindle ereaders through local Amazon Web sites in all the main European markets. This has helped boost Kindle sales, enabling the company to overtake Sony in terms of shipments and capture more than 35% market share in EMEA in 2010. Sony, however, retains strong presence in all the main European markets, benefiting from a solid go-to-market strategy and "epub" support, a format which is standard among almost all publishers of educational content.

The EMEA market for ereaders is expected to grow by 37.9% CAGR over the next five years. Although ereaders will continue to mainly be a consumer product, the education sector will increasingly drive growth, especially as digital content will be made more available in different languages and the industry will converge even more to an industry standard digital format. Competition will undoubtedly increase as more big names such as Acer and Asus enter the market. As users will want to have instantaneous access to diverse content, demand for connected devices will rise, adding more pressure on smaller vendors to catch up with market leaders' devices.

IDC's EMEA Quarterly Media Tablet and eReader Tracker includes quarterly shipment and forecast analysis by country across all key countries in EMEA, including vendor shares and market forecasts along with detailed market segmentation and product attributes such as operating system, connectivity, user segments, and channels.

For more information on IDC's EMEA Media Tablet and eReader Tracker, contact Associate Vice President Karine Paoli on +44 (0) 20 8987 7218 or at kpaoli@idc.com. Alternatively, contact your local IDC office or visit www.idc.com.