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Are E-Readers on Their Way Out? Already?

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An article in today's Wall Street Journal raises the specter of e-readers losing relevance and market share just as they have exploded in popularity. Greg Bensinger reports that, while sales and circulation of e-books are booming, market research by IHS iSuppli suggests that sales and shipments of e-readers are on track to shrink to 7.8 million unit sales by 2015. As a point of reference, IHS iSuppli calculated 2012 sales at about 14.9 million units.

Bensinger suggests that e-readers' limited functionality compared with tablet computers may be responsible for the downward trend. As Katie Ash reminds us in her roundup of 2012 trends in ed tech, over at Digital Education, The Rise of Tablet Computing was a big story in K-12 last year.

And while the light weight, affordability, and high quality of e-readers are all acknowledged selling points, Bensinger wonders if these characteristics may be contributing to lagging sales as well: "One problem is that some users who bought e-readers see no particular urgency to buy another." As tablet computer price points approach that of most e-readers, the article suggests, e-readers may "eventually become a niche product."

Interesting speculation, especially in light of Pearson's recent investment in NOOK Media. It remains to be seen whether factors like competition from tablets will affect Pearson's efforts to capture the digital learning market through technology platforms as well as digital content.

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