David Morgenstern has an editorial on ZDNet in which he predicts a grim future for e-book device manufacturers that aren’t Apple. He notes that over the last few days, not one but two high-profile tablets have been cancelled—Microsoft’s two-screened Courier and HP’s Windows 7 slate—and he lays their cancellation squarely at the feet of the iPad.

He also suggests that the three million unit guesstimate being tossed around for the Kindle device’s sales may be grossly overinflated, and it might well have sold below one million. (Though, given Amazon’s reticence to release numbers, either guess is probably equally valid.) Meanwhile, Apple sold 500,000 iPads—the model without 3G, yet—in a single week.

A prediction: When the dust clears and the sales figures are finally known, we will discover that in a short time frame, perhaps in the span of a few months, Apple will have sold more e-book readers than have ever been sold in the history of the category (I saw my first reader in the late 1990s). And by the end of the year, Apple will have a similar market share in the e-reader category that it has with the iPod and iPhone, in the 60 to 70 percent range.

Morgenstern doesn’t discount the discomfort that some people have expressed for reading from an iPad’s LCD screen as opposed to a Kindle’s e-ink, but suggests that the iPad’s other advantages might outweigh that disadvantage in the eyes of consumers.

He may well be onto something. In 2008, Stanza went from 85,000 to 300,000 installs on the iPhone and iPod Touch in about five weeks. In 2009, Shortcovers (now called Kobo) gained 100,000 users in about two months. And those were for a much smaller device, and didn’t have Apple actively promoting the fact that these devices could read e-books the way they’re pushing iBooks now.

(I have little doubt that a lot of people will respond to this post complaining that there’s no way they could stand to read off a bright LCD screen. And that may well be true for those people—but judging by the download figures I just cited, there are at least hundreds of thousands who don’t seem to have that problem.)

If hundreds of thousands of people were willing to read (or at least try reading, granted that many or even most of those installations might not actually have ended up being used) on a tiny device, the iPad might well have a bright future as an e-reader—especially given that at least three different e-book stores have iPad-customized apps already (iBooks, Kindle, and Kobo) and will probably be joined by more soon.

Is the iPad going to take over e-books the way the iPod took over music? Will it kill the Kindle device, if not the Kindle bookstore? David Morgenstern thinks it has a good chance. And he may be right.


  1. David Morganstern may be fairly called a professional Mac enthusiast. That’s not to say he can’t be a critic or lacks judgment — merely he lives and breathes all things Mac and has for years. The article cited was published in the column “The Apple Core”. From his bio: “David Morgenstern has covered the Mac market and other technology segments for 20 years. … In the 1990s, David was editor of Ziff Davis’ award-winning MacWEEK news publication as well as its successor title, eMediaWEEKly, which focused on multiplatform professional content creation. His byline can be found online and in print publications including CreativePro.com, Peachpit Press’ Mac Bible and Popular Photography.”

    In spite of this depth of experience, his article doesn’t address why people use e-readers, or how. No mention of battery life, portability, much lower cost, and the more book-like e-ink reading experience. Instead he fusses over dismissing sales stats for the Kindle (never once mentioning e-ink manufacturer stats, claiming sales estimations are based on e-book sales); charges that you’ll get mugged on the subway carrying an iPad but folks will leave you alone with a Kindle; drags Microsoft Zune and HP killing its Windows 7 tablet into the fray to prove Kindle’s imminent demise; and concludes the iPad is superior in every way except for the screen (!): “the iPad’s quality, expanded usability and rich-media capabilities will outweigh the problems with the iPad screen. Hey, if you’re outside, ‘read’ an audio book.”. Perhaps someone ought to remind the author what an e-reader is supposed to be for — reading.

    But honestly, if assessing Morganstern’s semi-rant using logic doesn’t prevail, surely this nugget he closes his piece with demonstrates his inner fanboy, and not a “journalist”, was at the keyboard (an iPad with virtual QWERTY?) writing the piece: “Despite all the hype by Amazon, in the past couple of years I have only met one really satisfied Kindle owner who is not a technologist. He is a scholar who has a movement disability and appreciates being able to carry his obscure texts in a single, lightweight device. Of course, my guess is that he would be happy with any e-reader.”

  2. Indeed, the writer suffers from Apple-fanboyism-induced myopia.

    “…And by the end of the year, Apple will have a similar market share in the e-reader category that it has with the iPod and iPhone, in the 60 to 70 percent range.”

    Dude, if you’re going to put a multifunction tablet up against other tablets and dedicated e-readers, you need to compare the iPhone to other smartphones and dedicated cellphones, not just the percentage of iPhone-class smartphones on the ATT service in the USA. The iPhone has 14% of the US cell phone market.

    And if he’s going to include something 2-3 times bigger, heavier, and more expensive than the average e-ink e-reader in the class of “portable devices that people may use as e-readers”, he needs to include PDAs, smartphones, and … pretty much every laptop and netbook on the planet.

    I could go on but I’m feeling like a tsukkomi to his boke and he’s not trying to be stupid on purpose, so it’s mean.

  3. To be honest, as some one who has had a neuvo rocketbook, softbook, Multiple units of the RCA incantation of each, multiple e-ink readers (My father was one of the origional principles), and more than a few LCD readers (I find the jetbook easier to read than a kindle or sony Eink) he has a point for readability IMHO. NOT for weight, not for portability, etc. I bought and kept buying ebook readers because the wife was sick and tired of when I went on a business trip getting UPS boxes from used book stores. I can see myself travelling now with a battery powered jetbook (ever been stuck somewhere for 72 hours and no outlet?), a minidisc player (40+ hours on a single ‘AA’ cell and 80 hours per disc at the end of the format) player (yeah – old school, AND an ipad instead of a note/netbook.
    Calibre does a great job converting books for both of my current devices.

  4. Funny, I see two multi-purpose tablets getting canceled, not two ebook readers. I presume the specs on the iPad were good enough that Microsoft and HP decided to either go back to the drawing board or not get into the market. With HP buying Palm, I wonder if their next tablet will instead be WebOS based. I don’t see Amazon, Sony and Barnes & Noble giving up the ebook reader niche anytime soon. Next year, they will all probably come out with new readers based on the new eInk technologies, flexible (unbreakable) and color screens (hopefully both in the same screen).

  5. Ummm … Dudes, at least get the basics right: My name is David Morgenstern, with an “e” not the “a.”

    And while I may be an Apple fanboy, I have handled and looked at most e-readers that have entered the market since the late 1990s. I worked content tradeshows that had tracks on e-books.

    Working for a monitor company, I attended SID several times and had briefings on e-ink technology at its beginnings. I have owned and used Windows, Linux and Mac platform computers as well as many handhelds.

    An observation: The future is a platform that support rich media and not just text. Like the iPad, which has now sold more devices in months than all the others combined for years.

    david m.

  6. The future is multipurpose devices?
    Maybe when multipurpose devices can get weeks of use off a cheap cellphone battery and cost less than $100.
    Sometimes a cigar is just a smoke and sometimes you just want to read a book.
    Even today there are plenty of pure-phone cellphones out there and there is no shortage of pure MP3 players.
    The fans of multipurpose devices seem to think everybody has their biases but the reality that surrounds us says that one size does not fit all. There is room for both multipurpose and optimzed devices.
    Claiming otherwise simply reveals the need to get out into the real world from time to time.

  7. Mr Morgenstern is not wrong simply because he knows that Mac have consistently made the best and most exciting devises. He is wrong becauuse his assertion doesn’t stand up to common sense analysis. Tablets are multipurpose devices and yes the iPad is annihilating all competition even before they can launch them. But we are at the infancy of both the tablet and the eReader device. It is self evident imho that millions of customers who have no interest in any kind of tablet style device will greatly value a lighter, thinner, easier to carry device for the sole purpose of reading books and newspapers and perhaps magazines. These devices will become even thinner and lighter in the coming couple of years and people who have no interest in computers and technology as such will eat them up.
    As far as tablets go I would tend to agree with Mr Morgenstern’s belief in the iPad. The competition have been caught with their pants down and cuaght around their ankles. They scrambled to try to bring out responses but are waking up to the inadequacy of windowst and other OSs. The iPad is not just a technical leap; the simplicity of operation of the iOS feeds back into it’s lightening speed and hence it’s runaway success. I don’t see any real compeition arriving before the end of 2011.

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