Tablet hype brings e-book readers a more merry Xmas

Sales up - but 2011 will be the tablet's year

E-book readers appear to have sold better during 2010 than some analysts anticipated, if new numbers from market watcher IDC are anything to go by.

IDC today said some 12.8m e-book readers shipped during 2010 - more than 6m of then in the Christmas quarter alone. That total is 18.5 per cent up on the 10.8m units IDC forecast back in January for 2010.

Even the earlier number was a lot higher than fellow researcher Gartner last forecast. It said e-book reader shipments will be 6.6m in 2010.

As a result of the sales surge, e-book reader shipments jumped 325 per cent on 2009's total: 3m units giver or take.

It's not hard to see how this jump came about: Amazon's aggressive pricing and marketing for its Kindle reader, not to mention the buzz surrounding the generally rather more expensive tablets.

And what of them? Annual shipments hit almost 18m units, only slightly more than IDC had predicted in January. Of the 10.1m tablets shipped in Q4 2010, some 73 per cent of them were iPads, down from 93 per cent in Q3.

No great surprise that - Apple barely had any competition during the third quarter before the arrival of Samsung's Android-based Galaxy Tab and kit from Archos, Toshiba and others.

These figures are for shipments into resale channels, not for sales to real people. It's likely that most of Apple's shipments did end up in punters' hands - the company has a very tightly run inventory system - but Samsung is generally not believed to have experienced sales on a par with the number of units it shipped.

IDC tactfully didn't provide numbers, but it did comment: "Although [Samsung's] shipments into the channel were fairly aggressive, a lack of competitive pricing and ongoing competition from Apple stifled consumer demand."

The researcher said it expects Apple to maintain a market share of between 70 and 80 per cent through 2011, a year in which as many as 50m tablets will ship, IDC forecast.

Even with a 70 per cent share, that's 35m iPads shipping in 2010 - and potentially as many as 40m.

Kerching. ®

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