Color displays could boost e-reader sales in coming years

December 20, 2011 — Displays for pure-play e-book readers will see 108% increase in shipments in 2011 (27.1 million units), a strong year leading into slower growth ahead, with 37% growth forecast for 2012, and declining shipments forecast in 2015. E-reader suppliers will consider new ways to attract consumers in the near future, according to an IHS iSuppli Small & Medium Displays Market Tracker report.

Figure. Global e-book reader display market forecast.
SOURCE: IHS iSuppli, December 2011.

The vast majority of e-reader displays are monochrome. These products compete with color-display tablets, like Apple Inc.’s iPad, and the slower growth in e-readers from 2012 on will prompt many device makers to adopt color displays, says Vinita Jakhanwal, senior manager for small and medium displays at IHS, and to focus on vertical markets, such as education.

Alternatives to the e-book reader display standard — electrophoretic displays (EPD) — include a color display technology based on micro electro mechanical systems (MEMS). The mainstream example is known as Mirasol, from Qualcomm Inc.

Also read: Qualcomm MEMS display launched in Korean e-readers

Mirasol competes with EPD on common characteristics — wide viewing angle, readability in sunlight, low power consumption — and beats EPD with full color displays and fast response speeds. Kyobo ebook readers can hold a power charge for weeks, based on 30 minutes of reading per day on the device, according to the launch announcement.

Color e-reader displays fall behind monochromatic devices in cost. The Mirasol-based Kyobo costs 349,000 Korean won, (USD319), exceeding the price tags of many tablet devices, and nearly quadrupling the monochromatic Amazon Kindle ebook reader (USD79). Large volumes for color e-readers, as well as an aggressive consumer-focused strategy, could bring costs down, IHS predicts. However, given today’s limited manufacturing capacity and associated higher costs for producing the color display, this is a large challenge for alternatives to monochromatic displays.

e-readers could differentiate from media tablets with growth in vertical markets, where a single use case is preferable to the diverse functionality and features of a media tablet, IHS reports. Current e-reader features, like light weight and a battery life lasting weeks on a single charge, are attractive in these use cases, thought IHS notes that no companies have yet pursued this strategy.

Access IHS iSuppli’s report, Tablet PCs and Smartphones Buoy Demand in the Small/Medium Displays Market, at http://www.isuppli.com/Display-Materials-and-Systems/Pages/Tablet-PCs-and-Smartphones-Buoy-Demand-In-the-Small-Medium-Displays-Market.aspx

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