Kindle Reader Sales – The E-Reader Device Is Dying A Rapid Death

The Ereader Device Is Dying A Rapid Death

E-reader device sales are falling rapidly.

Devices such as Kindle e-readers, Nook, and Kobo are all suffering from a rapid drop-off in sales.

Yet, readers are still buying and reading ebooks.

So what is going on here with ebook readers and, in particular, Kindle sales?

The Kindle device in decline

First, in a report on The Demographics of Device Ownership in the US, Pew Research offers the following summary of reading device ownership.

The popularity of e-readers declines

Some 19% of adults report owning an e-reader – a handheld device such as a Kindle or Nook primarily used for reading e-books.

This is a sizable drop from early 2014 when 32% of adults owned this type of device. Ownership of e-readers is somewhat more common among women (22%) than men (15%).

Data from Statista shows the decline of e-reader sales in more detail:

Shipments of e-book readers worldwide from 2008 to 2016 (in million units)
This statistic shows the number of e-book reader shipments worldwide from 2008 to 2012 and also offers a forecast until 2016. During 2009, around 3.8 million e-readers were sold worldwide.

In the United States, the revenue from e-books was 158 million U.S. dollars in 2008. Back in 2010, Amazon’s Kindle accounted for 62.8 percent of all e-reader shipments worldwide.

e-reader device sales decline

One of the main problems is that devices have failed to develop in any significant technical form since their introduction in 2008.

If you own a Kindle from 2009, you will know that it is almost the same as the current model.

In fact, I believe my old 2nd gen Kindle is better, as it came with an audio connector, which was removed from later models.

Waterstones decided to stop Kindle sales. Managing director James Daunt says: ‘Ereader sales continue to be pitiful, so we are taking the display space back.’

 

Update

A recent update by Statista shows the continual decline of e-reader device sales for the period 2018 through 2025.

Ereader market 2108 -2025 E-reader device sales

Ereader market 2108 -2025 notes

The declining trend of e-reader device sales is clearly continuing for Kindles and similar devices.

 

The phone is the new ereader

If e-reader device sales are in free fall, how are people reading ebooks?

Again from Pew, the data tells the story. Smartphones and tablets are the choices of ebook readers.

Cellphones near saturation levels for some groups

Fully 92% of American adults own a cellphone, which is similar to the 90% of the public who reported owning these mobile devices in 2014.

Although cellphones are common today, the share of adults who own one has risen substantially since 2004, when 65% of Americans owned a mobile phone.

Close to half of all Americans own a tablet

The share of Americans who own a tablet computer has risen tenfold since 2010. Today, 45% of U.S. adults own a tablet – a substantial increase since Pew Research Center began measuring tablet ownership in 2010.

Then, only 4% of adults in the U.S. were tablet owners. Ownership, however, is statistically the same as it was in 2014.

Pew ereader device ownership

What does it mean for authors?

If ebook readers are moving more and more towards reading ebooks on smartphones and tablets, what does this mean for self-publishing authors?

The most important consideration now is readability.

Reading on a smartphone using a reading app is not the same as on a dedicated ereader or even a tablet.

With a much smaller screen area, thought must be given to far better ebook formatting and especially with regard to font sizes.

Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) accepts almost any font size in a Word document to be published as Kindle ebooks.

But titles and chapter headings of 24pt or more will look positively huge on a smartphone screen and distract badly from readability.

In the past, checking a new ebook on a Kindle or iPad using a reading app such as the Kindle App or iBooks was sufficient.

Now, though, with the change in the reading market and how people read books, it will be essential to check any new ebook on a smartphone before publication.

 

Ebooks continue to be popular

The ereader may be dying, but this is certainly not true for ebooks.

Again from Statista, here is its rosy outlook for ebook sales revenue.

Revenue from e-book sales in the United States from 2008 to 2018 (in billion U.S. dollars)
The timeline presents data on e-book sales revenue generated in the United States from 2008 to 2013, as well as a forecast until 2018.

PwC expects the revenue will grow from 2.31 billion in 2011 to 8.69 billion in 2018.

ebook sales year on year

Update: Ebook consumption continues to grow in 2019, with over 335 million copies sold.

ebook unit sales

Here are some more interesting statistics about ebooks. Take note of the number of illegal downloads. It seems ebook piracy is not slowing down.

ebook consumption

 

More change

And then, along comes the audiobook.

Another nail in the coffin of the sales of Kindle ereaders, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo, and Onyx Boox devices is the growing popularity of audiobooks.

This is no surprise because the fact fits with the logic that device buyers see no reason to buy specialized devices when one will do most tasks even if the battery life is not as good as a dedicated ereader.

In most cases, it is the smartphone that is leading the way. It is clearly the case with audiobooks, as the graph below from Statista shows.

statista audiobooks

While print books are still leading the way, it is well worth noting that both print book and ebook consumption have remained flat over recent years.

In fact, there has been a slight decline in ebook reading, contrary to earlier economic forecasts.

However, these statistics may not take Amazon Prime and Kindle Unlimited ebook subscription reading into account.

But audiobook consumption is notable because it is the one book format that is rising steadily.

Currently, one in five U.S. readers listens to audiobooks. The trend started in 2015, and there seems no reason why it will not continue to grow.

book reading stats

Adapt to change

If you are self-publishing ebooks, take care to accommodate your readers and give them a much better reading experience, no matter what device they use to read your ebooks.

Check and make the necessary formatting changes to your ebooks to ensure they are reader-friendly on smartphones.

You can check how your ebooks will look on smartphones and tablets before you publish to make sure your readers get a quality small format read.

Doing this check is especially important if you have included images in your ebook.

Are all your ebooks smartphone ready?

If they are, your next consideration should be audiobooks.

Producing high-quality audio is not as easy as publishing an ebook. But to get you thinking, you can read more information about how to publish an audiobook here.

It is no surprise that the dedicated e-reading device is dying.

Sure, there are still many readers who love their Amazon Kindle Paperwhite or Kindle Oasis and the longer battery life. But the numbers of new ereader buyers are declining.

Smartphones are and will continue to be the most used device for reading ebooks and listening to audiobooks. It’s a two in one killer for dedicated devices.

For self-publishing authors, the future is clear.

Publish in all three formats to give your books the best chance of being read.

Give readers the choice of versions, so they can buy your book in the format they prefer.

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent writing and blogging, as well as testing and taming new technology.

Avatar for Derek Haines

36 thoughts on “Kindle Reader Sales – The E-Reader Device Is Dying A Rapid Death

  • Avatar for Sam
    January 6, 2022 at 10:53 am
    Permalink

    Hello,

    The statista graph you show is on eBook popularity is outdated. Updated information has had eBook sales peaking in 2013 at 242 million units sold.

    Great article otherwise!

    Reply
  • Avatar for Nick
    November 5, 2021 at 3:44 pm
    Permalink

    Subjective but not anything to take seriously.
    This article is like comparing the sales of a Freewrite typewriter to a MacBook pro, but not accounting for people who are authors. One is for a dedicated audience and the other mainstream, multi-use tool. There will always be a niche to fill.
    E-readers don’t need to be mainstream and, as long as they provide a distraction-free, battery-saving, reflection-free, eye-soothing experience, they’ll always sell to actual readers.

    Reply
  • Avatar for Will Sherman
    October 23, 2021 at 10:29 pm
    Permalink

    There are so many things wrong with your article. Sales worldwide have dropped due to Covid and supply on electronics across the World. Lots of folks at this point, almost half of Americans, already own an e-reader, so that is another thing that is affecting the sales. Also, the e-readers have dramatically changed. For example, 5 LED supported screens to 21 LEDs in 3 years on some models, waterproofing is common, Bluetooth, wireless charging, etc. Lots of new models coming out this year.

    Today, many of us read on screens all the time, so it’s almost natural to look for an e:reader.

    As the cost of paper books goes through the roof, why not get a subscription or a digital library card and read books virtually for free?

    Reply
    • Avatar for Jo
      January 3, 2022 at 6:26 am
      Permalink

      Exactly. We should be celebrating that there isn’t a cycle of planned obsolescence we see with these devices at least. If there were no new device releases or if people’s previous devices were working just fine, there would be no need to buy more. There are also plenty that get bought and sold on the second hand market including devices that are a decade old and still function well enough for basic reading use.

      Reply
  • Avatar for Jean
    September 30, 2021 at 1:19 am
    Permalink

    Oh no. I love my Kindle. Use it every day.

    Reply
  • Avatar for Dakum Ross
    September 2, 2020 at 10:52 pm
    Permalink

    Of course ereader devices are on decline, for one simple reason; they suck! The experience is not even 25% as good as phone or tablet or physical book. And for a crappy device with awefull screen resolution, like 2020 Kindle Paperwhite and near impossible navigation, it is no wonder nobody wand to foreknowledge out $200-$500 for a device that’s not worth $50.

    Reply
    • Avatar for Jo
      January 3, 2022 at 6:15 am
      Permalink

      It really doesn’t seem like you actually know anything about ereaders at all.

      Firstly, there’s no 2020 Kindle Paperwhite. Indeed, there were no kindles at all released in 2020. There’s a 2021, and a 2018 Paperwhite which have excellent 300dpi screen resolution. 6-7” ereaders also are much less than the price you’re claiming.

      The 2018 6” Paperwhite was sold as certified refurb on Woot recently for $70, and when it was sold as new frequently would go on sale on Amazon for $80-90. The 2021 6.8” Paperwhite is $140 retail (the kids edition went on sale recently for $119).The 6” Kobo Clara retails for $119.99 and has gone on sale for <$100 (certified refurb can be had for $90). The 7” Libra 2 is sold for $179.99. It’s only the 8” devices that go above $200 and still below $300. Pocketbooks have slightly higher price points, but still nowhere near what you’re claiming.

      The only devices that reach $4-500 range are specialist 10”+ eink note-takers like the Kobo Elipsa, Boyue Likebook P10W, Boox Note Air2/Note 5, Supernote A5X etc.

      Secondly, Kindles and other ereaders have a much easier navigation than an android tablet. They’re not complex devices and there are different brands which offer different UIs depending on preference.

      Thirdly, it is not a universal truth that the reading experience is worse than a tablet or physical book. Most ereaders are lighter than physical books and tablets, with some 7-8” models are designed with a handle which many find ergonomic to hold. If someone simultaneously likes to read several books at a time, then it makes even more sense. The less reflective screen means that, unlike a tablet, you’re able to read without any kind of backlight flashing directly into your eyes, and are able to read in direct sunlight (not something that can be done remotely comfortably on a phone or tablet).

      Reply

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