E-Readers at a Glance

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By Gabriel Perna | July 31, 2010 2:15 AM EST

Amazon's announcement that it's releasing a new generation of Kindle e-readers means the ever-growing electronics segment is likely to continue its upward trajectory.

The new Kindle is smaller, faster and has longer battery life as well as better screen contrast than its predecessor.  At a price of $139 for its Wi-Fi only version, the latest Kindle is also a lot cheaper. The low price, combined with other e-readers slashing their prices, means the device could go from being mostly a niche product to a mainstream item. At least that's what Amazon hopes.

Numbers from iSuppli Corp. suggest by the end of next year the number of e-readers shipped will have tripled from 2009. Meanwhile, Forrester analyst James McQuivey said sales of e-readers will reach 6.6 million this year. By 2015, it will be 8.7 million.

While there are countless e-reader devices out there, the following five seem to be the ones that have made or will make any impact.

Amazon Kindle: The Kindle is the champion thus far of the e-reader game says McQuivey. The company said the number of e-books sold on the Kindle has outsold the number of physical books sold on Amazon.com 1.43 to 1 over the past three months. Amazon said in the past month, the number actually rose to 183 e-books for every hardcover book. While the company does not release sales figures for the device itself, analysts estimate it is between 3.5 and 4 million. At its friendly price point, Amazon says it hopes the newest Kindle will turn the e-reader into a "mass market device."

Barnes and Noble Nook: In terms of dedicated e-readers, the Nook is probably Amazon's strongest competitor. In fact, the Nook was able to outsell the Kindle in the first quarter of this year, said research firm Digitimes Research. Barnes & Noble recently cut the price of the Nook to $149, making it the cheapest on the market until it got undercut by Amazon. While Barnes & Noble's e-bookstore is not as extensive as Amazon's, the Nook does allow for readers to lend books to each other, unlike the Kindle.

Sony Reader: To better compete against the others, Sony followed Barnes & Noble and Borders' lead by slashing the price of its reader to $150 for a pocket version. However, the cheapest Sony version does not have landscape viewing settings or Wi-Fi connectivity. However, it does offer touch capability, which the Kindle and others do not have. While Sony did not release specific numbers on the number of Readers it has sold, it did recently say they have tripled year-over-year in the second quarter.

Borders Kobo: This one has yet to hit the virtual or physical shelves yet, so sales figures are not available for comparison. Borders said it would like to reach 17 percent of the growing e-reader market. With 1.5 million titles in its e-book store as well as an application available on the iPhone, iPad and Android 2.0 operating system, it's possible.

iPad: Unlike the others, the iPad is obviously more than just an e-reader. However, with its iBooks store as well as an app on it for the Kindle, Nook and Kobo, the device has become a popular e-reader substitute. However many analysts say the device, which nears four million in sales, is not a Kindle (or any e-reader) replacement, it's a complimentary device.

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