E-Book Readers Lack Appeal

Amazon's Kindle and Sony's Reader have gotten lots of media attention, but a survey shows that consumers are not yet sold on the devices.

Sony E-Reader
(click image for 3 large pix)
Sony's Reader

E-book readers from Amazon and Sony have gotten lots of media attention, but a recent survey shows that consumers are not yet sold on the devices.

More than 40% of the more than 2,000 U.S. adults surveyed by the NPD Group said they were "somewhat uninterested or "not interested at all" in buying an e-reader. Of those respondents, nearly 70% said they preferred the feel of an actual book.

NPD's findings, released Thursday, were in line with comments from analysts recently interviewed by InformationWeek. Those industry observers said the biggest hurdle faced by e-reader makers was in moving mainstream consumers away from physical books. E-readers today appeal mostly to avid readers and people who travel regularly.

While more consumers were not interested in e-readers, NPD found 37% "very interested" or "somewhat interested" in buying one. Among those people, the top reason for buying an e-reader was the convenience of buying and storing multiple books, magazines, and newspapers on a single device.

Among the most popular features were those that already exist in the most popular products: wireless capability found in Amazon's Kindle and touch-screen capabilities in Sony's latest version of the Reader.

However, features not yet available that would enhance the appeal of e-readers include screens that can display colors. Today's e-readers use a technology that displays black-and-white text and images at a comparable quality to paper, but not color.

Results of the NPD survey were released the day after Sony introduced two e-reader products, the Reader Pocket and Touch editions, which are scheduled to be available at the end of the month for $199 and $300, respectively.

The Pocket Edition will have a five-inch diagonal display, and the Touch Edition, which will have a touch-sensitive screen for navigating through books, will sport a six-inch screen that's the same size as the current Sony Reader.

Sony competes with Amazon, which sells the Kindle, with a six-inch screen, and the Kindle DX, which has a 9.7-inch screen. Startup Plastic Logic is planning to release a competing product by the end of the year that will be the same size as the DX.

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