Home » E-readers » Undermining E-Ink and single-purpose E-readers

Undermining E-Ink and single-purpose E-readers

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Core information:


See also: Hydis

Associated Press, a “not-for-profit corporation with a regular membership of 1,500 US daily newspapers and an associate membership of broadcasters and non-daily newspapers”, which is “in the United States alone … serves approximately 1,700 newspapers and 5,000 radio and television stations” (see p. 5 of the Associated Press Consolidated Financial Statements for years ended December 31, 2009 and 2008) on August 20 made available the following article for redistribution by its members and subscribers:

E-reading: Revolution in the making or fading fad? (as this dissappeared from the hosted Associated press site, see a republication on the Business Week site likely to remain for longer time)

This has been republished with the same title at least 266 times by different on-line media places around the world.

Follow-up: Hanvon – E-Ink strategic e-reader alliance for price/volume leadership supplementing Hanvon’s premium strategy mostly based on an alliance with Microsoft and Intel [Dec 21]

Updates (showing complete recovery from the FUD indicated above):

E Ink Holdings has reported record consolidated revenues of NT$3.68 billion (US$120 million) for December, NT$9.725 billion for the fourth quarter, and NT$25.179 billion [US$821 million] for 2010.

The record revenues resulted mainly from booming shipments of e-paper and FFS (fringe field switching) LCD panels produced by its Korea-based subsidiary Hydis, E Ink said.

To meet growing demand for e-paper, E Ink said it will soon start sourcing e-paper backplanes from Chunghwa Picture Tubes (CPT). Chimei Innolux (CMI) is a major backplane supplier for E Ink.

E Ink: Consolidated revenues, December 2010 (NT$b)











Source: Company, compiled by Digitimes, January 2011

The e-book reader market is looking rosy with China-based vendor Hanvon Technology expecting to ship over one million e-book readers in 2011 and speculation about Sony returning to the e-book reader market in Japan.

Although the education market for e-book readers is just taking off, demand in the gift and consumer markets remains strong. With stimulation from price-cut promotions, overall sales of e-book readers are expected to exceed 10 million units in 2010.

  • Global sales of 20-25 million e-book readers projected for 2011, says E Ink chairman [Oct 28]
  • E Ink Announces Color ePaper [Nov 10]: “In addition to 16 levels of grayscale, Triton is capable of displaying thousands of colors”
  • Color Comes to E Ink Screens [Nov 7]: “… the new color E Ink display, while an important technological breakthrough, is not as sharp and colorful as LCD. Unlike an LCD screen, the colors are muted, as if one were looking at a faded color photograph. … Hanvon’s first product using a 9.68-inch color touch screen will be available this March in China, starting at about $440.”
  • There has been a significant decline in July and August unconsolidated E Ink Holdings (EIH) revenues, i.e. only EPD related (i.e. Hydis not included) as reported in E Ink reports revenue growth in September [Oct 11]. This is explained as “significant decreases in prices of EPDs shipped to its major clients in the third quarter, the overall revenue figures were unable to reflect the growth of EIH’s shipments in the quarter.” This actually means that with significant growth in September EIH was able to compensate the earlier revenue loss with much higher unit growth and returned to normal business growth conditions. The monthly and quarterly revenues for the last 12 months were actually (in NT$m):

























































  • For a more general overview of the subject area see: E-reading SaaS wars next to e-reader wars [June 30]
  • Update: Despite the negative publicity created by this Blitz: New Generation Kindles Are the Fastest-Selling Kindles Ever and Already the Best-Selling Products on Amazon — New Kindles start shipping to customers today–two days ahead of previously announced release date [Amazon press release, Aug 25].
    “… in the four weeks since the introduction of the new Kindle [$139] and Kindle 3G [$189, with Free 3G Wireless in 100 countries], customers ordered more Kindles on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk combined than any other product, continuing Kindle’s over two-year run as the bestselling product across all the products sold on Amazon.com.”
  • Update: The Story On E-Readers: Falling Prices Sparking Rising Sales [Sept 9]. Finally an unbiased analyst view: “Amazon.com (AMZN) kicked off the price cuts when it debuted its third-generation Kindle e-reader, starting at $139, on July 28. Analysts say Amazon is selling the device at a loss, looking to make up the difference on e-book sales. In response to Amazon’s price cut, Borders Group (BGP) reduced the price of its Kobo e-reader by $20 to $129. Also, Borders’ online store has been selling Aluratek’s Libre e-reader for $99. … As a dedicated device, e-readers have several advantages over tablets. Most e-readers use low-power and black-and-white E Ink displays that have great contrast for legibility, approximating the look of text on paper. They also can be read in bright sunlight. Plus, e-readers boast long battery life. For the next couple of years, e-readers and media tablets will be able to coexist in the market, analysts say.”
  • Update: Taiwan market: E-book reader players targeting cram school market [Nov 2] is stating that “Facing competition from tablet PCs, e-book reader players in Taiwan have recently turned their focus from consumers to the cram school industry, according to sources from related players.”
  • Update: Taiwan’s e-book future takes shape [Sept 17]. From this article it is easy to see that Taiwan has an even bigger influence on e-paper based industry than its more than 90% share in notebooks, which is more manufacturing only oriented. Moreover: “The government has forecast Taiwan’s e-reader production will grow by NT$30 billion (US$943.46 million) in 2010 and the digital content industry will increase its business to NT$100 billion by 2013. To help achieve this goal, the IDB said, the government is planning to allocate NT$2.13 billion to boost the local industry.Taiwanese companies have also moved to tap into the mainland Chinese market. … The supply chain and reading content remain the major factors in the future of e-readers. … For Taiwan-made e-readers to dominate the global market … digital publishers should quickly beef up the volume of content and e-reader makers should offer customers a more reliable operational support system”.
  • Update: Foxconn e-book reader shipments expected to surpass 20 million units in 2011, says paper [Nov 1]: “Global e-book reader shipments are expected to reach 12 million units in 2010 with 80-90% of the shipments, equivalent to more than 10 million units, from Foxconn Electronics (Hon Hai Precision Industry). … As for other smaller e-book reader makers, Netronix shipped about 200,000 units in the first half and is aiming to ship 400,000 units for 2010, but the market watchers believe Netronix should be able to ship 500,000-600,000 if upstream component supply is smooth; … Qisda is still aiming to ship 400,000 e-book readers in 2010, added the paper.
  • Update: Global sales of 20-25 million e-book readers projected for 2011, says E Ink chairman [Oct 28] is stating that “Market observers are expected to adjust upward the estimated shipments of e-book readers in 2011 of 18 million, and the e-book reader market in 2011 will increase 2-2.5 fold on year, equivalent to about 20-25 million units.
  • Technology holder PVI‘s share price, however, has suffered, but with Amazon announcement seems to start climbing back (you can check the actual share price by clicking on the image: [Sept 11: You could see that it has returned fast to the previous $52+ value and and remained stable so far. So the damage has been repaired by the market realities as outlined in the updates above.])

What a contrast when looking into the titles of republications in Taiwan and mainland China:

Are e-readers the way of the future or simply a fad? (Taipei Times)

Taiwan panel maker partners with US tech firm on e-reading (China Post)

US-Taiwanese creation sparks e-reading rise (Shanghai Daily)

With only one Taiwanese site keeping the original main title but also adding a subtitle: Single-purpose e-readers have hard time to keep up with multifunctional devices that have the same capability (Taiwan News)

All republishers in Canada and a few in US changed the title to a more positive one:

Electronic books catching on but still face challenges as iPad sales swell, skepticism lingers (Canadian Business Online, also available with this title on other Canadian sites: CanadaEast Interactive, Lethbridge Herald of Alberta, News1130 all news radio service of Vancouver, 680News radio station of Toronto, The Record of Ontario, Brandon Sun of West Canada, The Chronicle Journal of Ontario; Star Tribune from Minnesota, US; Cox Communications, the third-largest cable entertainment and broadband services provider in the US; Washington Examiner of US; Breitbart of US)

In addition there are variations in US like:

Challenges for E Ink: Can e-readers replace paper, battle iPad?

Are E-Readers A Passing Fad?

E-Readers Battle Tablets for Digital Book Supremacy

E-Reading: Revolution Or Fading Fad? Questions Remain Over Taiwanese-American Venture (from KTVU and other: KPHO, WSMV, KERO in California, WFSB)

Will paper go the way of stone tablets? Digital display product doesn’t try to be iPad; it’s for reading (Hamilton Spectator, Ontario, Canada)

E-reading: Revolution in the making or fading fad? Questions remain about whether marketplace ready to dispense with paper-based reading (Canada’s #1 Globe and Mail)

Digital reading: Fad or sea change? E-reader firm takes on paper, other e-devices (The Commercial Appeal from the US Mid-South)


US companies are generally envying at the success of E-Ink technology and especially at the whole business ecosystem built around it by the Taiwanese Prime View International (PVI), now E Ink Holdings Inc. In fact E-Ink based e-book readers have been dominating the market since 2006. They have more than 90% share! So with 10 million e-readers shipment forecasted by E Ink Holdings for this year and 20 million for the next one (see: E-paper maker announces income spike [Aug 11]), as well as entry prices going down to US$100 by Christmas time(*) they are afraid that the tablets and slates that will begin to follow the US$500+ Apple iPad lead will have far from sufficient space to build their starting businesses upon.

(*)Note: Amazon.com Introduces $139 Kindle Amid Apple Tussle [July 29] is a clear indication of that.

In the E-readers, Tablets to Become Mass-Market Devices [May 17] article it has already been reported that:

Over one-half (57%) of surveyed US consumers say they plan to purchase an e-reader or tablet within the next three years—29% plan to purchase one within the next year—according to a study by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). …

… There is a strong preference for multipurpose tablets: 53% of consumers say they would like to own a multipurpose e-reader, such as an iPad, compared with 39% who prefer single-purpose e-readers, such as Amazon’s Kindle, the Nook from Barnes and Noble, or the Sony Reader. …

… Widespread adoption will depend in part on a drop in prices: The sweet spot for multipurpose devices is from $130 to $200—far below the $499 entry price of the iPad—while the desired price for a single-purpose device is from $100 to $150. …

While the E-Ink based e-readers will be able to match that sweet spot in prices by Christmas and next year, the multipurpose devices built on other technologies could only after 2-3 years on the market. So US companies should put Fear-Uncertainty-and-Doubt (FUD) into the minds of US customers about the future of single-purpose e-readers as much as only possible. This whole communication storm is nothing less than that.

Will be interesting to watch how effective that well orchestrated effort will be. Keep in mind that the current blitz is just the beginning of a war. More will come from the US parties, and the Taiwanese multinational, E-Ink Holdings and its whole global ecosystem of partners (including the US-based ones, especially Amazon) should respond as well.

New Generation Kindles Are the Fastest-Selling Kindles Ever and Already the Best-Selling Products on Amazon
New Kindles start shipping to customers today–two days ahead of previously announced release date


  1. […] Undermining E-Ink and single-purpose E-readers [Aug […]

  2. […] reality that iPad is not cannibalizing single-purpose e-reader sales, so the FUD described in my Undermining E-Ink and single-purpose E-readers [Aug 23, updated till Sept 17 and beyond] could have very little effect on the […]

  3. […] E Ink Holdings’ market position see the Undermining E-Ink and single-purpose E-readers [Aug 23 – Nov 10] report. What follows here is mostly summarizing Hanvon’s (Hanwang’s) […]

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