E-readers, tablet computers set to take off

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The Independent Tech

Consumers worlwide are very interested in tablet computers like Apple's iPad and electronic readers such as Amazon's Kindle, and sales of the devices could take off when prices drop, according to a new survey.

"I think we're already at the starting point of mass adoption," said John Rose of The Boston Consulting Group, which conducted the survey of nearly 13,000 consumers in 14 countries.

"A million iPads in a month is a lot," Rose told AFP on Monday, refering to Apple's first month sales figures for the touchscreen device. Other companies such as Sony, Samsung and Google were expected to come out with similar products, he added.

Fifty-one percent of consumers surveyed who were familar with e-readers or tablet computers said they planned to purchase one within a year and 73 percent said they planned to buy one within three years.

"The survey suggests that e-readers and tablets are not a niche product for early adopters but could become the MP3 players of this decade," Rose said separately in a press release. "Grandmothers will soon be carrying them around."

The survey revealed prices will have to drop before e-readers and tablets become established consumer products alongside television sets, personal computers and mobile phones.

"As with other major mass market consumer devices the prices will come down," Rose told AFP. "They always do.

"I expect you'll see the prices come down in the next 12 to 18 months," he said. "The first iPod was a 400-dollar device so there's no reason why we won't see the same cycle."

US consumers said they were prepared to pay between 100 and 150 dollars for a single-usage device like the Kindle or 130 to 200 dollars for a multi-purpose device like the iPad, which can serve as an e-reader but also browse the Web or play video.

The Kindle, which was launched in 2007, costs 259 dollars while the iPad, which came out in the United States last month, costs between 499 dollars and 829 dollars.

The survey found most consumers would prefer a multi-purpose device. Sixty-six percent said they preferred a multi-purpose device while 24 percent said they wanted a single-purpose device for reading electronic books. The remainder were undecided.

"Consumers want to use these devices for a broad range of things, including Web surfing and email," Rose said. "These are easy and portable devices that'll make it easy to do such things."

In the United States, consumers are willing to pay between five and 10 dollars for digital books, five to 10 dollars for a monthly newspaper subscription and between two and four dollars for a single issue of an online magazine.

The BCG survey was conducted in March of 12,717 consumers in Australia, Austria, Britain, China, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Norway, South Korea, Spain and the United States.

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