Another Computerworld reader said owning both an iPad and a Kindle device revealed different usage patterns. "I rarely touched the Kindle for a long while after [buying the iPad], but I started to realize I wasn't reading as much or for as long with the iPad as I had with the Kindle because it was heavier and it was causing more eyestrain," BThorn wrote. "I still have the iPad and use it for work, Web browsing, etc., but when I want to read a book, I get my Kindle again."
Ryan Reith, an analyst at IDC, said the e-reader vs. tablet debate also gets into how much the average consumer can spend on a single-function device alongs with other computing products, such as laptops, smartphones, desktops and tablets.
The decline of e-readers is expected to continue for several years "mostly due to limited functionality found within e-readers, the growing demand for tablets and limited consumer spend," Reith said.
The prognosis for e-readers is indeed poor by 2016, when IHS said 7.1 million will ship, down 66% from the high point of 2011, when 23.2 million sold.
"Certainly e-readers will be supported two years and beyond, but with any low margin business, the number of vendors ... will be limited," Reith added.
Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble sell e-books for their e-readers, but they also sell their own tablets that can be purchased for less than $200, including the Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook.
Some analysts believe that the solution is for those digital booksellers to continue to sell e-readers at bargain prices for several more years, or longer, while also enhancing tablets.
Meanwhile, textbook publishers are converting paper textbooks into e-textbooks for use on devices that schools hope will cost even less in two years than they do now. The e-textbook trend could help prolong the life of inexpensive e-readers, but school administrators will still have to decide between e-readers and low-cost tablets, analysts said.
"To be honest, we see more education investment in tablets than we do e-readers," Reith said. A trend in Asia is for schools to buy Android tablets in bulk from Chinese manufacturers for the equivalent of about $95 a device, he said.