The makers of e-book readers are pulling out the marketing stops -- Amazon's Kindle has been airing TV ads recently; Barnes & Noble is launching a major campaign to promote the Nook, and then there's the iPad -- but it still might be awhile before the platform catches on with consumers.
"More likely this is the year of the e-book. But where you'll read them is still to be determined," Andrew Eisner, director of content at consumer electronics shopping site Retrevo.com, tells Marketing Daily. "I think Amazon likes selling Kindles, but they like selling e-books even better."
Although the iPad is more than a mere e-book reader, it seems that Apple's introduction into the market -- along with its iBook store -- has jump-started interest among consumers and sellers in the category.
On Wednesday, Amazon announced it would begin selling its Kindle through Target retail stores beginning later this month. And on Thursday, Barnes & Noble announced it would begin airing its first television commercial in 14 years to tout the Nook. The spot depicts a girl reading books at various meaningful points in her life. The ads later encourage people to check out the device at their local Barnes & Noble, online or at Best Buy.
The timing of the announcements is not entirely coincidental. In addition to Apple's launch of the iPad earlier this month, e-Books have shown strong sales around gift-giving holidays, says Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis at The NPD Group. Considering that women -- particularly affluent women -- are big users of e-Books, a push around Mother's Day makes sense.
"The content of the devices still seems to focus on that avid reader," Rubin says. "They're all still chasing the same customer."
And that may be part of the problem. For the e-Book readers to truly reach mass penetration, they're going to have to get beyond leisure readers and into the lucrative textbook market, Rubin says. "There are still obstacles in the pathways to seeing that materialize," such as the inability to highlight or place notes in the margins, he says.
Another issue for many consumers is still the price. At $260, the retail price for the Kindle is many times the cost of a paperback, leaving the devices in the hands of early adopters, Eisner says. "We'll see what happens when the e-readers start coming out of Taiwan and the Far East," he says. "It's a growing trend and there's a lot of marketing money being spent on them. I'm not sure this is the year for e-Book readers, but it's coming."