E-readers and Tablets Could Become This Decade's MP3 Players, Says BCG Survey
E-readers and tablets are poised to become wildly popular and successful consumer devices, according to a recent Boston Consulting Group (BCG) consumer preference survey of nearly 13,000 consumers in 14 countries, including China, India, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The global consulting firm found that 28 percent of all respondents-and 51 percent of those familiar with the devices-plan to purchase an e-book reader or tablet computer within the next year. And given a three-year time frame, those percentages increase to 49 percent and 73 percent, respectively.
"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. Grandmothers will soon be carrying them around," says John Rose, global leader of BCG's Media practice.
The survey found that, of those interested in purchasing an e-reader over the next three years, more than 90 percent would use the device for e-books, and over 80 percent would use it to read the online versions of magazines and newspapers. In the United States, however, consumers are willing to pay only $5 to $10 for digital books, below the price that book publishers are targeting. In regard to newspapers and magazines, consumers are willing to pay $2 to $4 for a single issue of an online magazine, comparable to the cost of the print version, and $5 to $10 for a monthly online newspaper subscription. While this is less than the cost of a print subscription, the digital version is cheaper to produce.
Consumers clearly want to do more than just read with these devices, according to the survey. Globally, 66 percent of respondents would prefer to buy a multipurpose device, whereas only 24 percent prefer a single-function device, such as the Amazon Kindle. The remainder said they were undecided.
However, even with multiple functions, mass acceptance is not guaranteed unless prices drop significantly. In the United States, the survey found consumers are only willing to spend up to $200 for a multipurpose tablet, far below the iPad's $499 price tag.
Consumers also expressed a strong desire for freedom of choice when purchasing content, rather than being locked into a single source, such as the iTunes store. More than 80 percent of consumers interested in purchasing an e-reader or tablet said they would buy more content if multiple retailers were available.
"The survey suggests that Apple's strategy of offering a wide degree of functionality makes sense," says Dominic Field, U.S. leader of BCG's Media practice. "But the results also call into question Apple's preference for a closed system."