Here’s some news to file under the “maybe a concern” category. It looks like eInk Holdings, the company that makes those beautiful eInk screens for NOOKs and Kindles, had a bad quarter. According to DigiTimes, this was their first set of poor earnings in over two years, and the company is saying it was due to “inventory adjustments”, aka they had fewer orders for new screens.
This isn’t good news, but I wouldn’t hold a funeral for eInk just yet. Yes, we are coming off a holiday season where the hot items were the NOOK Color and Tablet and the Kindle Fire. eInk devices simply weren’t as exciting. With the new NOOK Glowlight (and a rumored similar Kindle), eInk may get a boost with some new customers and buzz.
I also wonder if there’s another aspect to an eInk slowdown. Ebook readers aren’t complex. While it is great to have “the next big thing”, you really don’t need to buy new hardware to read books. In the last few years, Amazon and B&N have chased each other lower on the price spectrum until you could buy an ebook reader for less than $99. Remember, the original Kindle debuted at $399 in 2007. By default eInk was a growth area because the cheaper devices were from there, the more demand built up. But now the market is saturated. Someone who desperately wanted an ebook reader has already purchased or received one. Now it is a matter of attracting people for upgrades, and that’s a slower process.
We will have to wait and see what next quarter brings for eInk Holdings…and maybe, by some miracle, B&N and Amazon will release their sales numbers, and we’ll really get a handle on eInk sales and growth! Probably not, though…so we will just keep reading the tea leaves!