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iPad, Kindle: not necessarily an either/or proposition

A new survey suggests that there's plenty of room for the iPad and the Kindle to peacefully coexist.

By / January 4, 2011

With an estimated 8 million units sold last year, the Kindle is looking like a survivor.

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For some pundits it once seemed like simple arithmetic: The iPad does many things and the Kindle only one. So no one with an iPad will need a Kindle, right?

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Apparently not, according to a new survey by TechCrunch, which suggests that the iPad is not a Kindle killer. On the contrary: According to the TechCrunch survey of 1,000 iPad owners, 40 percent also own a Kindle. And perhaps more significantly, another 23 percent plan to buy a Kindle within the next 12 months.

The big takeaway, according to TechCrunch: "[T]he iPad and the Kindle are perceived as different types of products, and rightly so. Amazon has done a good job marketing the Kindle as an ebook designed specifically for book lovers, and at $139 for the lowest-priced Kindle it is seen as a different class of device than the $499 iPad. (It also doesn’t hurt that you can use the iPad as a Kindle reading device, removing the need for consumers to make an either-or decision)."

For plenty of readers, this news comes as no surprise. Even immediately after the highly successful iPad launch – just as many observers were insisting most vehemently that the Kindle would die – book industry newsletter ShelfAwareness did an informal survey of iPad critiques by "bookish reviewers" and quickly concluded that "while booksellers and publishers may have been hoping for a Kindle-killer, the iPad is not it."

It seems there's plenty of room in the marketplace for a dedicated e-reader. As TechCrunch points out: "Bookworms are a niche audience, but a lucrative one." While about half of the people in the TechCrunch survey said that they read between zero and 10 books a year, 16 percent said they read more than 25 books a year.

Those are the kind of readers that Amazon is hoping to entice and so far they have done a good job, as evidenced by last year's estimated sales of 8 million Kindles.

That's not to say that someone won't eventually build a better e-reader. They probably will. But at least for now, it's not the iPad.

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.

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