Analysts predict that e-paper, the display technology used in e-readers, will reach nearly $10 billion in revenues in 2009. Research group DisplaySearch predicts that 1.8 billion units will ship in 2018, totaling $9.6 in revenue. DisplaySearch forecasts a compound annual growth rate of 41 percent for revenues and 64 percent for units shipped. Total revenue in 2009 is expected to be $431 million, more than triple last year’s $129 million. "E-paper displays are taking off with consumers due to their low power consumption and ease of reading, especially in sunlight," said Jennifer Colegrove, director of display technologies at DisplaySearch. "In addition, e-paper displays are 'green' because they reduce paper consumption," Colegrove said.

In the last six years the number of e-book models has grown from one in 2003 to around 20 today. While color e-book displays have begun to enter the market, DisplaySearch predicts that their high prices and the technical challenges they present will be responsible for slim sales until 2011.

DisplaySearch forecasts that sales of the leading display technology, Electrophoretic, will reach $5.8 billion by 2018, but that the cheaper Electrochromic displays will lead in sales volume by 2013.

E-readers have started to break out this year, but sales will really start to take off in the next two years as prices are driven down and consumer spending recovers.

Right now, 37 percent of consumers are interested in purchasing an e-reader, according to a survey by the NPD Group earlier this month. The biggest hesitation is a cultural one: 70 percents of respondents who were not interested in buying an e-book “said it’s because they prefer the feel of an actual book.”

When prices drop, though, I expect more people will be willing trade to trade that feel for the convenience and ultra-portability of a digital library.

By Mark Alvarez