My sister bought the Nook Color a few weeks ago and she treats it like a cheaper, more productive child. She takes it everywhere: to use during work, to the beach while she sunbathes, to the bathroom, to bed. There’s not one corner of her apartment that has not met the device.
“You’d love it. You read so much. You need it,” she tells me every time she wants to show me something new you can do with it (she’s not aware that I write about eReaders all day). She shows me all the magazines she subscribes to, including Cosmopolitan and one of those magazines aimed at 17-year-olds (“I like their fashion articles!” she says in her defense).
Her love for the Nook Color is not by coincidence. There are correlations between the sexes and how men and women gravitate to devices—women toward eReaders (especially the Nook) and men toward tablets.
Jeremy Peters of The New York Times reports, “The Nook Color has surprised publishers of women’s magazines like O, Cosmopolitan and Women’s Health by igniting strong sales that rival — and in some cases surpass — sales on the iPad.1”
It may not be immediately apparent how women’s love for magazines might affect the market.
Peters says, “On the surface, the reason for the strong performance of female-oriented publications on the Nook is relatively straightforward. Generically speaking, the iPad and other tablets are men’s toys, while the Nook Color and other e-readers are more popular with women. According to data from Forrester Research, 56 percent of tablet owners are male, while 55 percent of e-reader owners are female. Women also buy more books than men do—by a ratio of about 3 to 1, according to a survey last year by Bowker, a research firm for publishers—and are therefore more likely to buy devices that are made primarily for reading books.”
The gap in magazine sales between the Nook Color and the iPad is a pretty big one. Barnes & Noble has been in the bookselling business a lot longer then Apple has, and naturally has a better relationship with publishers. “Nook Color subscriptions are outselling the magazines Meredith publishes on the iPad, where only single-issue sales are available, by about 2 to 1. Hearst, which publishes O and Cosmopolitan, is selling tens of thousands of subscriptions on the device each month. Rodale Inc., which publishes Women’s Health, Runner’s World and Prevention on the Nook Color, is selling about five times as many subscriptions through Barnes & Noble as it is selling single issues on the iPad,” says Peters.
What does this mean as part of the big picture (the race)? The ability to subscribe to and automatically download magazines to a digital device was first unveiled on the Amazon Kindle. Since then, both the Nook eReader and a variety of tablets (of which the iPad is god [in sales anyways]) have also acquired this important and convenient feature for consumers to enjoy.
Recent Nielsen data revealed that only 5% of Americans own tablets, while 9% own eReaders.2
Both Barnes & Noble and Amazon are slowly but surely tapping into the tablet market in hopes of becoming serious competitors to the iPad. With Barnes & Noble unveiling the Nook Touch and beating the iPad in magazine sales, it might knock Apple off its throne before ever releasing a true tablet successor. Don’t expect Amazon to sit on the sidelines, either.
The Apple iPad could end up in third place in the tablet market, if not lower. Is this likely due to magazine sales? No. Apple’s ingenuity has kept it on top for a reason. This is a blow, but not the one to send the iPad plunging into an e-waste abyss. Like all races, there are obstacles.