Stamford, Conn. - Connected e-reader sales are projected to hit 11 million units in 2011, according to Gartner.
The category has experienced massive growth since it hit the market in 2009. That year Gartner reported 3.6 million units were sold and this number increased 79 percent in 2010 on 6.6 million units sold.
Gartner defines this category as a portable device using E Ink, e-paper or a similar display technology.
The research firm credited these sales increases to the generally low-price attached to the e-readers, their long-battery life and solid display technology.
Hugues De La Vergne, a principal research analyst at Gartner, North America, said the North American region is the primary market for e-readers and it will account for 4 million of the 6.6 million units sold this year.
The report noted the e-reader segment has become quite crowded with competitors and there is a real threat it will become commoditized as other products like tablets start to bring pressure onto e-readers.
De La Vergne said the three category leaders, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Sony, may start to face some serious competition going forward from both inexpensive third-party vendors and the big PC firms, such as Hewlett-Packard and Dell, which are working their way into the segment.
Media tablets pose the largest potential threat to the e-reader category, and these vendors will have to counter the threat with adding more functionality and marketing toward avid readers who would only want a stand-alone device.
Allen Weiner, research VP at Gartner, said, "E-reader vendors will also need to offer lower prices than for more fully featured media tablets. This will entail smaller profit margins and potential hardware subsidies at retail, and/or the ability to obtain lower-priced components. We think few end users will buy both an e-reader and a media tablet, so it is important that e-readers retain a price advantage."