Consumers, it seems, aren't quite ready to declare the devoted e-reader market dead just yet -- according to IDC, the space is set to grow by 24 percent globally in 2011. That's especially good news for Barnes & Noble, as the company pushed to the top of the e-reader race for Q1, edging out Amazon's industry-defining Kindle. The bookseller's lead came thanks to its multiple devices, including the recently introduced touchscreen Nook and the tablet-esque Nook Color. The research firm credits the latter with Barnes & Noble's surge in the standings, explaining that the Kindle's colorless state has negatively impacted sales. Check out the sadly uncolorful press release below.
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Media Tablet Sales Lag Optimistic First Quarter Targets, But Forecast Remains Strong, According to IDC

FRAMINGHAM, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Worldwide media tablet shipments into sales channels fell by 28% on a sequential basis in the first calendar quarter of 2011 (1Q11) to 7.2 million units worldwide, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Media Tablet and eReader Tracker. Looking forward, however, IDC raised its shipment forecast for 2011 to 53.5 million units from a previous projection of 50.4 million units.

For 1Q11, the seasonal trends typically found in more mature consumer electronics and computing categories had a notable impact on the burgeoning media tablet market, suggesting that demand for the category may not be quite as strong as recent media hype suggests. The eReader market (which IDC counts separately) experienced similar seasonality, undergoing a sequential decline in shipments to 3.3 million units as the post-holiday season proved to be challenging for that category. However, eReaders enjoyed 105% year-over-year growth as the devices continue to grow in overall popularity, particularly with the introduction of color devices, such as Barnes & Noble's Color Nook. (Note: Media tablets have been shipping less than a full year and year over year growth comparisons are not yet available.)

Apple's iPad and the recently introduced iPad 2 continue to dominate the media tablet market, as other vendors have had a more difficult time finding market acceptance for their products. But even Apple's shipments for the quarter were well below expectations. Some supply-chain hiccups on screens as well as the pre-release announcement of the iPad 2 several weeks before its actual availability combined to have a noticeable impact on the company's shipments for the quarter.

Mobile phone vendors, such as Samsung and Motorola, who have focused their distribution through the telco carriers, found moderate success with their media tablets, but sales were largely stymied by many consumers' unwillingness to sign up for the 3G/4G data plans that the carriers typically require along with these devices. As an operating system, Android-based devices grew to 34% of the total, a share increase of 8.2 points over the previous quarter.

For eBooks, Barnes & Noble's Color Nook helped the company to take the lead in the eReader market for the first time. Amazon's Kindle was second, but the lack of a color offering has clearly impacted the company's previous dominance in the eReader market. IDC forecasts the worldwide eReader market to ship 16.2 million units in 2011, a 24% increase over 2010.

"Like the PC market, Media Tablets had a bit of a challenging quarter in Q1, as concerns about general macroeconomic issues and the post-holiday letdown took a toll on demand," said Bob O'Donnell, IDC Vice President, Clients and Displays. "We expect the rest of the year to be much stronger, but we believe vendors who continue to focus on the telco channel for distribution will face serious challenges."

"Although media tablet sales were not as high as expected in 1Q11 due to slower consumer demand, overall economic conditions, and supply-chain constraints, we believe with the entrance of competitive new devices in second half of 2011, the market will sell close to 53 million units for the year and continue to grow long-term," said Jennifer Song, IDC Research Analyst.