At this point in the economic downturn, many IT companies are scratching their collective heads and wondering where the profits went. Time to do some corporate soul-searching and spot-on market analysis in the search for Holy Grailpositive growth coupled with healthy profits. New market hunting we will go.

When it comes to new markets, it is hard to miss one that is now even causing Apple to go and develop a tablet – you bet, we’re talking about ePaper. After Amazon Kindle achieved great sales success [you can subscribe and read BSN* on Kindle too], now even paper magazines are going interactive, with CBS inserting an LCD display with ads for CBS shows and PepsiCo products in select issues of Septeber 18th issue of Entertainment Weekly.

Tech companies take note; the e-paper market is experiencing prodigious growth. According to a DisplaySearch report, the e-paper market will reach 1.8 billion units and 9.6 billion USD in revenues by 2018 versus 22 million units and 431 million USD in revenues in 2009. A CAGR [Compound Annual Growth Rate] of 64% for units and 41% for revenues is projected. No business executive in their right mind would ignore a market with projections of double-digit growth in both units moved and revenues. This is certainly a bright spot amidst the economic prophets’ forecasts of doom and gloom.

From the report: "E-paper displays are taking off with consumers due to their low power consumption and ease of reading, especially in sunlight," noted Jennifer Colegrove, Director of Display Technologies at DisplaySearch."In addition, e-paper displays are ‘green’ because they reduce paper consumption, and electronic shelf labels can save time and labor costs by enabling dynamic pricing in stores."

e-Ink, market and technology leader in eBook marketThe bulk of e-paper revenues are derived from e-book displays. Practically all e-book devices employ E Ink’s electrophoretic display technology, a tiny number use using cholesteric LCD [liquid crystal display] technology – notably Fujitsu’s FLEPia. Electrophoretic display suppliers SiPix and Bridgestone have decide to commercialize their e-book displays.
 
Some highlights from the DisplaySearch E-Paper Displays Report:

  • The number of e-book/e-text books (5-9.x") models went from one model in 2003-2004 to three in 2006, to about five in 2007. In 2009, the number of models jumped to about 20. The e-paper display market for e-books and e-textbooks (5-10") is forecast to grow from about 1 million units in 2008 to 77 million units in 2018.
  • Color e-book displays recently entered the market with Fujitsu’s 8" FLEPia e-book. Due to the high price and technical challenges, DisplaySearch forecasts color e-books will not reach high volumes before 2011. 
  • Electrophoretic was the leading technology in 2008, and DisplaySearch forecasts that the technology will continue to lead the e-paper display market growth for this forecast period, and reach $5.8 billion by 2018. 
  • Bi-stable LCD was the second largest e-paper display technology by revenues in 2008; DisplaySearch forecasts this segment will reach $2.5 billion by 2018.
  • MEMS (micro-electro mechanical system) display technology will expand from small size mobile phone displays to color and medium size e-book displays over the next few years.
  • Electrochromic displays are targeting low-cost, high-volume smart label and card display applications. DisplaySearch forecasts that electrochromic will become the leading technology in terms of unit volume for e-paper displays by 2013

So is e-paper going to replace regular paper and will e-books replace regular books? Not anytime soon but data shows a positive trend in wholesale e-book publishing revenues. The prognostication is that as the push for eliminating costs associated with paper books and filing grows digital methods of content delivery will grow – as will the market for e-paper in the form of digital readers such as the Kindle and Sony’s brand new Reader Daily Edition shipping August 31. Technology is always advancing and any company that gets a piece of the e-paper market will be ahead of the pack.