Something interesting's afoot in the digital reading space. Quietly, companies are testing digital reading applications for portable gaming devices in select markets. Two developments of note:

  • EA "Flips" for Nintendo DS: A reader app for Nintendo's portable gaming system, offered for now only in the UK. Aimed at 8- to 11-year-olds (a good fit for the install base of the DS). Content partnerships announced with UK book publishers Penguin and Egmont. Revenue model will be bundled downloads of multiple (6-8) titles for an a la carte price of £24.99. Interactive elements include quizzes, operated with the DS's touch screen and stylus.
  • Marvel Comics and others on the Sony PSP: In August, Sony announced a digital reader app for the PSP that will launch in December in select countries (UK, US, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa). It announced a content partnership with Marvel Comics and said there would be more content partners with comics, graphic novels, and manga publishers to come. Marvel digital comics are already available online via subscription ($10/month or $60/year). Details on the app don't say how much comics will be on the PSP.

Why is this interesting?

  • The market for digital reading is much bigger than the market for dedicated eReader devices. Nintendo has sold more than 100 million DS units worldwide, and Sony has sold more than 50 million PSPs. That's a huge install base! For context, Apple has sold more than 30 million iPhones and 20 million iPod touches. The market for dedicated reading devices is much smaller–Forrester estimates that so far Amazon has sold about 1.6 million Kindles and Sony has sold less than 1 million Reader devices–but it's catalyzing a shift in consumer behavior toward digital reading across devices.
  • Portable gaming systems reach a demographic that isn't served by eReaders today. As we published in a report earlier this year, the first wave of eReader adopters were older, male, high-income tech optimists, and the second wave is a slightly younger, female consumer who buys and reads a lot of books. Though there might be some gifting potential for older kids with Sony's $199 Pocket Reader, for now, these are not devices for kids. For publishers, it makes sense to reach kids on devices that kids already own, including portable gaming devices. In its Flips press release, EA notes that 2 million 8- to 11-year-olds in the UK own Nintendo DSes.