The global electronic book market will grow almost 80 percent this year, aided by Apple's iPad, but devices with limited multimedia functions will remain a mainstream segment thanks to consumers seeking a serious reading experience, LG Display said on Monday.

Shipments of electronic paper displays jumped five-fold last year to 5 million units, spurred by strong sales of e-readers such as Amazon's Kindle and Sony's Sony Reader, according to DisplaySearch.

But the emergence of the iPad, a cross between a smartphone and a laptop, this year raised concerns that it would become a serious threat to the e-reader market, which has added scores of new products in recent years including Barnes & Noble's Nook, Plastic Logic's Que and the Hearst Corp-backed Skiff.

I think the iPad won't be a threat, but will actually have a positive impact on e-reader market, M.B. Choi, vice president of LG Display in charge of its electronic paper division, said at the Reuters Global Technology Summit in Seoul.

With iPad, Apple will boost consumer awareness of e-readers and boost digital content, which will help the market's overall growth.

LG Display, whose electronic panels are used in the Sony Reader and Skiff, forecast the global e-reader market would grow between 76-78 percent this year to above 8 million units.

The South Korean firm is the world's second-largest producer of electronic paper after Taiwan's Prime View International, which boasts a market share of some 70 percent.


iPad is a multimedia gadget that also has digital reading. Pure e-readers, however, have their own advantages. They consume much less power, weigh less and are easy to read among other things. They simply target a different customer segment, like those seeking a serious reading experience, said Choi.

Still some industry experts see iPad as a major challenge to e-reader makers with its user-friendly features such as color display, touch functions and faster response times, all areas in which electronic panel makers would have to spend a lot of time to catch up.

With improved but limited multimedia functions, I think e-readers will find a segment and compete against the iPad, Choi said, adding LG Display would launch a color e-reader in the fourth quarter.

(Reporting by Miyoung Kim; Editing by Jonathan Hopfner)