Latest E-Reader Predictions 50 Percent More Optimistic But It’s All Guesswork

Just last month, Forrester Research was sticking with its May forecast that sales of e-Readers would hit 2 million this year. Now it’s dramatically revising that estimate to 3 million units in 2009, predicting that 900,000 devices will be sold during the holiday season, that 40 percent of all sales will occur in Q4 — and that it’s one of the categories that “should” be a breakout. The update literally comes on the heels of the Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) launch of a global English-language Kindle with wireless 3G access in more than 100 countries.

Forrester also sees sales doubling in 2010 — with about 10 million units sold overall by the end of 2010. That revised predictions are based on updated consumer survey data and interviews with people in the sales chain. Among the contributing factors, according to analyst Sarah Rotman Epps in a blog post: “falling device prices, more content availability, better retail distribution, and lots and lots of media buzz.”

And if that optimism doesn’t pan out? Blame the retailers, who have yet to figure out how to sell e-Readers. Epps: “The success of the holiday season, and next year’s growth, depends a lot on retailers and the extent to which they improve in-store merchandising for eReaders.” That means Forrester’s holiday projections “should be seen for what they are: An acknowledgment that 2009 has been and will be a year of breakout success for eReaders, tempered by realism that retailers, despite their best intentions, are still learning how to sell these products to curious but uninformed consumers.” Translation: don’t blame the forecaster if the projections fall short.

U.S. market share: *Amazon* comes out with nearly 60 percent of the market; Sony (NYSE: SNE), 35 percent; other device makers (Foxit, Interead, IRex) 5 percent.

Consumer awareness: Forty percent of US online consumers still say they