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Worldwide shipments of dedicated ebook readers such as the E-Ink Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook will fall by 36 percent to 14.9 million units this year, and plummet to just 7.1 million units by 2016.

That’s the word this morning from industry researcher IHS, which blames the rise of multipurpose tablets such as Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Apple’s iPad.

The phenomenon isn’t a surprise, but the is significant. It’s reminiscent of the impact that smartphones have had on dedicated music players and cameras.

“The stunning rise and then blazing flameout of ebooks perfectly encapsulate what has become an axiomatic truth in the industry: Single-task devices like the ebook reader are being replaced without remorse in the lives of consumers by their multifunction equivalents, in this case by media tablets,” says IHS analyst Jordan Selburn in a news release.

IHS says makers of ebook readers will likely continue to drop in price, which will prolong the life of the market, but “the devices on the whole will not regain the popularity they once had.”

Meanwhile, the firm says tablets are “enjoying unstoppable growth,” with shipments expected to reach 120 million units in 2012, and 340 million units by 2016.

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