Wednesday, January 22, 2014

E-book reading gains sparked by increase in device ownership

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has release a report on "E-Reading."  The report notes that readership remains strong among American adults, with about three-quarters indicating that they had read at least one book in the last year - levels that have remained fairly consistent across Pew's studies from 2011 to 2014.  On the other hand, those reporting they have read an e-book have increased significantly, from 17% in 2011 to 28% in 2014.

One of the factors for the increased e-book readership is the rapid diffusion of handheld readers - in the form of dedicated readers like the Kindle, and/or in the form of tablets.  The study reports that, currently, half of Americans own tablets and/or e-readers.   In fact, e-book readers are almost as likely (55%) to use tablets for reading as they use e-readers (57%).

Tablet ownership growth and diffusion now outpaces that for e-readers.  In May, 2010, only 3% of American adults reported owning a table, growing to 42% by early January, 2014.  E-reader ownership was at 4% in May, 2010, rising to 32% in the latest survey.  As you'd expect, there are demographic differences in device ownership, those reporting reading at least one book (or ebook) a year, and in the number of books read annually.  However, only a few differences were sizable -
  • Older Americans, those with less than a high school education, and lower income, were all less likely to own handheld devices for reading.
  • In a bit of a surprise, younger adults (18-29) were also much less likely to have e-readers than tablets.
  • Hispanics were much less likely to report having read a book in the last year, both in print and e-book formats.
  • Age mattered in reporting having read an e-book (the older the less likely), but not in reading print books.
  • More women reported reading a book than men (74% v 64% for printed books; 33% v 23% for e-books)
  • E-book readers haven't abandoned print - 87% of those reading an e-book also report reading a printed book.
When asked about how many books they've read, the mean for all adults was 12, while the median was 5.  In other words, half read at least 5 books a year, and some portion read much more (for the mean to be that much higher requires that there be a lot of people who read a great deal more than that).  I can support that anecdotally - I read 30-50 books a year, and when I managed a used book store I had customers who read 10-20 books a week.

The study shows that women are not only more likely than men to have read a book, they also tend to read more books in a year.  Again, the other noticeable drop-off is for those self-identifying as Hispanic.  While there is likely some interaction effects with other demographic factors, I wonder if language (and the relative scarcity of Spanish-language books in the U.S.) might also be a contributing factor.

As an avid e-reader, I've noticed that I'm running across more and more non-English language books in the Kindle and iBook stores - but still nowhere near the number and variety of English-language books.  So relative scarcity and lack of diversity of Spanish-language books may be a contributing factor in the lower readership levels among Hispanics.

Source -  E-Reading Rises as Device Ownership Jumps,  Pew Internet & American Life Project report.

No comments:

Post a Comment