E-reader adoption hits double digits in 2011

E-reader adoption hits double digits in 2011

Summary: E-reader ownership among U.S. adults doubled between November 2010 and May 2011, from 6 percent adoption to 12 percent, according to a Pew study.


Slow and steady wins the race.

A new study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project shows that e-reader ownership among U.S. adults doubled between November 2010 and May 2011, from 6 percent adoption to 12 percent.

Interestingly, the study also found an increase in tablet ownership, albeit a more modest one: from 5 percent to 8 percent.

Three percent of U.S. adults said they owned both an e-reader and a tablet computer. The study's findings were based on a sampling of 2,277 adults.

More stats:

  • Adoption jumped from 5 to 15 percent in Hispanic households during the six-month period.
  • Adoption jumped from 6 to 16 percent among parents of children under 18.
  • Adoption jumped from 8 to 22 percent in households with a college graduate.
  • 24 percent of households with income over $75,000 now own an e-reader.
  • Surprisingly, men are more likely than women to own an e-reader. Ditto for tablets.

It's quite interesting to see the recent jump in the first chart above; perhaps that's indicative of the price point of e-readers becoming low enough to reach beyond the early adopters for the first time. Clearly, if device makers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble can get the retail price of a Kindle or Nook down to an event $100 -- a daunting, difficult challenge -- there's more market share to be had.

The wild card in this scenario is whether tablets have any impact at all on the e-reader market. E-Ink technology remains distinct from the glossy LCD displays of tablets, and I think the differences matter when it comes to battery life, flexibility, durability, cost and distraction -- in other words, you're more likely to read a Kindle on the beach this Fourth of July weekend than you are your iPad.

My wife, a happy first-generation iPad owner, recently caved in and bought a Kindle. There's got to be something to it. Priced appropriately, are e-readers naturally insulated from the tablet onslaught?

See also:

Topics: Hardware, Mobility, Tablets

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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  • RE: E-reader adoption hits double digits in 2011

    Is it really a surprise that ebook readers are behind ubiquitous devices? Pretty much everybody has a cellphone and at least one computer, even if it's an ancient old clunker that somebody gave you for free.
  • RE: E-reader adoption hits double digits in 2011

    an E reader is a single purpose device and cheap and simple. It is for those computer illiterates or fearful of tech that gives them a sense of simplicity albeit a limited use functionality. I would have one but I prefer greatly the illuminated screen which is easier for me to read from. I do not hang out at a beach since the nearest one is a 1200 km away. On the other hand, an Ereader runs a long time on a charge which is not small thing and once all these companies smarten up and allow interchangeable readers, library access and so forth, they will end up even in my gadget collective...
    • RE: E-reader adoption hits double digits in 2011

      @nfiertel Actually, my e-reader, a Kindle 3-3G/WiFi, is multiple purpose. It allowed me to drop my phone's data plan and go to a simple small phone instead of a brick. I browse the web, send email, and play numerous board and word games with the device. I also use it to read (grin). I have a large paper library and no longer had the room to expand. The ereader solves that problem. My 25 year old son also owns a Kindle and loves it. My wife is thinking about getting one. The biggest problem for me is I read a lot of non-fiction that has pictures and figures embedded in the text. The black and white screen tends to make some things (multi-color graphs in particular) hard to read. I assume there will be a color e-ink version available in the near future that will solve this problem.
    • RE: E-reader adoption hits double digits in 2011

      Since they probably didn't insist on their paperback having "illuminated" pages built in, I don't know why people use this as a reason not to buy. For those that want built in "illumination" there are book covers that are powered by the Kindle and supply the light and turn off and on with the e-reader. I know a few people with those and they love them. When they are in a lighted setting, they tuck away the light and it is off and out of the way.
    • RE: E-reader adoption hits double digits in 2011

      @nfiertel <br><br>An E-reader is software that runs on a dedicated device (like an Amazon Kindle) or small Linux (or Windows) devices running e-reader software. For example, I have a HTC Flyer (Android device) running: Adobe Reader, Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook, Kobo Reader (presumably from Google or HTC). The 'computer illiterates or fearful of tech that gives them a sense of simplicity albeit a limited use functionality' must be me... I only manage (or administer) several flavors of Unix, BSD, Linux, Windows and various application and database servers, thus must be 'fearful of tech'! What technology do you use?
  • RE: E-reader adoption hits double digits in 2011

    I don't have a dedicated reader, but I use the Kindle App on my droid2 extensively. I already have approximately 20 novels in my archive. I find that the app increases the amount of time I have to spend reading and I tend to purchase more books because they are cheaper in e-form and I can carry them all with me without needing a wheelbarrow. I see no reason to purchase a dedicated reader. The only thing missing and I have asked Amazon about this is they need to add the read aloud function to the app for those smartphones that have text to speech functionality. I know some books come in an audio version, but I would rather be able to turn any of my text books into audio books when needed and not be limited to shopping only for text or only for audio. This would be great for road trips.
    • RE: E-reader adoption hits double digits in 2011

      @bonnie@... The dedicated device does have the read function. Doesn't always sound the best (maybe a bit robotic) but it does work.
  • Relevant question - what percentage of books are now sold in ebook formats?

    In percentages, I am curious how many books are available in ebook formats and how much of the current sales are in ebook formats? I do my reading on my Palm Pre (and before that on my Treos). I use 2 different apps (Kobo and pReader) because of format differences and availability and I still have problems with the ones used by my public library system. I try to carry as little as possible with me but I like to read at any available minute. So, my choice is my smartphone. I actually prefer my pReader app because it does not involve a 'cloud'. When I am on an airplane, I can't bookmark with my Kobo app so getting back to my place can be a real problem if I need to change batteries on a long flight.
    • RE: E-reader adoption hits double digits in 2011

      @Palm Pre Plus User
      Almost all of the new books (other than college texts and reference books) are available in e-book form. Legacy books are rapidly being put in that format since it's an easy way to leverage the old books for a decent return. Send a message to Amazon customer service. I bet they know the actual percentages.
  • What does this say about reading?

    E-reader adoption is just now hitting double digits, and yet Amazon and other book sellers are reporting that e-books now dominate over printed books. This means that the vast majority of the public (around 70% or 80%) never reads books.