The number of Americans reading e-books has increased from 16 percent to 23 percent over the past year, according to new data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. That comes even as readership of printed books declined from 72 percent to 67 percent.
“The move toward e-book reading coincides with an increase in ownership of electronic book reading devices,” read Pew’s Dec. 27 blog posting on the data. “In all, the number of owners of either a tablet computer or e-book reading device such as a Kindle or Nook grew from 18 [percent] in late 2011 to 33 [percent] in late 2012.”
Roughly a quarter of Americans above the age of 16 own a tablet, up from 10 percent in late 2011. Another 19 percent own an e-book reader such as Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes & Noble’s Nook, a rise from 10 percent last year. Those most likely to read e-books are between 30 and 49 years old, living in households that earn more than $75,000 annually.
It’s perhaps interesting to note that, earlier in December, a research note from IHS iSuppli suggested the e-book reader market was in serious decline. “The rapid growth—followed by the immediate collapse—of the e-book market is virtually unheard of, even in the notoriously short life cycle of products inhabiting the volatile consumer electronics space,” read that firm’s note. “Unknown to consumers before 2006, e-book reader shipments skyrocketed for the next few years after first thrilling readers with a portable device they could take anywhere.”
According to IHS iSuppli, e-reader sales had declined from 23.2 million units in 2011 to 14.9 million this year. “Single-task devices like the ebook are being replaced without remorse in the lives of consumers by their multifunction equivalents, in this case by media tablets,” the firm added in its note.
Pew Internet & American Life Project drew its data from some 2,252 Americans surveyed via landlines and cell-phones, while iSuppli relies on data from manufacturers and suppliers for its estimates. Any differences in methodology aside, the disparity in the two groups’ results is startling.
Whether or not e-readers are on the decline, several of the largest tech vendors in the business—including Amazon, Google, and Apple—continue to aggressively push e-books as a way to cement users to their respective platforms. For that reason alone, even if dedicated e-readers eventually disappear from use, e-books will remain alive and well.