23% Uptick In E-Book Readers

KindleIf you made the switch from print books to e-books this year, you’re not alone. The proportion of Americans 16 and older who read e-books increased to 23% from 16% in 2012, according to new data from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. At the same time, the share of those reading print books in the 12 months ending in November fell to 67% from 72%.

Fueling the rise of the e-book reading population is a growing number of tablet and e-reading device owners -- to a third of Americans from 18% a year ago. A quarter of these owned an iPad, Kindle Fire or other tablet -- up from 10% a year ago -- while 19% had an e-reader, also up from 10% last year. Those figures don’t include the millions who received a new iPad mini, Galaxy Tab, Kindle or Nook this week as a Christmas gift.

E-book readers in general tend to be between 30 and 49, better-educated and more affluent than average.

Earlier this month, IDC raised its forecast for global tablet shipments this year to 122 million from 117 million, based on strong demand for the smaller new Apple tablet and surging sales of Android devices. But it expects that increase to come at the expense of dedicated e-readers, whose shipments will fall to 20 million units from 28 million in 2011.

Whether using a multipurpose tablet or e-reader, however, more people are curling up with a good e-book.

“These data show that the process of book reading is shifting,” said Lee Rainie, director of Pew’s Internet & American Life Project. The rise of e-reading devices has major implications that are affecting the publishing industry and eventually could affect the way knowledge is packaged and the way ideas are spread.” 

Still, a New York Times article this week noted that the e-book market is not growing quite as fast as forecast. An analyst with Simba Information told the newspaper that at any given time, about a third of e-book users haven’t bought a single title in the last 12 months. That may be because they haven’t gotten to e-books already downloaded.

Wider adoption of e-books has also affected libraries. The share of recent library users who have borrowed an e-book from a library rose from 3% to 5% this year. The increase partly reflects more people being aware that they can take out e-books from libraries, with that proportion increasing to 31% from 24%.

The overall number of book readers in 2012 was 75% of the population, ages 16 and older, which Pew said was a statistically insignificant decline from 78% in late 2011. The latest figures are from a survey conducted from Oct. 15 to Nov. 10 among a sample of 2,252 Americans. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

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