Tablets, e-Readers Show Steady Gains

Adoption of tablets increased to 42% in January from 34% in September. E-book readers also got a boost from holiday gift-giving, with the share of adults who own devices like a Kindle or Nook reader jumping to 32% this month from 24%.

The increase in tablet and e-reader ownership, per the latest survey from the Pew Research Center’s  Internet & American Life Project, wasn’t as dramatic as when each doubled between December and January, from 10% to 19%, but still shows steady gains as the market for the devices matures.

With average prices falling from a year ago, tablets remained one of the hot gift items during the 2013 holiday season. But research firm IDC projects tablet shipments will slow from 54% growth in 2013 to 22.5% this year, and less than 10% in 2017.

When it comes to e-books, the Pew study found the proportion of adults reading them in the last year has risen to 28%, up from 23% at the end of 2012. At the same time, about seven in 10 Americans reported reading a book in print, up four percentage points after a slight dip in 2012. Some 14% of adults listened to an audiobook.

Fully half of Americans now have a dedicated handheld device -- either a tablet or an e-reader for reading digital media, up from 43% in September. Among other devices, 92% now have a cell phone, and 75% own a laptop or desktop computer -- about the same as before the holidays.

For now, print books are withstanding the digital onslaught.

“Though e-books are rising in popularity, print remains the foundation of Americans’ reading habits. Most people who read e-books also read print books, and just 4% of readers are 'e-book only.' Audiobook listeners have the most diverse reading habits overall, while fewer print readers consume books in other formats,” stated the Pew report.

The study also suggested that as tablets proliferate, more people are using them for reading e-books. Among all e-book readers, 57% said they read on dedicated e-readers, up fro 41% in 2011. But nearly the same share-55% -- now read e-books on tablets as well, up from only 23% three years ago. Almost a third (32%) read e-books on their cell phone, and 29% on PCs.

One company that didn’t benefit from the rise in e-book sales was Barnes & Noble, which saw Nook sales plummet 60.5% from the nine-week holiday period in 2012. The dramatic decline stemmed partly from the bookseller’s decision not to release an updated version of its signature device before the season.

The findings are based on a survey conducted between January 2 and 5 among a nationally representative sample of 1,005 adults aged 18+in the continental U.S.. Interviews were conducted by landline and cell phone and in English and Spanish. Results are weighted by known demographic discrepancies; the margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. 

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