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Pew: One in five Americans read eBooks, but print continues to rule

by Doug Drinkwater

April 5 2012

Tablet and eReader owners are still reading printed books
Tablet and eReader owners are still reading printed books

The latest study from Pew Internet has revealed that, thanks to the rise of digital content, Americans are now reading more than before, with eReader and tablet owners happy to read regardless of format.

The report confirms that 21% of Americans have now read an e-Book in the past 12 months, rising from 17% in December, and suggests that the ownership of tablets and eReaders have grown from 10% to 19% over this same time-frame.

Pew attributes the increasing consumption of digital content down to the increasing availability of books and magazines in digital format, and intriguingly says that device owners (both eReaders and tablets) are now reading more, regardless of format. Furthermore, it appears that the longer you own one of the aforementioned devices, the more likely it is that you will read more. 41% of eReader and tablet owners of more than a year agreed to this statement, compared to 35% of device owners who had had their tablet or eReader just six months.

As to expected, and as touched upon recently by Kobo CEO Michael Serbinis, those opting for an eReader have different reading habits to more casual readers. Pew says that these readers are happy to read regardless of format, and states that 88% of those e-Book readers have also read printed books in the last year. The researcher adds that eBook fans will also read more books, are more likely to purchase a book than borrow it, and will - on average - read 24 books in a year. This compares favorably with the 15 books a year estimated for those who prefer the comfort of a physical book. 

But, before you think that the printed book is done for, it is worth noting that Pew believes printed book reading to still be dominant. The researcher says that, as of December, 72% of Americans read a printed book, 11% listened to an audio book, and 17% read an eBook. This desire for print was also common among eReader and tablet owners. On any given day, Pew said that 49% of eReader owners read an e-Book, with 59% of that figure also taking to a printed book. For tablet owners, 39% read an eBook, and 64% of these also read a printed book.

Pew’s findings are part of a bigger study, Internet & American Life Project, on American reading habits. The report has surveyed almost 3,000 people to date.

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