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Are book readers ditching eReaders for tablets?

by Doug Drinkwater

May 1 2012

The BISG cites Nook's Tablet and Amazon's Kindle Fire as the most popular tablets for reading eBooks
The BISG cites Nook's Tablet and Amazon's Kindle Fire as the most popular tablets for reading eBooks

A new report from the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) indicates that eReaders are dropping in popularity, leading to the possibility that tablets could one day become the primary device for reading eBooks.

The BISG’s Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading survey has revealed that, in the last six months, consumers’ ‘first choice’ preference for dedicated eReaders has fallen from 72% to 58%, with tablets rising from 13% to 24% over the same time-frame.

However, the notion that this increase is being driven by Apple’s iPad can be dispelled, with BISG indicating that readers are actually turning to tablets from Amazon (with the Kindle Fire) and Barnes & Noble (the Nook Tablet) instead. These slates helped non-Apple devices increase from a 5% share in August 2011 to 14% in February, while the iPad’s popularity increased by just 1% over this period.

“The movement from dedicated e-readers to multi-function tablet devices is an important one for publishers to understand, as it allows them to deliver a richer, more interactive e-book experience,” said Angela Bole, BISG’s deputy executive director. “One of the strengths of this study is that it can plot such evolution, preparing publishers for what e-book readers want and expect from them next.”

Despite the suggestion of eReaders falling in popularity, the study otherwise reported a buoyant book market, both for print and digital.

Back when the research was carried out in February, nearly 30% of respondents revealed they spent more on books of all formats since first buying eBooks, while almost 50% reported that they subsequently owned more book titles.

The numbers were even more impressive for eBooks, with more than 62% of respondents (there were 1,062 in all) spending more dollars on books of this format, and over 72% increasing the number of eBooks in their library since last August.

Although the above respondents were generally labelled as “Power Buyers” - readers who acquire eBooks on a weekly basis, BISG’s report did also look into the behaviour of “Casual Buyers” – readers who buy one or two books each month.

The study revealed that this ‘second generation’ of eBook and eReader adopters is catching up with Power Buyers in some ways, as more than 27% of Casual Buyers now exclusively purchase eBooks rather than print, compared to 30% of Power Buyers. However, the BISG did say that these users do lag significantly behind Power Buyers on the uptake of multi-function devices as only half of Casual Buyers use a tablet regularly, compared to 83% of Power Buyers.

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