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Tablet Ownership Rose in 2012 While eReader Ownership Remained Flat

4729801304_d50a7c1dae[1]The Pew Research Center has just released the results of their fall surveys into gadget ownership, and it’s a lesson in why you shouldn’t try to compare the results of 2 different consumer surveys, no matter how close the survey topic.

In a seeming contradiction to last week’s Forrester news, the Pew Center reports that tablet ownership is up noticeably, while the number of Americans who own an ereader is only negligibly different from Pew’s January 2012 survey.

Around 2300 Americans were polled in October and November, and 24% now own a tablet of some kind. That’s a nice increase from the 19% of respondents in the January survey who reported owning one, and a significant change from the 10% who reported last December  that they owned a tablet.


eReader ownership stayed at 19%, the same as in January, though that figure is higher than the 10% of respondents who owned one in December of last year. This statistic comes as no surprise, because in spite of the many ereaders which launched this year E-ink repeatedly reported that their earnings were down (link). The market guesstimators at iSuppli concur in the flatline of ereader ownership; in fact they predicted that only 2/3rds as many ereaders would be made in 2012, compared to 2011.

But on the upside, digital reading was up this year. It seems that more people are reading n tablets and smartphones than before, with 23% of respondents saying that they read an ebook, up from 16% last December.  At the same time the number of people who had read a paper book had dropped from 72% to 67%.

All in all, this is good news. eBook adoption continues apace, just not with a similar increase in ereader ownership. Instead it seems that Americans are moving more of their reading on to tablets, smartphones, and the like.

And library ebook are also seeing greater demand. The Pew Center also reported that ebook borrowing was on the rise (now 5% from 3% in December 2011), though it still only represents a very sliver of the population. Of particular interest is the footnote that this statistic was defined by the respondents; some may have included the ebooks they shared via the Nook LendMe program or the ebooks borrowed from the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library.

And on a sidenote, the Pew Center has changed how they define library users and ebook borrowers.  That means the news from back in June that 12% of Americans had checked out a library ebook is no longer relevant; the current statistics are defined differently. (more to come on this point; I want to better understand what changed)


image by Keith Williamson

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