Who Uses e-Readers? What a Slew of Surveys Tells Us About Digital Reading
The iPad Is Tough to Beat
According to a new report by IMS Research, which tracks the e-reader market via "actual shipments on e-book frontplanes, e-book displays, e-book readers, iPads and iPad displays," 3.3 million iPads (AAPL) were shipped during the second quarter of 2010, compared to a grand total of 2.4 million e-readers. That number is for all the non-iPad e-readers currently on the market, including the Kindle (AMZN), the Nook (BKS) and the array of e-readers produced by Sony (SNE).
But the Kindle Is No Slouch
The same report also indicated that e-reader shipments were up 28% from the previous quarter, with Amazon and Barnes & Noble both gaining market share, while Sony, Hanvon and Hanlin lost ground. Last quarter IMS reported that Amazon had a 45% market share of black-and-white e-readers, which suggests the retailer's e-reader sales hovered around or exceeded the 1 million mark in Q2 alone. Naturally, IMS couldn't resist a little projection, forecasting that 15.6 million iPads and 13.1 million e-readers would ship in 2010 (with 46 million iPads and over 20 million e-reading units forecast for next year) .
Digital Readers Read More Books
A poll conducted by Harris Interactive, culled from the responses of 2,775 adults surveyed online between August 9 and 16, indicates that 8% of Americans currently own an e-reader, but another 10% indicate they are likely to buy one in the next six months. Digital reading has caused a shift in book reading and buying habits, too: While two in five Americans (40%) read 11 or more books a year, with one in five reading 21 or more books in a year (19%), 36% of those who own e-readers read 11 to 20 books a year (36%), and 26% read 21 or more books in an average year. Further, while 21% of Americans didn't read a book in the past year, just 8% of e-reader users said the same thing (presumably, that class relies solely on free downloads).
Device Owners Are More Likely to Be Male and Making Serious Money
Nielsen's own inaugural e-reader survey suggests that iPad owners tend to skew young and male: 65% of the 400 iPad owners polled were male and 63% were under age 35. The gender skew isn't as marked for the Kindle -- 52% who own the device are male, about the same percentage as for the iPhone and the iPod Touch -- but they tend to be a wealthier bunch, as 44% make more than $80,000 a year vs. only 39% of iPad owners and 37% of iPhone owners in that income bracket.
Kids Dig e-Books; Their Parents Are Less Convinced
Book publisher Scholastic (SCHL), in conjunction with the Harrison Group, commissioned the Kids & Family Reading Report, whose results were released Wednesday. They demonstrated that for the 1,045 children surveyed, 62% between the ages of 9 and 17 are interested in reading on a device like the Kindle or the iPad, and another one-third of this age group said they'd read more "for fun" if more books were available on a digital reader. Their parents, however, were more resistant: 6% of the 1,045 parents surveyed said they have an electronic reading device, 16% said they plan to get one in the next year, while 76% aren't planning to buy one.
Many parents expressed concern that time spent with digital devices and the Internet was eroding their children's ability to spend dedicated time with a book.
Devices Tell Only Part of the Digital Reading Story
One of the most important parts of current e-reading trends -- the specific software used to read e-books -- was not addressed in any of these recent surveys. iPads may outpace all e-readers combined, but are its owners using the iBookstore to purchase e-books or an outside platform operated by Amazon or B&N? The answer appears to be obvious, since the Kindle still dominates e-book market share with anywhere from 50% to 80%, and B&N is gaining fast with a self-reported 20% e-book market share, but a targeted survey will help answer this question more definitively.
Piecemeal evidence, however, only goes so far to illustrate the success or failure of different e-book reading platforms and the devices they work best on. With more data, digital readers seasoned and new will be more empowered in their choices -- and perhaps more likely to embrace e-reading.