Released: April 4, 2012

The rise of e-reading

Part 6: The differences among e-book reading device owners

By , , , and

Introduction

This section takes a closer look at the reading habits and preferences among those who own e-book reading devices such as e-readers and tablet computers. It further explores differences among these device owners because they do not all use their devices the same way for the same purposes. In our December 2011 survey we oversampled both groups. 1

Compared with all Americans 16 and older, these “e-reading device owners” are more likely to live in high income households and have more educational experience, and are also much more likely to be more tech-savvy in general. Not all e-reading device owners read e-books, but in general they do so at a much higher rate than the general population; they are also more likely to read in general, and to read a book on a typical day. Their reading habits are not confined to books: They are more avid readers of newspapers and magazines than other Americans, and are more likely to read long-form content of any kind for pleasure.

Device owners generally enjoy reading for the same reasons as other readers, but sometimes are more likely to prefer e-books to print books for reading in certain situations (and, surprisingly, vice-versa). Among those who read e-content, device owners are also somewhat more likely to say that they spend more time reading since the advent of electronic media, and when looking for e-content they generally find that it is available in the format they want at least most of the time.

In addition to being more intense readers, device owners in general are more likely to prefer owning books in all formats than the general population—the more well-to-do device owners most of all. In the same vein, device owners are less likely than other readers to prefer borrowing their books from friends or family or from the library. Similarly, when they want to read an e-book they are more likely to look first at an online bookseller. When they look for recommendations to read, they turn to all sources—friends and family, online sources, bookstore staff, and libraries—more than the general population.

Tech and gadget use

The e-book reader and tablet owners from our December 2011 survey were a technologically connected group. Some 97% of e-book reading device owners use the internet at least occasionally. In addition to their e-reader or tablet, 96% also owned a desktop or laptop computer, and 96% owned a cell phone.

Among e-reading device owners, 16% owned both an e-reader and a tablet computer. Looking more closely at demographic differences among device owners, we find:

Reading habits

Overall, e-book reading device owners were more likely to read for all of the following reasons, compared with all Americans 16 and older, and were also more likely to read for these reasons on a daily basis.5

Among those who own these devices, women, whites, those over 40, college graduates, those living in households making over $50,000 per year, and avid readers who read at least 11 books in the past year are more likely than other groups to say they read for this reason.

Among those who own the devices, whites, college, graduates, those living in households making over $50,000 per year, and those who read 11 or more books in the past year are more likely than other groups to say they read for this reason.

Among those who own the devices, whites, those over 40, college graduates, those living in households making over $50,000 per year, and avid readers are more likely than other groups to say they read for this reason.

Among those who own the devices, men, college graduates, those living in households making at least $50,000 per year, and parents are all more likely than other groups to say they read for work or school. Younger device owners are particularly likely to read for work or school: 81% of device owners under 40 read for this reason, compared with 63% of device owners over 40.

Where they get reading recommendations

When we asked e-reading device owners where they got recommendations for reading material, most said that they got recommendations from family, friends, or co-workers. A majority also got recommendations from online bookstores or other websites. Recommendations from the staff of physical book stores were used by a little less than a third of device owners, and about one in five got reading recommendations from libraries or librarians.

Overall, owners of e-reading devices were more likely than all Americans 16 and older to get recommendations from people they knew and bookstore staff, and were also more likely to get recommendations from online bookstores or other websites than the general population. Device owners were also slightly more likely to get recommendations from libraries or librarians than all of those 16 and older.

Number of books read

Overall, e-book reading device owners read more books in a year than the general population. In December 2011, we found that 91% of device owners had read a book in the year prior to the survey, compared with 78% of all Americans 16 and older. The median number of books an e-reader or tablet owner had read was 10; the average number of books was 21. Among device owners, the heaviest book readers are women, whites, and those over 40.

Reasons for reading

The reasons device owners gave for reading in our December 2011 survey were similar to those for all readers:

Reading habits

Overall, device owners are more likely to have read a book in any format in the past year (91%) than all those 16 and older (78%). Unsurprisingly, the nine in ten device owners who read any sort of book in the last year are also much more likely to have read an e-book in the last year than the general reading population; they are also more likely to have listened to an audiobook. In terms of their reading on a typical day, while among readers device owners are slightly less likely than all readers 16 and older to have read a print book “yesterday,” they are much more likely to have read an e-book in the previous day—and are more likely to have read a book on a typical day overall.

Types of books

Readers who own e-reading devices are roughly as likely to have read a print book in the past year (90%) as readers in general (93%), but are almost three times more likely to have read an e-book in that time (62%, vs. 21% of all those 16 and older). They are also more likely to have listened to an audiobook: 22% of device owners listened to an audiobook in the past year, compared with 14% of all those 16 and older who read a book in the past year.

Looking more closely at device owners who read e-books as of December 2011, we found that among tablet owners who read an e-book in the past year, 81% did so on their tablet computer:

Among e-reader owners who read an e-book in the past year, 93% did so on their e-reader:

Additionally, e-reading device owners who read e-books are less likely than all e-book readers to read e-books on their computers or cell phones: About three in ten device owners who also owned a desktop or laptop computer said that they read e-books on these devices (29%, compared with 46% of all e-book readers who also own computers), and about one in five who owned cell phones said they read e-books on their phone at least occasionally (22%, compared with 29% of all e-book readers who also own cell phones).

Reading on a typical day

Among device owners who read a book in the past year, 56% are reading a book on a “typical” day. Of those “yesterday” book readers:

Overall, device owners are more likely than other adults to read on a typical day—in our December 2011 survey, less than half (45%) of all book-reading Americans age 16 and older said they read a book “yesterday.”

Availability of e-content in different formats

Almost a quarter (23%) of device owners say that e-content is “always” available in the format they want (women are more likely than men to say this). Almost six in ten (58%) say e-content is available in their desired format most of the time; 13% say it is available “only sometimes” (men are more likely than women to say this).

Overall, 82% of device owners say that e-content is available in the format they want at least most of the time, including 85% of women and 78% of men. Another 13% of device owners say their desired format is available sometimes, and 3% say it is hardly ever or never available.

Last book read: Borrow or buy

When we asked device owners who read how they had gotten the most recent book they read in any format, they were much more likely than all readers to say that they had purchased it, and were less likely to say they had borrowed it.

Some 61% of e-reading device owning readers said they had purchased the most recent book they read, compared with 48% of all readers. Another 15% said they had borrowed their most recent book from a friend or family member (vs. 24% of all readers), and 10% said they borrowed it from a library (vs.14% of all readers).

Among device owners who read a book in the past year, whites and those over 40 were more likely than other groups to have purchased the last book they read, as were those who live in households making over $50,000 and avid readers who read at least 11 books in the past year.

Preferences: Borrow or buy

Looking at overall preferences, device-owning readers are more likely than all readers 16 and older to prefer to purchase all types of content, and are less likely to prefer to borrow from an acquaintance or library:

Where device owners look first when hunting for an e-book

When device-owning e-book readers want to read an e-book, they are more likely than other e-book readers to look for that e-book first online: 84% of device owners look for it first at an online bookstore (compared with 75% of all e-book readers), while 11% of device owners look in their public library and 3% look someplace else. Among e-reading device owners who read e-books, whites are more likely than minorities to look for e-books first at an online bookstore or other website, and those making less than $50,000 per year are more likely than those in higher income households to look first at a library.

Preferences: When e-books are better than print and vice versa

In general, device owners who read both print books and e-books as of December 2011 are very similar to the overall population of print and e-book readers when discussing which book format is better for different situations, slightly favoring e-books for most of the scenarios presented.

One major difference is that those who own handheld e-reading devices like e-readers or tablets are more likely to say e-books are preferable to print books for reading in bed: 53% of device owners say e-books are better than print books in this situation, compared with 45% of all print and e-book readers. This might be because, as previously noted, owners of e-reading devices are less likely than all e-book readers to read their e-books on a desktop or laptop computer—and those who primarily read their e-books on a computer may not consider this arrangement to be as convenient for pre-bedtime reading as those who rely on their (more portable) dedicated e-reading devices.

Device owners are also more likely than all print and e-book readers to say that print books are better for sharing with other people (77% of device owners, vs. 69% of all print and e-book readers).

  1. numoffset=”19″ The number of tablet owners in the sample was 638 and the number of e-book reader owners was 676.
  2. As opposed to owning both an e-reader and a tablet computer.
  3. As opposed to owning both an e-reader and a tablet computer.
  4. As opposed to owning either only an e-reader or only a tablet computer.
  5. Including books, magazines, journals, newspapers, and online content.
  6. As of December 2011