The Pew Internet and American Life Project today released a"mini-report" on the adoption of tablets and e-readers that found thenumber of Americans owning tablets and e-readers nearly doubled overthe holidays. The bottom line numbers representphenomenal growth in consumer device adoption: from mid-December 2011to early January 2012, the number of Americans owning a tabletcomputer rose to 19% from 10%, and the growth in e-book readers jumpedan identical amount, to 19% from 10%. Overall, the number of Americansowning either one of these devices jumped from 18% to 29%, meaningthat nearly 1 in 3 Americans now owns a device.
“These findings are striking because they come after a period frommid-2011 into the autumn in which there was not much change in theownership of tablets and e-book readers,” the report notes. “However,as the holiday gift-giving season approached, the marketplace for both devices dramatically shifted. In the tablet world, Amazon’s KindleFire and Barnes and Noble’s Nook Tablet were introduced atconsiderably cheaper prices than other tablets. In the e-book readerworld, some versions of the Kindle and Nook and other readers fellwell below $100.”
The research findings were conducted among a sample of nearly 3000individuals in the pre-holiday season, and two separate surveys of1000 people each post-holiday; the margin of error for the combinedsurveys is +/- 2.4 percentage points. The survey work was funded inpart by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Not surprisingly, given their relatively higher prices, tabletadoption rates were highest among those with higher incomes, with 36%of households earning $75,000 or more now owning a tablet, and amongindividuals with a college education, 31% own tablets. The income andeducation gaps are much less noticeable for e-readers, although therewas more growth among women than men.
E-books have been a hot topic at the American Library AssociationMidwinter Meeting, held January 20-24 in Dallas, and with thesefigures, the topic is about to get hotter. Among the e-book news atthe conference, ALA president Molly Raphael and ALA executive directorinformed a meeting of ALA’s Working Group on Digital Content andLibraries that ALA officials would meet from January 30 to Feb. 1 withpublishers currently restricting e-book lending. “I want to assure youthat the dialog will begin with us saying ‘you need to deal withlibraries and you need to do this as soon as possible,’ then we canhave a dialog starting from there,” ALA executive director Keith Fields said, according to a reportin Library Journal. “I think for the membership, this is what’skeeping people awake at night.”
That, of course, is not the only thing keeping librarians awake atnight when it comes to e-books. The recent launch of Apple's iBooks Author with aproprietary ibooks format, and the tremendous success of the KindleFire tablet with Amazon's proprietary KF8 format, highlights thegrowing silo-ization of the e-book market among competing platforms.And a surge in the growth of e-readers on proprietary platforms meanslibraries will also face new challenges in ensuring continued equaland comprehensive access to information.