E-readers gaining a foothold, survey shows

A new Harris survey on Americans’ use of electronic book readers, or “e-readers,” reveals some interesting trends with impact for anyone who writes or publishes for a living.

Overall, just eight percent of the 2,775 adults polled use an e-reader such as the Kindle or nook to read books. However, those polled who do use an e-reader read more books in a year than non-e-reader users, suggesting that reading enthusiasts have been the first to adopt this emerging technology. For example, 62 percent of those polled read 11 or more books a year, compared to just 38 percent of non-e-reader users.

A similar pattern was seen when respondents were asked how many books they purchased per year: 67 percent of e-reader users purchase six or more books a year, compared to just 38 percent of non-users. And 53 percent of e-reader users say they read more now than they did before acquiring an e-reader.

Growth in e-reader adoption rates appears to be in the cards as well—12 percent of non-e-reader users say they are likely to get one in the next year.

Compare these numbers to a September 2009 survey from the research firm In-Stat, which showed that just 5.8 percent of respondents owned an e-reader, and it’s clear the e-reader market is growing, if slowly. Recent price drops by industry leaders Amazon and Barnes & Noble have helped to fuel sales of the book-size electronic devices, which now retail for around $140. This is significant, because high cost of the readers, which once sold for $250-$300, was a reason given in the In-Stat poll for not purchasing a device.

To read into the numbers a bit, it’s clear that avid readers are the early adopters of e-readers, and a slim majority of them are now reading more as a result. Price drops are sure to help lure more casual readers into the fold, although they are probably more likely to read an e-book on another device they already own, such as a smart phone or netbook. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Apple and others produce device-independent e-reader software and apps that allow users who purchase a book to read it on the device of their choosing. However, e-readers, which are tailored specifically for reading with their e-ink, low-glare screens, will likely remain the device of choice for more enthusiastic bookworms.

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