The Rise of e-reading

The Rise of e-reading

Posted by Ben Naddaff-Hafrey on April 9, 2012 in Blog, Featured.
One fifth of Americans have read an e-book within the last year; 88% of e-book readers also read printed books.

More than a year into the process of building the DPLA, it’s always nice to be reassured that there’s a growing need for such a library.  A recent study on e-reading by Pew Internet examines just the sort of readership to which the DPLA will cater, and the results are promising for the library: more people are reading online, and in increasingly broad and engaged fashion.

Key findings of the detailed report’s survey of 2,986 Americans aged 16 and up include:

  • 1/5 of American adults have read an e-book in the past year.  This number jumped from 17% before the holidays to 21% after the season.
  • 88% of e-book readers also read printed books, and for a diverse set of reasons including pleasure, research, and current events.  Interestingly for the purposes of digital libraries, 54% of print readers and 61% of e-book readers prefer to purchase rather than borrow books.  When asked about the most recent book they had read, only 14% reported borrowing it from a library.
  • E-book readers also read more books more often than the average American reader.  The most avid readers seem to be e-book reading device owners as opposed to tablet owners, who do not read substantially more than their tabletless counterparts.
  • Both tablet and reading device owners report reading more than they did before owning their device.  E-book readers also use smartphones as reading devices.
  • As has often been hypothesized, readers prefer e-books to printed books for efficiency and portability, but still prefer print for reading to and sharing with others.  53% of those surveyed who had read both e-books and printed books in the past year said that the e-book format offered a wider selection than was available to them in print.
  • The most significant portion of e-content readers (50%) said that the content they want was available “most of the time,” with 17% saying it was available “only sometimes,” and 4% stating it was “never available.”

The study provides an in-depth and compelling portrait of e-book readers.  It will be interesting to see how these numbers shift in the coming year, but the landscape looks ripe for a project like the DPLA.

Photo via The Daring Librarian on Flickr

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