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Fading print: E-book reading on the rise along with e-reader and tablet ownership

The US is a nation of bookworms turning in ever increasing numbers to electronic devices to devour their novels, biographies and such like. Data published on Thursday by Pew Research showed that 23 percent of Americans aged 16 and over now read e-books, up from 16 percent in 2011.

Accordingly, the number of those who read printed books this year is on the decline, down to 67 percent from 72 percent a year earlier.

As of November – before the gift-giving season –Pew found that 33 percent of Americans own a tablet or e-reader, a significant jump from 18 percent a year earlier. Break those figures down and we see that a quarter of those in the US now own a tablet, up from 10 percent in 2011 and just 3 percent a year before that. Even e-reader ownership is on the rise, although with the growing popularity of the more versatile tablet – including smaller, more portable models like the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD, Nexus 7 and iPad Mini – a rapid decline in e-reader sales is expected.

Pew notes that libraries have been changing their ways to cope with the shift to electronic reading devices like Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite or Apple’s iPad. Many are now offering e-books for loan, with 5 percent of users borrowing an e-book in 2012, up from 3 percent a year earlier. This relatively low figure can be linked in some part to awareness, with only 31 percent (24 percent in 2011) of library users realizing that libraries offer e-books.

According to Pew’s research, those most likely to read e-books include people with college or graduate degrees, those living in households earning in excess of $75,000 a year, and those aged between 30 and 49 (see table below for full breakdown).

One thing is not in doubt – reading books continues to be a hugely popular pastime for Americans, with 75 percent of Americans aged 16 and over saying they’d read a book on any platform in the last 12 months, about the same as a year earlier.

Pew’s survey involved 2,252 Americans ages 16 and older and was conducted in October and November this year – before this year’s gift giving season.

Indeed, with so many consumers tearing the wrapping off tablets and e-readers this week, and with e-book purchases just a couple of taps away, it surely can’t be too long before the number of e-book readers catches up with the number of those who still prefer the feel of the printed page.

[Top image: Franck Boston / Shutterstock]

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