Ereaders Going Strong


When tablets first emerged on the tech scene, many wondered whether the devices would have a negative impact on consumer demand for other connected devices, such as netbooks and ereaders.

New research from Pew Internet,, suggests that even in the face of competition from tablet devices such as Apple’s,, iPad, ereaders are not just surviving, they are thriving. In fact, the new report says ereader ownership has surged since last November, while tablet ownership has grown much more slowly.

Pew found the number of U.S. adults who own an ereader doubled between November 2010 and May 2011, reaching 12%. The company says this study marks the first time ownership has hit double digits since it began measuring ereader use.

Meanwhile, the study found tablet ownership has not spiked during recent months. For instance, in May 2011, 8% of adults report owning a tablet, which is roughly the same percentage of tablet-owning adults in January (7%). Also, the May percentage is a mere 3% increase since last November, during which the number of ereader owners doubled.

Prior to this period, Pew says tablet ownership was growing at a much faster pace, but it seems to have leveled off. While ereaders such as Amazon’s,, Kindle are single-purpose devices that rely on M2M (machine-to-machine) technology, some devices such as Barnes & Noble’s,, NOOK, are beginning to branch out into more multi-purpose functionality by incorporating Web browsers and the ability to support Web apps.

Tablets represent a unique form factor that straddles the line between productivity and entertainment. Its multiple purposes, some of which rely on a wireless connection and/or incorporate M2M technology, have made these devices popular in both enterprise and consumer circles alike.

Pew’s research on ereader ownership is a good sign for companies such as Amazon that bank on customers’ desire for a connected device that allows paperless reading, and not much else. The debate remains as to whether or not consumers will be content with adopting multiple devices into their lifestyle, or whether a single-purpose device will one day perform all functions necessary for a connected life. 

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