E-Reader Ownership Outpacing Tablets: Report

E-reader ownership is outpacing that of tablets, according to a new survey. That contrasts other reports suggesting tablets will overcome e-readers in the long term.

Kindle and Nook fans, take heart: According to a new survey by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, the percentage of U.S. adults with an e-reader grew from 6 percent to 12 percent between November 2010 and May.

At the same time, the survey (of 2,277 adults aged 18 and over) suggested that some 8 percent of adults owned a tablet PC in May, a three-point increase from November 2010. Out of all adults surveyed, 3 percent owned both an e-reader and a tablet.

"This is the first time since the Pew Internet Project began measuring e-reader use in April 2009 that ownership of this device has reached double digits among U.S. adults," read a June 27 research note accompanying the data. However, "tablet computers-portable devices similar to e-readers but designed for more interactive web functions-have not seen the same level of growth in recent months."

Whether tablets and e-readers are direct competitors is a matter of debate. Tablets certainly offer e-reading software, often though the same companies that also build e-readers. However, e-reader defenders often argue that devices such as the Kindle and Nook offer a superior reading experience, particularly for long periods of time and in bright sunlight, as well as longer battery life. Declining e-reader prices have likewise helped spark adoption in recent quarters.

A recent In-Stat survey of 1,000 U.S. respondents found that some 38 percent owned a tablet, versus 26 percent with an e-reader. The research firm went on to estimate that global e-reader shipments will hit 40 million by 2015, only to be outpaced by tablets.

"Of the two, the tablet market is the stronger and more sustainable opportunity," Stephanie Ethier, an In-Stat senior analyst, wrote in a June 20 research note. "In fact, e-reader manufacturers will soon begin adding tablet-like devices to their lineups in order to take advantage of the tablet frenzy. Barnes & Noble already offers the Color Nook, which is often compared with a tablet, and Amazon, the leader in the e-reader space with its Kindle, will likely launch a tablet device later this year in an effort to compete with the iPad."

Meanwhile, there are indications that e-readers are having a negative effect on the traditional book-publishing industry. "The book publishing industry has entered a period of long-term decline because of the rising sales of e-book readers," read an April 28 research note from IHS iSuppli, which predicted a decrease in book revenue at a compound annual rate of 3 percent through 2014-a reversal from the period between 2005 and 2010, when revenue rose.

"The [publishing] industry has entered a phase of disruption that will be as significant as the major changes impacting the music and movie business," Steve Mather, IHS iSuppli's principal analyst for wireless, wrote in an April 28 statement.

Rising e-reader ownership could fuel that disruption.