Note: I’m sorry for the lack of posts last week, but I was fighting off a sinus infection. Everything should be back to normal for now.
Rumors of the death of print continue to be greatly exaggerated. The Pew Internet Research Center’s newest annual report on e-reading and print popularity provides plenty of hope to the paper-bound masses, despite the continuing rise of tablet ownership. iPads may be enthralling children during long car rides at a record rate, but most Americans would still rather sit down with a musty old paperback instead.
That doesn’t mean e-books aren’t popular. Twenty-eight percent of adults have curled up with a Kindle in 2013, which is up five points from last year and eleven points since 2011. The number of print readers, meanwhile, is up a few points from 65% in 2012 to 69% in the latest poll.
Pew separates tablet ownership and e-reader ownership, although the more recent generations of flat, handheld computing devices are usually capable of crossing genres. If you don’t own one or more of these devices, chances are pretty good that the person sitting next to you does. Chances are that if they don’t, they might still read an e-book on their computer and/or cell phone, because three screens are better than one.
Yet the number of people who will only read by the cheerful glare of the backlit display is still very small. Just 4% of readers refuse to gaze upon the printed page anymore. In contrast, audiobook listeners are the most omnivorous and will consume content any which way they please.
The study also includes statistics on the demographics of tablet ownership. Not surprisingly, iPad enthusiasts are more likely to be young, educated, and wealthy (those things are stupidly expensive, after all), and only eat organic kale for breakfast. Almost half of readers under 30 have read an e-book in the past year, compared to 17% of senior folks.
So what does this all mean? I don’t know. Maybe not much. The results aren’t particularly surprising, although if you’re an author looking to publish a guide to Medicare enrollment, you might want to stick to print. Readers are still slurping down an average of five books a year, which gives authors plenty of latitude to pick which format works best for their content and truly develop it.
Digital content is super great, but it wasn’t displacing print last year, and it won’t displace it this year, either. I think the point is that people who like to read will read everything and anything. Just like you might leave your expensive hardcovers at home and take a paperback to the beach, tablets and print books both have their place in the grand scheme of things.