Pew Internet on eReading Habits

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has come up with some wonderful numbers on our digital habits over the years. A new report titled The rise of e-reading, released on April 4th, is just such an example, and will likely be of interest to many of us here at Slaw. Some of the soundbites included:

  • “One-fifth of American adults (21%) report that they have read an e-book in the past year” — up from 17% in mid-December;
  • “Readers of e-books stand out in almost every way from other kinds of readers.”
    • “They are relatively avid readers of books in all formats: 88% of those who read e-books in the past 12 months also read printed books.”
    • They read more books. “
    • “They read more frequently for a host of reasons: for pleasure, for research, for current events, and for work or school.”
    • “They are also more likely than others to have bought their most recent book, rather than borrowed it”
    • “They are more likely than others to say they prefer to purchase books in general, often starting their search online.”
  • “A majority of print readers (54%) and readers of e-books (61%) prefer to purchase their own copies; while “just one in three audiobook listeners (32%) prefer to purchase audiobooks”

The metrics with respect to digital reading habits are useful, at least for gaining a better understanding of our shifting preferences. More interesting, however, was the perception of e-book sharing; with the report showing most users thought paper was “easier to share with other people“. See this accompanying graphic:

I find it hard to believe that those numbers won’t flip-flop over the next 12-18 months; especially as both e-book sharing becomes easier, and various public and private e-lending programs become more widely publicized.

But even with those aspects coming into play, “user education” seems to be an important factor going forward. For libraries and organizations looking to share e-book resources, the Pew numbers indicate that users will not only need to understand “how to” borrow; but also be sold on the utility of lending over buying.

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