More people are reading thanks to technology

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There was a time, not so long ago, when tech industry types were predicting that books and reading as we knew it would be a thing of the past, thanks to the invention of the e-reader. One reporter even wrote that “Kindle” is synonymous with “the death of enjoyable reading”.

But those pundits who lamented the shrinking number of people who read books for pleasure may have been a bit off the mark.

With the rapid adoption of the iPad and the success of Amazon’s Kindle, e-readers are literally changing the way we read. According to a recent report by the Pew Research Center’s internet & American Life Project, one in five adults in the US now owns an e-reader as of mid-January — up from one in ten in mid-December of last year. And, it looks like that boom in e-readers has triggered a boom in reading.

The Pew study finds Americans who own e-readers are reading much more than before. According to the research, the average e-book reader reads 60 percent more than a traditional book reader. Owners of a Kindle, Nook or iPad read an average of 24 books a year compared to the non-e-book readers who read an average of 15 books a year.

The study also found 42 percent of those who read digital content say they now spend more time reading than they did before, whether it’s in bed or on the go and that women are reading more than men.

Surprisingly, the study also found that some 88 percent of people who have read an e-book in the past year have also read a printed book.

The number one reason for moving to an e-reader: convenience and selection. The study found that 83 percent of people said best think about e-books over their print counterparts is their quick accessibility.

“Reading books while travelling and commuting” and “having a wide selection of books to choose from” were other top reasons people prefer to go digital, according to the Pew poll. Users like that they can carry all the books from their library right in the palm of their hand. Many also like the fact that some e-books are cheaper and that you can change the font size.

In a head-to-head competition, the Pew study found that overall, people prefer e-books to printed books for access and portability, but print wins out when it comes to reading to children and discussing books with others.

There is no denying e-readers are hot. In the lead-up to last Christmas, the Amazon Kindle was ‘en fuego’, selling at a rate of more than one million units per week for three weeks straight, thanks, mostly in part to the release of the Kindle Fire just two months prior. According to Pew, the Kindle Fire’s market share increased from five percent in mid-December 2011 to 14 percent in mid-January 2012. The Fire is also the site’s top best-seller, its most popular gift and the product that appears on the most wishlists for all of Amazon.com.

While the popularity of e-readers continues to rise and gets their owners reading more, traditional print books are not yet even close to being overtaken in popularity by the digital versions. The study found that 72 percent of Americans read a printed book in 2011, compared to 17 percent who read an e-book.

So, with only 29 percent of Americans currently owning an e-reader or tablet, there is still room for improvement, especially with new versions in the pipeline and prices points dropping.

They say video killed the radio star. Only time will tell if the e-reader will do the same to the paperback.

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Published May 30, 2012 at 8:26 am (Updated May 30, 2012 at 8:25 am)

More people are reading thanks to technology

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