New Devices Are Changing Habits. People Are Reading More.
People who buy e-readers tend to spend more time than ever with their nose in a book, preliminary research shows.
A study of 1,200 e-reader owners by Marketing and Research Resources Inc. found that 40% said they now read more than they did with print books. Of those surveyed, 58% said they read about the same as before while 2% said they read less than before. And 55% of the respondents in the May study, paid for by e-reader maker Sony Corp., thought they'd use the device to read even more books in the future. The study looked at owners of three devices: Amazon.com Inc.'s Kindle, Apple Inc.'s iPad and the Sony Reader.
While e-readers are still a niche product just beginning to spread beyond early adopters, these new reading experiences are a big departure from the direction U.S. reading habits have been heading. A 2007 study by the National Endowment for the Arts caused a furor when it reported Americans are spending less time reading books. About half of all Americans ages 18 to 24 read no books for pleasure, it found.
Some 11 million Americans are expected to own at least one digital reading gadget by the end of September, estimates Forrester Research. U.S. e-book sales grew 183% in the first half of this year compared with the year-earlier period, according to the Association of American Publishers.
Among early adopters, e-books aren't replacing their old book habits, but adding to them. Amazon, the biggest seller of e-books, says its customers buy 3.3 times as many books after buying a Kindle, a figure that has accelerated in the past year as prices for the device fell.
It's too early to tell the reading lift will sustain after the novelty of the gadgets wears off, and the devices go mass market. But because e-book gadgets are portable, people report they're reading more and at times when a book isn't normally an option: on a smartphone in the doctor's waiting room; through a Ziploc-bag-clad Kindle in a hot tub, or on a treadmill with a Sony Reader's fonts set to jumbo. Among commuters, e-readers are starting to catch up with BlackBerrys as the preferred companions on trains and buses.