Ebook Readers and their Reading Devices

First and foremost I want to thank the Pew Internet project for collecting and disseminating information about ebooks and reading. I love the data itself, I just always want more. 

Whenever I read articles about reading habits and devices, I always wonder not just about the devices (or no device) that people are reading from, but I also wonder about the people being questioned about how much that they read. I see statements like the "more than 8 in 10 Americans ages 16-29 read a book in the past year and 6 in 10 used their local public library" and it makes me think about other questions. I remember when I was at the Butterfly exhibit in Gainesville, and the docent mentioned that this was the second largest butterfly habitat in the world, well the next words that I said (and at least three others at the same time) was "what is the largest?" So when I see something that mentions that 8 out of 10 people read a book that year, I wonder "at least one book, but how many did each read?"  I remember back in 2007 that the Washington Post reported that one out of four Americans hadn't read any books during that year. Then I read that 8 in 10 who are between 16-29, which includes a number of ages where the reader may still be in school, and have required reading - which the study did note could very well effect them based on requirements of school assignments.  Even though I know from personal experience that there are some high school students who have not actually read a book in the past year. With that we have information like that the average number of books read per year by those people who read regularly is 16 books (Statistical Abstract of the United States). And I also know that my own reading habits are closer to about 100 books a year (16 would just be a really good month). This all makes me concerned about how some reader information may be being skewed, because I think about the 80/20 power principal. According to the 80/20 rule, we should expect to find that 20% of readers are reading 80% of the books. This can easily mean that two or three of the eight out of ten can be reading a majority of the books and it would be really interesting to see if they are doing it in print or digitally. As for myself, I'm around 90 books so far this year, of which only four were on printed paper (they were not available as digital options). This could be reflective of what the study found in how some reading habits had changed for those using ebooks, "30% of all these e-content readers, and 40% of those under age 30, say that they spend more time reading than they used to due to the availability of e-content."

Then we also have data such as "Among Americans who read e-books, those under age 30 are more likely to read their e-books on a cell phone (41%) or computer (55%) than on an e-book reader such as a Kindle (23%) or tablet (16%)." That makes me think about how many students I see on my campus walking around with devices, they almost all have smart phones now, but when I ask them about their own devices, they almost all have computers, but only a few have ebook readers or tablets. So, I'm not surprised at the numbers that Pew found, it seems relatively reflective of readers and tools that they already have. I do think that as prices for thing like tablets and ereaders drop, that these numbers may change. Right now I'm waiting for information where I'll be able to purchase the Txtr Beagle, it seems to be a bit limited as a reader, but the estimated $15 price and smart phone tie in may it become an effective school accessory.

As for the part on ebooks and library use: "Many of these young readers do not know they can borrow an e-book from a library, and a majority of them express the wish they could do so on pre-loaded e-readers. Some 10% of the e-book readers in this group have borrowed an e-book from a library and, among those who have not borrowed an e-book, 52% said they were unaware they could do so. Some 58% of those under age 30 who do not currently borrow e-books from libraries say they would be “very” or “somewhat” likely to borrow pre-loaded e-readers if their library offered that service." - I'm not surprised. I often do presentations to teachers and others about ebooks and I've seen the same kind of thing from my audiences. Many are just unaware of the options that public libraries today offer, not just options like ebooks and audiobooks for download, but also the classes that are taught there, the meeting rooms, and a large number of other services that most public libraries offer other than checking out books.

Pew Internet's Younger Americans' Reading and Library Habits (published 2012 from 2011 data): http://libraries.pewinternet.org/files/legacy-pdf/PIP_YoungerLibraryPatrons.pdf 


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