January 16, 2014, 1:09 PM

Soaring tablet ownership drives more readers to e-books

28% of U.S. consumers who read a book in 2013 read at least one on an electronic device, up from 23% a year earlier, according to the Pew Research Center. Strong holiday sales of tablet computers figure to drive more growth for e-books.

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Less than seven years after the Kindle introduced the electronic book to the masses, reading e-books is indeed a mass phenomenon. And strong 2013 holiday sales of tablets figures to lead more consumers to content on electronic devices.

76% of American adults say they read a book in either digital or print form over the last year, up from 74% at the end of 2012, according to a study by the Pew Research Center released today.  Of those, the percentage who read e-books grew over the past year to 28% in 2013, up from 23% at the end of 2012.

What’s more, the recent holiday season put many more tablet computers and dedicated e-book readers into the hands of consumers, suggesting more growth for e-books ahead. Over the 2013 holiday season, the rate of tablet ownership rose to 42% of American adults in January 2014, up from 34% in September 2013 and 24% in November 2012.  Consumers can download and read e-books on tablets such as Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle Fire, Apple Inc.’s iPad and the Galaxy line of tablets from Samsung Group. Meanwhile, the rate of e-reader ownership rose to 32% in January 2014, up from 24% in September 2013 and 19% in November 2012. Dedicated e-book readers include the basic Amazon Kindle and the Nook from Barnes & Noble Inc.

“Overall, 50% of Americans now have a dedicated handheld device–either a tablet computer like an iPad, or an e-reader such as a Kindle or Nook–for reading e-content. That figure has grown from 43% of adults who had either of those devices in September,” says the report, “E-Reading Rises as Device Ownership Jumps,” by Pew research analyst Kathryn Zickuhr and Pew Internet director Lee Rainie.

Pew surveyed 1,005 U.S. adults by phone in January 2014 for the study, which is part of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Despite the growing readership of e-books, however, print books still remain the most popular, with 69% of Americans surveyed saying they read a print book in the past year, up from 65% at the end of 2012, the study says. 

Audiobooks, meanwhile, are the least popular format, with only 14% of Americans surveyed saying they listened to an audiobook in the last year. But adults who listen to books also read more of both print and digital books compared to other adults in the survey, Pew says. 84% of audiobook listeners also read a print book and 56% also read an e-book. In comparison, 87% of e-book readers also read a print book in the past year and 29% listened to an audiobook, the study says.  Of the adult Americans who read at least one book in the past year, 52% say they read only a print book, 4% read only an e-book and 2% only listened to an audiobook.

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