Tablet ownership skyrocketed 150% in 2012

One in four American adults now owns a tablet, and one in three owns a tablet or an e-reader

Technology trends and news by Faith Merino
December 27, 2012
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It’s amazing the difference a year makes.  I’ve mentioned this before, but when the iPad first came out, my friends and I thought it was ridiculous and made jokes while holding an imaginary iPad up to our ear like a giant phone.  “Can you hear me now?  How about now?” we asked while moving the imaginary tablet up and around. 

Yeah, I’ve been humbled and I’ve had to call my own judgment into question, especially given the numbers that have come out today from a Pew Internet & American Life Project report, which finds that fully 25% of American adults now own a tablet of some kind.  One in three owns either a tablet or an e-reader.

By comparison, at this time in 2010, only 9% of American adults owned either a tablet or an e-reader. 

The breakdown of those numbers is also very interesting, since this is the first time that the Pew Internet Project has noted that more people now own tablets than e-readers.  In October 2010, 4% of adults owned tablets while 5% owned e-readers.  (This was also around the time that Flipboard launched, so talk about a gamble that paid off…)

In mid-2011, 12% of adults owned e-readers compared with 8% who owned tablets.  This actually leveled off by December 2011, when 10% owned e-readers and another 10% owned tablets. 

Flash-forward to today, where one in four adults owns a tablet, and one in five owns an e-reader.  The switch was no doubt driven largely by the launch of the Kindle Fire, which, for the first time, made low-cost tablets available to the masses.  In the year since the Kindle Fire launched, it has eclipsed the Kindle e-reader as the most popular product on Amazon.  It’s worth noting, though, that even though tablets have passed e-readers in popularity, e-reader ownership nevertheless doubled this year.

This has had an interest effect on e-books, according to Pew researchers.  Nearly one in four Americans aged 16 and older read an e-book this year, up from 16% in 2011.  Meanwhile, the number of people who read print books actually declined to 67% from 72% this year. 

“These data show that the process of book reading is shifting. The rise of e-reading devices has major implications that are affecting the publishing industry and eventually could affect the way knowledge is packaged and the way ideas are spread,” said the report’s author, Lee Rainie, who is also the Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, as well as the author of Networked: The New Social Operating System.

Personally, I am ending my 2012 the way I started it: with some Louise Erdrich.  The only difference is that in January 2012, I was glued to my couch with a newborn in one arm while struggling to hold a print book in my free hand.  This time, I’m reading her latest novel on my Kindle, which comes with the added bonus of being available on my iPhone for those days when I’m driving in circles, desperately (DESPERATELY) trying to get my son to sleep.  Thank you, Amazon and Apple.  You guys are awesome.


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