Summer is almost here and it’s time to read some new books. Will you be dusting off your e-reader or tablet?

Norman McLeod
Jun 7, 2011

Almost one year ago, Amazon announced that sales of books for the Kindle had for the first time outnumbered sales of hardcover books. Just last month, Amazon stated that the Kindle was outselling hardcover and paperback combined.

With the recent releases of dedicated e-readers and tablet computers, there has been a surge in electronic media for consumer consumption. Many companies offer magazines, newspapers, books, and other materials that were once only available in hardcopy in a digital format. This explosion in digital media has caused e-readers and tablets to become major consumer products.

In April 2011, InfoTrends published a new study that surveyed two major groups, the users mainly of dedicated e-readers such as Amazon Kindle or Barnes & Noble Nook, and the users mainly of other multipurpose devices such as smart phones and tablet computers like Apple iPad. There are clear differences in how the two groups use their devices to read e-media, and what they read according to our recent end-user survey E-Reader vs. Tablet: An End-User Perspective on Content Consumption.

While e-reader users in the survey strongly prefer to read books on their chosen devices, the survey shows that about 20% of them also rate as attractive the idea of reading books on mobile phones and other small mobile screens. Not surprisingly, respondents who mainly read e-media on such multipurpose mobile devices rate the concept of reading books on a small screen much more highly, with 56% rating it as attractive.

How would you rate the idea of reading books on your mobile phone or other very small mobile screen?

Usage Findings

The InfoTrends survey turned up a number of findings about the actual use of both e-readers and multipurpose devices:

  • The typical respondent who uses mainly a multi-purpose device (not e-Reader) uses, on average, 2.5 such devices for electronic reading
    • Smartphones are in the lead, but bear in mind that this question did not relate the amount of time / reading to the type of device
    • Both laptop and desktop computers are also common
    • Apple iPads are already nearly as common as desktops, with 43% of these respondents already using them
  • When asked to narrow their selection to the device used most often, the Apple iPad takes the lead, with the smartphone a close second, and no other device getting even a 16% response
  • The survey results emphasize that while on-screen reading devices of various stripes have been available for over a decade, most current users are relative newcomers
    • Half of the mainly-e-reader users have had an e-reader for only 12 months or less and the mean length of experience is only 17 months, although a third (33%) have had e-Readers for two years or longer
  • Regardless of the device used most often, a majority of respondents have also used another device for on-screen reading of books and related media
    • Mainly E-Reader users are most likely to have done so; 86% have also used another electronic device for reading books and related media
    • 58% of users of multi-purpose devices have also used more than one device at some time
  • Respondents use these devices — whether e-Reader or multi-purpose — frequently for reading
    • More than two-thirds use them multiple times a day
    • The devices are used a mean of every 2 days
    • More than 90% use them more than once a week
  • The locations of usage are essentially the same regardless of usage type
    • “At home” is most popular — over 95% of all devices
    • The other specified options (vacation / leisure travel, business travel, commuting, at work) are all popular, with at least 40% reporting usage in all of those environments (the typical respondent uses their device in three locations)
    • When asked the most common usage location, 80% say “at home” while 10% select “while commuting” as a distant second
  • Books are the most common medium read by all users, by a wide margin
    • Mainly-e-Reader users are much more likely to use their devices only for book reading (most of these users who do use their e-Reader for another medium use it for only one additional medium)
    • Users of multi-purpose devices use their devices for a mean of 3.6 media types, with blogs being second-most-popular behind books
  • Within books, the types of book read (e.g. general fiction, non-fiction, etc.), and most type most commonly read, are mostly similar across segments
    • Multi-purpose device users read more science fiction and more textbooks than e-Reader users

InfoTrends draws a number of conclusions from this report’s survey research with key recommendations for publishers and technology providers. For companies that want to publish electronically, they have an expanding base of potential customers. However, with a wide range of devices, publishers must address changing formats that are acceptable or even preferable for large groups of consumers. Technology providers need to recognize how flexible the end-user community has become in its electronic reading habits. End-users have shown that they are willing to adapt to new ways of reading, a consideration that should encourage technology providers to continue investing in the development of new products.

Results of this report highlight end-users’ observations, preferences, and plans regarding this growing marketplace. E-Reader vs. Tablet: An End-User Perspective on Content Consumption is available for immediate purchase. For more information visit our online store or contact Robyn Wuori at +1 781 616 2103 or e-mail

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