[Techtaffy Newsdesk]

The population of e-book readers is growing, according to a study by Pew Internet.    

In the past year, the number of those who read e-books increased from 16% of all Americans ages 16 and older to 23%. At the same time, the number of those who read printed books in the previous 12 months fell from 72% of the population ages 16 and older to 67%.

Overall, the number of book readers in late 2012 was 75% of the population ages 16 and older, a small and statistically insignificant decline from 78% in late 2011.

The move toward e-book reading coincides with an increase in ownership of electronic book reading devices. In all, the number of owners of either a tablet computer or e-book reading device such as a Kindle or Nook grew from 18% in late 2011 to 33% in late 2012. As of November 2012, some 25% of Americans ages 16 and older own tablet computers such as iPads or Kindle Fires, up from 10% who owned tablets in late 2011. And in late 2012 19% of Americans ages 16 and older own e-book reading devices such as Kindles and Nooks, compared with 10% who owned such devices at the same time last year.

This move toward e-books has also affected libraries. The share of recent library users1 who have borrowed an e-book from a library has increased from 3% last year to 5% this year. Moreover, awareness of e-book lending by libraries is growing. The share of those in the overall population who are aware that libraries offer e-books has jumped from 24% late last year to 31% now.

Who reads e-books

In the book-reading population, those most likely to read e-books include those with college or graduate degrees, those who live in households earning more than $75,000, and those whose ages fall between 30 and 49.

Who read books in the past 12 months

In the new Pew Internet survey 75% of Americans ages 16 and older said they had read a book in any platform in the previous 12 months. That is not statistically significantly different from the 78% who in late 2011 said in a survey they had read a book in the previous 12 months.

Of them:

  • 89% of the book readers said they had read a printed book. This translates into 67% of all those ages 16 and older.
  • 30% of the book readers said they had read an e-book. This translates into 23% of all those ages 16 and older.
  • 17% of the book readers said they had listened to an audio book. This translates into 13% of all those ages 16 and older.

All told, those book readers consumed a mean (average) of 15 books in the previous 12 months and a median (midpoint) of 6 books — in other words, half had read fewer than six and half had read more than six.

That breaks down as follows:

  • 7% of Americans ages 16 and older read one book in the previous 12 months
  • 14% had read 2-3 books in that time block
  • 12% had read 4-5 books in that time block
  • 15% had read 6-10 books in that time block
  • 13% had read 11-20 books in that time block
  • 14% had read 21 or more books in that time block

E-book borrowing from libraries

This move toward e-books has also affected libraries. The share of recent library users who have borrowed an e-book from a library has increased from 3% last year to 5% this year.

Beyond that, there is growing public awareness that the vast majority of public libraries now lend e-books. In the entire population of those ages 16 and older, the number who are aware that libraries offer e-book loans increased from 24% last year to 31% now. At the same time, there has been a drop in the number of people who do not know whether their local library has an e-book borrowing program.  Now, 57% say they don’t know if their library offers e-books. Last year, 63% of those ages 16 and above did not know if their library offered e-books for borrowing.

The survey was conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project on October 15-November 10, 2012 among 2,252 Americans ages 16 and older. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.