The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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April 13, 2012

Lee Duran: Study shows e-book reading on the rise

JOPLIN, Mo. — How many of you have read at least one e-book?

Pew Research Center has come out with a study that answers that question and a whole lot more. Had I guessed before I knew the answer to that question, I’d have been way low.

More than a fifth of American adults -- 21 percent -- reported that they read at least one e-book in the past year. A whole lot of them read many more.

The 2011 holidays led to the quick jump from 17 percent to 21, Pew reported. All those gifts of e-reading devices apparently proved irresistible.

The study reports that e-books are changing American culture from printed to digital material. About 43 percent of Americans 16 and older have either read an e-book in the past year or have read other long-form content such as magazines, journals and news articles in digital format on an e-book reader, tablet computer, regular computer or cell phone.

E-book readers “stand out in almost every way from other kinds of readers,” the report states. Foremost, they are relatively avid readers of books in all formats: 88 percent of those who read e-books in the past 12 months also read printed books.

Most of the findings in the report come from a survey of 2,986 Americans ages 16 and older. About 29 percent of Americans 18 and older own at least one specialized device for e-book reading, whether it’s a tablet or an e-book reader.

The average reader of e-books has read 24 books (the mean number) in the past 12 months, compared with an average of 15 books by a non-e-book consumer. Some 78 percent of those 16 and older report they have read an average of 17 books in the past year. Those reading the most books in the past year: more women than men; more whites than minorities; more senior citizens than youth.

Although e-book reading is markedly growing, printed books still dominate the world of book readers. In Pew’s December 2011 survey, they found that 72 percent of American adults had read a printed book, compared with the 17 per cent of adults who had read an e-book.

E-books have been on the horizon for years. I know, because I’ve owned two previous versions of readers before the advent of the Kindle. Both those early readers folded, leaving me adrift with readers and nothing to read on them.

I was somewhat dubious when this current craze hit. In fact, my Kindle was a gift -- a wonderful gift. I’m usually an early adaptor. I’m ready to jump on almost every dingbat idea that happens along, which has left me holding many a bag.

But this e-reading surge is no fluke. This time, it’s flying high. For fiction, it’s the best thing since sliced bread. For non-fiction...not so great, for me anyway.      

When asked about reading books in bed, the Pew verdict was split: 45 percent prefer reading e-books in bed, while 43 percent prefer print. That’s for now, anyway. We’ll see how people feel this time next year.

You can find a ton more information on the report at www.pewinternet.org, if you’re interested.             

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