The Rise (or lack thereof) of E-reading

CC image - flickr - Let Ideas Compete

Pew Internet Report on the rise of e-reading –

In February, 21% of Americans said they have read an e-book in the past year. When expanded to include 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,” the percentage of people jumps to 43%.

The 2011 holiday season saw a spike in the number of e-readers and tablet computers sold. Will this become the new tech toy trend for the next 5-10 years? I have a feeling that tablet computers, like Apple’s iPad, will be a more popular item to own than a simple e-reader device because of their ability to do more than download books to read. But Amazon’s Kindle Fire, with the capacity to view video and listen to music, may be a better alternative for those who don’t want to spend a lot of time learning how to use an iPad, or don’t want to spend lots of money either.

Another thing to note–those who read e-books also read more in general than those who haven’t read an e-book in the past year. E-books readers have read 24 books on average per year, in all kinds of formats.  People who don’t read e-books read an average of 15 books per year. The demographics of avid book reader tend toward women, whites, the well-educated, and those 65 years or older.

Looking at these demographics, I have to wonder. Are e-readers trending towards retirees? Is reading an activity that is mostly enjoyed by people with lots of free time on their hands? If you are a full-time working mother, reading is probably low down on your list of activities, just behind getting more sleep.

When people start saying that print books will soon be obsolete and everything will be read on a screen, I think of the handful of times I’ve personally read a book, whether on a computer screen or an e-reader. I didn’t enjoy it the way I enjoy reading a physical book, my eyes would strain and I would get tired quickly, my mind would inevitably wander off and my mouse would take me to Facebook or down another trail, or I would miss the feel of pages between my fingers and the ease of seeing exactly how far I had to go to get to the juicy ending. That progress bar at the bottom of the e-reader screen just doesn’t do it for me. Not to mention, the e-readers are sometimes hard to use and harder to download books onto. When it comes to print books, I only have to reach out and grab it.

Still, I will keep reading reports about e-readers and e-books. I will watch how the trends change and the new developments in technology that arise. But I will remain skeptical that e-readers and e-books will replace every single book in the entire UNIVERSE. My prediction? Give it another 500 years.