It seems like a week doesn’t go by without the launch of a new tablet device for surfing the web, viewing media, reading eBooks, and running apps. But most of the high profile tablets available cost $400 or more. You know what’s a lot cheaper? An eBook reader such as the latest NOOK, Kobo, or Kindle eReaders. They also have batteries that last for weeks or months rather than hours or days.

So I’m not all that surprised to see a Pew report out today showing that eReaders sales are growing at a faster rate than tablet sales. When dedicated eBook devices first started to hit the market they cost hundreds of dollars and only a small group of people could justify spending that kind of cash on a device that simply lets you read books — which you still need to buy separately.

Now the base price for the most popular eReaders is around $130 to $140, and it’s not unusual to find an older model on sale for under $100.

According to Pew’s study, the percentage of US adults who own an eReader doubled in the six months from November, 2010 to May 2011. That’s in increase from 6 percent of the population to 12 percent.

Pew’s report doesn’t make any guesses as to why people appear to be buying eReaders in growing numbers while the share of US adults who own tablets has been pretty much flat at 7 percent since January and up only 3 percent since November. But if I had to guess I’d put my money on… money. Cheap eReaders are a lot more attractive than the eReaders of yesteryear, and they’re attractive alternatives to high priced tablets if you just want to read books or possibly web pages since most recent eReaders also have web browsers.

It’s also interesting to note that while the eReaders were most likely to be found in households earning over $30,000 per year, households with incomes of over $75,000 were nearly twice as likely to have an eReader than those making less money. Clearly, a $140 item isn’t an impulse by for everybody — so of course a $500 iPad isn’t either.

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6 replies on “eReader market is outpacing tablet growth”

  1. Give me 2 days real life usage battery and I wont care how its called, tablet or e-reader, as long as I can watch movies that time non stop :D!

  2. My wife and adult daughter both have Kindles (and use them).  They don’t appeal to me because most of what I read is too specialized (historical research).  My daughter has a smartphone, but I have no plans to buy either a smartphone or a tablet.  They certainly have advantages but not enough to justify buying them,  I manage with a dumbphone and sundry computers.  A laptop is my workhorse.  Buying my Asus netbook was a waste of money and a lesson to me.  I use it maybe once a month.  My point: it depends on how you use an electronic device that makes it worth buying or not.  Everybody’s situation is different.

  3. My credit card is ready for the first good eink colour graphic book reader that comes out. Tablets just aren’t that attractive to me. I always tell people not to touch my monitor. I don’t want greasy fingers on the display. I think that’s one thing that might hinder my purchase of a tablet.

  4. Sure you could spend $400 or more for a tablet which does most things. Then again, perhaps having 3 Kindles in your home for the price of a tablet is just too tempting. Evidence suggests this will get worse before it gets better for the tablet hopefuls out there.

    1. I tend to agree, there is a slow trend towards merging of e-readers and talbets but it’ll still be a few years before e-ink and LCD displays have enough performance overlap to make the differences more or less mute for other than what the whole device offers in features.

      While there are also many people who still prefer reading without distractions and it can be argued that for those people that tablets actually offer too much.

      So you can add the ability to relax and fully focus on reading to the advantage of a e-reader, besides the usual ability to read under full sunlight and less strain on the eyes.

      arone also has a good point about the run time, which further adds to how people can just relax and read with a e-reader.

  5. Not surprising. I think the battery factor might be just as important as the price tag. It is a hassle to have to constantly remind yourself to plug in this or that digital device. The phone is enough for me. I do not want to be on battery watch for a second thing.

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