Tablets and eBook readers may have grabbed a lot of headlines in 2011, but it looks like sales of the devices may have really taken off during the holiday season. The Pew Research Center has conducted surveys over the last few years to see how many people in America have eReaders and tablets — and the numbers nearly doubled from December 2011 to January 2012.

Pew tablet/eReader survey
Pew tablet/eReader survey

The jump was likely facilitated by the introduction of low-cost devices such as the Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble NOOK Tablet — as well as eReaders from Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and others which are now available for $100 or less.

As you’d probably expect, the groups most likely to own either a tablet or eReader are households which make the most money and/or individuals with more education. More than 1 in 3 respondents with a household income of $75,000 per year or more reported owning a tablet, while a slightly smaller percentage had eReaders.

Overall, about 19% of respondents reported having a tablet, and about the same number said they now have an eReader. In other words, while the numbers were 1 in 10 just over a month ago, they jumped to 1 in 5 in January.

What does this mean? It means there are a lot more tablets and eReaders in people’s hands than there were a month ago. But many of them were likely given as gifts, which means it’s too early to say how much people will actually use these devices. To discover that, we’ll probably have to keep an eye on digital book, music, movies, and app sales in the coming months, as well as internet ad impressions and page views from tablet-style devices.

It’s also probably too early to say what this means for different players in the tablet space. If people are picking up cheap tablets such as the Kindle Fire, will there still be a market for high-end devices like the Eee Pad Transformer Prime? Or are price (and a good digital media store) more important than bleeding-edge features and performance?

via New York Times

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