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New Study: Is Increased iPad Adoption a Death Knell for Print? Hardly, says Michael Norris of Simba's new report.

November 28, 2012 By Brian Howard
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Simba Information’s new report out this week is titled “The iPad and Its Owner 2013.” But given its findings—including that 1 in 5 U.S. adults owns an iPad, along with projections that within five years tablet owners will outnumber print book buyers—it might have been called “The Rise of the Machines.” 

The media and publishing market intelligence company has been following trade ebook publishing through its nationally representative surveys since 2009, adding and removing reading devices from its proprietary “device matrix” to track the popularity of different readers as they enter the market.

According to Michael Norris, Senior Analyst at Simba Information’s Trade Books Group, ebook reading has come a long way since 2009 when the company found “the most popular device to read ebooks on was the personal computer.”

Of course, devices like Kindle and Nook (and to a smaller degree Sony Reader, which Simba seems ready to remove from its matrix) changed the playing field. Echoing other reports, Simba has been noticing for the last 18 months that tablets are gaining on these dedicated e-ink readers as the device of choice among readers of ebooks. This presents publishers with new challenges.

“It’s a scaled up version of the challenges publishers have been facing for decades: how to get consumers to value your content,” says Norris. “When you’re talking about a device that allows consumers to bring more popular forms of media with them on the go—people are finding there are so many other things they can do when they’re lying in bed or sitting on a plane—the publisher’s job gets more challenging.”

He adds, “books lost their portability advantage with the tablet.”

But the notion that tablets will simply replace print books isn’t supported by the findings. Simba’s report reveals a lot of interesting consumer behaviors. For instance:

-About half of iPad owners don’t use them to read ebooks at all

-iPad owners who do buy ebooks spend more on ebooks than the average ebook-using adult

-iPad owners who don’t read ebooks tend to buy more print books than the general population (though, Norris explains, “that’s a lot less interesting that I made it sound” as iPad owners tend to consume more of everything—books, newspapers, TV, radio—than the general population).

 

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