BPR Exclusive: Not All iPad Owners Are E-Book Users

November, 2010 | Volume 35, Number 11

Tech industry pundits who cheered on Amazon’s Kindle appeared to be the first group to pronounce the device (and others like it) dead once Apple’s iPad came to be. The statements mostly had a recurring theme of the color capabilities of the iPad screen and the versatility of the device itself, with a bit of a rhetorical ‘why would you read on this when you could read on that?’ thrown in.

Though Amazon and Barnes & Noble dropped the price of their proprietary devices soon after the iPad’s debut, statements from both companies imply they are not dropping their hardware (and it’s worth noting both have reading applications for the iPad and a myriad of other devices). So where does the iPad actually fit into the device landscape?

Since a survey of book buyers only would yield misleading results (over-sampling heavy book buyers and under-sampling others), Simba has used a proprietary, nationally representative quarterly survey of over 1,800 U.S. adults to gather data and projections for our Trade E-Book Report series. 

During our spring survey, we added the iPad under the list of ‘devices used’ if a consumer indicated they used e-books. For the fall survey we took it a step further and added a question earlier in the survey: ‘do you own an iPad?’ This enabled us to see what percentage of the adult population owned an iPad and how many used it for reading books.

According to preliminary numbers, about one-third of iPad owners haven’t used the device to read an e-book. Since a very small proportion of U.S. adults own an iPad in the first place, we weren’t able to figure out how many e-books the approximately 65% of iPad owners who have read e-books bought or read.

Since we’re also only a few months into the iPad’s life, we can’t yet tell whether the group of iPad e-book readers is made up of folks who have just tried reading free e-books to check out the capability or have purchased 10 or more e-books. In terms of hardware options, the iPad is far behind some but it is a part of the landscape as about 30% of e-book users own an iPad.

Still, the thought that over a million iPad buyers haven’t used the gadgets for e-books should make us all remember that a new gadget doesn’t automatically mean we get a new reader, and even though we’ve added a laundry list of devices over the last year, the percentage of adults who read/use e-books (but don’t necessarily buy) has remained at roughly 15% so far in 2010—about the same as in 2009.

BPRCOMMENT: Techies often employ the ‘one device to rule them all’ catchphrase when suggesting that everyone in the future will use the same device. But if you think of a consumer’s path to content as a highway, would you expect everyone to drive the same make, model and color of car? Exactly.

We welcome your views. To submit a letter to the editor, send us an email to press@simbainformation.com.