A New Ceiling on E-book Adoption

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

It's a ceiling. Duh!

According to a new study from the Pew Research Center, one in five American adults don’t use the Internet at all, and half of those don’t use it because they believe it’s not “relevant” to them.

You don’t have to be a statistician to know that if 20% of Americans don’t use the Internet at all, they’re probably not good prospects to start reading e-books any time soon. Most of those who fall into that group are senior citizens and those living in households earning less than $30,000 a year, said the study.

While the latter group isn’t a very large book-buying group, the former is.

The good news for publishers, I suppose, is that as time passes, more readers as a whole are trying e-books. While this generation of senior citizens may not be friendly to digital technologies, the next may be.

And as for low-income households, it may be worth noting that the Pew study found that about 63% of Americans use either a cell phone, laptop, e-reader or tablet computer to go online. The Pew study also said that mobile Internet access is “changing the story” for “groups that have traditionally been on the other side of the digital divide” — that they are using mobile technology to go online.

So, where is the ceiling for e-book adoption? Right now, it’s about 80%, if Pew is to be believed. We’re not nearly there yet. Roughly a fifth of Americans have tried e-books, according to another recent Pew study, which is among the highest rates of countries around the world, according to a recent Bowker study.

Ceiling image via Shutterstock.

9 thoughts on “A New Ceiling on E-book Adoption

  1. Bryce Dayton

    You know what would be great? Not having to click next to see the last couple of paragraphs of this article. it turns out that this is the internet, not a magazine, and we really CAN have the entire article on one page. Shocking, I know.

  2. Geraldine

    eBooks are here to stay. And I happen to notice that there are authors who try self-publishing through ebooks. The younger generation is always open to new medium of readership. 🙂

  3. Alex Yang

    This is a good reminder that one of the big negatives of ebooks is that they can be exclusive to those who can afford to purchase the hardware needed to read them. Pbooks are definitely more inclusive and easy to access for everyone. Will this be another permanent marker in the digital divide or can it be overcome?

    1. Jeremy Greenfield

      That’s a really good point, Alex. I actually blogged about a similar issue not too long ago: http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2012/when-growth-in-childrens-e-books-hits-the-poverty-line/

      I think it’s with children that the situation is most dire. Of course, most children by themselves cannot afford e-reading devices, but those who live in poverty are not being exposed to them and so will grow up without having the digital skills so valued in today’s society.

  4. Alex Yang

    And in fact avid readers like me – and others who would like to help those with limited resources for books would be able to donate our pbooks to schools or libraries etc but that’s not possible with ebooks

    1. Jeremy Greenfield

      I’ve spoken with several organizations that donate books to underserved children and they all report the same thing: we’d love to give away e-books, but we don’t have the budget.

      Reading Is Fundamental, one of the largest of these organizations, had a huge grant from the government to experiment with giving away e-readers and e-books, but lost its funding to do so just last year.

  5. Merry

    At a recent presentation on Impacts and Implications of ebooks for an academic library’s advisory group, we surmised that of the 12 members, perhaps 4 would have ebook experience. This advisory group matches the senior demographic and non technical with two exceptions. Surprise! All but two had at least one device, all still borrowed and bought print books, and all accepted that ebooks in academe were positively serving students and researchers.



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