E-Reading in the London Underground and Other Places I Can Spy
Like most Londoners I spend a lot of time on the London Underground or “tube” as it’s affectionately known (“metro” or “subway” to most Americans). In fact most Londoners spend 30-60 minutes each way commuting to work by tube. Digital publishing being my profession, I spend a lot of time looking at what devices people are reading on, sometimes even peering over their shoulders for a look at the text (being 6’3″ makes it pretty easy).
Here are some things I’ve noticed:
– It isn’t rare to see 5-6 people on the same carriage reading from Kindles
– I did a non-scientific count a few times and the ratio between people reading paperbacks and Kindles is almost equal now (50/50) — the e-book is killing off the paperback
– iPad or other tablets are almost invisible on the London underground. One major reason: no wireless connectivity available on the tube (you can obviously read without an Internet connection, but you can’t do email, Twitter, etc.)
At home the picture is totally different: The iPad rules and though I don’t peer into bedrooms, casual conversations suggest that the iPad dominates bed-time — for answering emails, sending a few tweets and then settling down to reading.
On planes and trains, Kindles are also far more likely than iPads; and on the beach it’s no contest: Kindles everywhere.
I increasingly hear people here in the UK who read a lot of books saying they bought a Kindle to save money with regards to how much they spend on books every year.
Moral of these anecdotal stories:
– Book worms (heavy readers) own Kindles but will also read e-books on their iPad or PC (especially when they are at work). (Sonys and Kobos are rare sights and no Nooks to be spotted anywhere in Britain — my desk being the sole exception.)
– Non-book worms own iPads and for them e-books on the tablet are a side proposition
None of this is scientific, but I’d say e-ink isn’t dead yet and is becoming a core utility/device for the consumer niche of the heavy book reader. This is a niche, but a very important one to any company whose focus it is to sell e-books.
Outside this niche of heavy book readers, it is tablets, tablets, tablets (and their owners display about the same purchase frequency of [e]books as they do for printed books = low). A major question is if further innovation in tablets, such as more compact size, better screens, lower weight, will win over hard-core bookworms. If, so eInk devices could be over and done with in two years time.
London Underground image via Shutterstock