Study: Tablets, eBook Readers a Big Hit Over the Holidays

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Consumer purchases of tablets and eBook readers in the United States surged over the holidays, according to ongoing surveys by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project. Tablet-usage share among adults in the country doubled during this time period, the firm claims, as did that of ebook readers.

The big winner was Amazon.com, which sells some of the most popular devices in both categories.

"As the holiday gift-giving season approached, the marketplace for both [tablets and ebook readers] dramatically shifted," the company notes in its report. "In the tablet world, Amazon's Kindle Fire and Barnes and Noble's Nook Tablet were introduced at considerably cheaper prices than other tablets. In the ebook reader world, some versions of the Kindle and Nook and other readers fell well below $100."

According to Pew, adult ownership of tablet computers and ebook readers nearly doubled from 10 percent in mid-December to 19 percent in early January. The overall number of Americans owning at least one digital reading device jumped from 18 percent in December to 29 percent in January, the firm notes.

The report contains some interesting, if expected, data. Ownership of these often-costly digital devices rises with both income and education, and is correspondingly heavier among younger people than older people. And women tend to prefer both device types more than men.

Pew didn't break down the devices by type, so the surveys don't offer any hint about which tablets and ebook readers are winning in the market place. But although Apple's expensive iPad is expected to continue leading the tablet market, its share has steadily eroded with the advent of cheaper—and much, much cheaper—competitors, and some expect it to be overrun by the Amazon-led Android tablet horde in 2012. And in the dedicated ebook reader market, Amazon continues its decisive lead over the Nook lineup, though Barnes & Noble's entry has performed better than many had thought possible.

With Apple steadily losing to Android in a second market, Apple partisans are now trying to lump iPad sales with those of the company's Mac computers, creating a new category of general-purpose computing devices in which Apple, of course, is now the leader. This is unnecessary: Even with a lower share, Apple can continue to grow in the tablet market and establish the iPad as yet another amazingly successful product line.


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