June 14, 2021

EBook Reader Ownership Falls. Duh.

2015-11-04_08-54-25A Pew Research Center survey has discovered something that some might be surprised to read: “Today, about one-in-five adults (19%) report owning an e-reader, while in early 2014 that share was a third (32%).” This is quite a notable drop, especially considering that MP3 player ownership has dropped only slightly in the same period. One could argue that a smartphone is an excellent replacement for an MP3 player, but is a less than satisfactory replacement for an ebook reader.

Tablet ownership (45% of U.S. adults) is much higher than that of ebook readers, but of course as we all know tablets can be quite serviceable ebook readers. In fact, I called single purpose devices dead upon the arrival of Apple’s iPad, and although it has taken much longer than I expected, the trend surfaced by Pew seems to bear out that prediction. I know that I happily use my iPad as an e-reader, and I know that many others do as well.

The fact that I can also stream video, play music, do online banking, surf the web, etc. makes an ebook reader begin to sound like the brick that more people are discovering that it is.

Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.


  1. You’ll have to pry my multi-purpose tablet from my cold, dead fingers, but I *so* prefer reading on my Kindle Paperwhite. I find all the goodness the tablet can do to be far too distracting when I want to focus on reading. I know that’s partly an attentions span problem of my own, but it’s how I swing. I also understand that the white glow of the Paperwhite is less disruptive to sleep than the blue glow of a tablet screen; important to me since I usually read in bed. The battery lasts far longer on my e-reader, and there’s no screen glare, making it much easier to read outside. I’ll be keeping this single-purpose device :-)

    • And that is totally your prerogative, Paul. I’m sure others feel the same. But the drop in ownership didn’t surprise me. What surprised me was that the impact of tablets took so long to register.

  2. Hi Roy: Like you I was unsurprised by the trend of ereader ownership in the Pew data. Where I stumbled in the report is that they specifically asked about –ownership– of these devices, not “usage”. Some 40% fewer people report ownership of ereaders in a 15 month period concluding this past summer. I’d like to know why and how they –disposed– of these innocuous and relative inexpensive slabs. What made them want to no longer even have them in their homes, after such a fruitful love affair?