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Ownership of iPads and e-readers soars | 25 Jan 2012
A new survey shows that ownership in America of tablets (mostly iPads) and e-reader devices (mostly Kindles) almost doubled over the Christmas period. The figures show that the percentage of American adults owning a tablet computer rose from 10% before Christmas to 19% afterwards, and that ownership of an e-reader device rose by exactly the same proportions. And 29% of American adults now own at least one of these new-fangled devices.
It would be easy to assume that this huge surge was mainly down to two cheap devices coming onto the US market in the run-up to Christmas: the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet (which both double as tablet and e-reader). However, Apple’s storming Q4 2011 performance, which saw its iPad shipments double year-on-year to reach 15.4 million sales, tells a different story. So does the survey, by the Pew Research Center, which confirmed that ownership of these digital devices is skewed towards the most educated and better-off households. Amongst the group with household incomes in excess of $75,000, tablet ownership has risen to more than one in three, at 36%; and amongst college graduates, tablet ownership stands at 31%. The figures for e-reader ownership are 31% and 30% respectively. These groups are high-value targets for both publishers looking for subscribers, and for advertisers.
Back in May, I wrote a blog urging publishers to keep the iPad in proportion. Back then, only 5% of American adults owned an iPad. Just goes to show you how fast the digital revolution is – er… revolving. In the last few weeks, the tablet and e-reader have moved from niche/trophy device into the mainstream.
There are, as ever, a couple of caveats. The first is that early adopters of iPads and Kindles were enthusiastic pioneers who were prepared to spend their own money on these devices – quite a lot of money, in the case of the iPad. This new wave of owners just had to unwrap their new toys, not pay for them, and so may not be quite as engaged as the first generation owners. Maybe.
The second cautionary note is that this explosion in digital device ownership is in the USA, and not the UK. We don’t know yet how many devices were sold in the run-up to Christmas and given to Brits. However, it seems not unreasonable to assume that (as usual) this rainy little isle will follow meekly in the footsteps of its transatlantic cousin.
Finally, to ram home the message, just listen to Mike Goldsmith, Future Publishing’s tablet editor-in-chief. Future, remember, marked the launch of Apple’s iPad Newsstand in September by placing apps for 65 magazines (55 of them UK titles) onto the iPad, the vast majority of them simple ‘turning-page’ print replicas.
Speaking today at a publishing forum run by the UK Association of Online Publishers, Mr Goldsmith revealed that: Future made $1m in new revenue from those apps within the first month; customers have downloaded 8.3m free copies of magazines using those apps; and that in the 104 days since Newsstand launched, Future has sold 75,000 new magazine subscriptions for the iPad.
Ladies and gentlemen of publishing, be in no doubt; people are reading digital magazines on iPads, and they are then putting their hands in their pockets to buy subscriptions. The digital revolution is real, and it’s happening right now.
Mark Rosselli is chairman of CPL