Tablets surge past e-readers as ebook reading grows

Ebook reading is up, but it’s shifting from dedicated e-readers to tablets. That’s the word from the latest Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project survey, which found that ebook reading in the last year rose to 23 percent of all Americans ages 16 and older, compared to 16 percent a year ago.

The big beneficiary of this ebook reading increase appears to be tablets, which have overtaken e-reader ownership for the first time in Pew’s surveys. While ownership of e-readers has grown to 19 percent from 10 percent a year ago, tablet ownership is now up to 25 percent, up from 10 percent a year ago. Overall, one-third (33 percent) of Americans now own an e-reading device, either e-reader or tablet, compared to 18 percent of Americans a year ago.

The Pew Survey, which polled 2,252 Americans in October and November, doesn’t break down exactly how much reading is actually taking place on tablets versus e-readers so it’s possible that e-readers are still more popular for actual reading of ebooks. But the report falls in line with other reports that suggest that the e-reader is set to decline in the face of more versatile tablets.

IHS Suppli said earlier this month that ebook readers peaked in 2011 and were expected to decline by 36 percent in 2012 to 14.9 million units, down from 23.2 million in 2011. IHS forecast that e-readers shipments will drop to 7.1 million by 2016. Meanwhile, tablets are expected to grow to 203 million shipments by 2013, up from 70 million last year.

The rise in ebook reading comes as traditional paper book reading declines. Pew found that 67 percent of Americans 16 and up read a printed book in the last year, compared to 72 percent a year ago. It’s not surprising that ebook reading is up. It’s just more convenient for many readers. And with tablets only accelerating in sales thanks to smaller units like the iPad Mini (s aapl), there’s less need to rely on a dedicated reader.

e-readers, e-book reading