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E-book readers read offline and on: study



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Updated: May 6, 2012 8:24AM

One in five American adults report reading an e-book in the past year, and those who read e-books devoured more books than those who read the old-fashioned way (24 versus 15 on average in the previous 12 months), according to a report by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Other interesting facts: Those who read e-books also read printed books; 41 percent of tablet owners and 35 percent of e-reading device owners say they are reading more since the advent of e-content, mostly due to speedy access, and 29 percent of people are reading books on their smartphones.

But income differences are stark, with 36 percent of people with yearly household incomes of $75,000 or more owning a tablet computer as of mid-January, compared with 8 percent of those earning less than $30,000 a year, according to the report, which is based on research funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Ebook readers also tend to be younger — 24 percent are 18 to 29 years old and 27 percent ages 30 to 49 — and have a college degree.

The ebook industry reported $1.7 billion in sales in 2011, more than double the figures from 2008, according to industry reports.

Maureen Sullivan, president-elect of the Chicago-based American Library Association, said libraries are still working to convince publishers to allow public libraries to obtain digital versions of books and to loan them without limits. Some publishers have imposed limits on the number of times a library may loan an ebook without paying extra fees.

Sullivan said the degree to which people with higher incomes own e-readers points to the need for public libraries to be able to offer free ebooks and to loan ereaders, especially as people pinched by unemployment and hard times turn to libraries to look for jobs and for relaxation and entertainment, she said.

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