The eBook Generation (no, the other one)

While at the airport, I couldn’t help noticing the people who were reading on Kindles and iPads. One thing that caught my attention was that the average ebook user — in this small, uncontrolled, and unscientific sample size — was older than I would have at first suspected. Curiosity piqued, I decided to do a bit of informal research on this.

The Daily Mail (“How e-books are helping close the technological age gap”) reports on some research survey data of over-50s (the “silver surfer generation” … never heard that term before) in the UK that indicates older generations are more likely to be ebook ereaders than younger generations. And, almost as an afterthought, a couple of anecdotal observations at the very bottom of the page from The Economist, (“E-Readers v. Tablet Computers”) on the older demographics of ebook ereaders. The earlier adopters of ebooks and ereaders may be skewed to older demographs, but there are certainly indications that younger book readers are also making the switch (“E-Readers Catch Younger Eyes and Go in Backpacks”) — although it’s worth mentioning that the article is almost purely anecdotal and has a too-soon-to-tell attitude about what younger age groups may or may not do with ebooks and ereaders.

There was possibly useful information found in this Trade E-Book Publishing 2009 study, but unfortunately I decided to save the $2495.00 it costs to check out the report. Maybe next time.

According to this very recent 2010–2011 PEW research of 3000 Americans (“Who Owns What?”), 5% of all adults own an e-book reader and the 40-somethings and 50-somethings are the most prominent ereader owners. What’s problematic with these statistics, of course, is that this doesn’t really take into account other devices — phones, computers, etc. — that can also serve as ereading devices. Hard evidence is hard to come by with ebook demographics, and it’ll be interesting to see how these trends change within the next year or two.


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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

tyler shores cambridge

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