E-Reader Demographics – Current Trends Buck Stereotypes

A big part of Advertising and Marketing is understanding the user base of any particular channel you are using, whether it is online, radio, television, etc. As tablets and e-readers (which tend to be tablet-sized) toy with the idea of creating ad spaces targeted at the demographic that uses them, it is worth digging into who these folks are, or at least dispelling some of the preconceptions we have around this demographic.

At the blog Pricenomics, Rohin Dhar has some interesting views on e-Reader penetration and whether it truly is something the “cultural elites” have adopted as the next step in reading. Before digging into the facts, his assumption was that e-Readers would be most prevalent in cities with a high cosmopolitan factor — In fact, he was wrong, and found out that Middle America was far more likely to own a reader.

I have found this to be the case as well with my close acquaintances and coworkers — if anything, the more literary a person is, the more they seem to be attracted to the luxury of having or owning a book, rather than thinking about it from a pure practical standpoint (the book is the content, not the container it came in). It’s almost akin to driving aficionados preferring manual transmission over automatic. I myself have given up on print versions of books, refusing to cede over any more of my small personal real estate to storing books I will never read again. I prefer being able to get a book right away, always having it with me (on my phone’s Kindle software, which is my choice of e-reader), and having a pretty flawless reading experience that way. If anything, I find I read books much more quickly on the small iPhone screen on Kindle.

Maybe the real way to look at it the issue is to view e-reader audiences as being synonymous with technie audiences in general — You will have some early adopters, and then the usual adoption curve for everyone else, but it’s not book-related demand, it’s about tech-related demand. If anything, I would think book readers might be more conservative, and thus less likely to adopt, than the average person.

The data seems to bear this out, but also the exception to this — a popular, “trendy” device like the iPad, which is also an e-reader (albeit a very overpriced one for just that activity) does seem to pull disproportionately from Apple/Mac fans, which (in my experience) do tend to be from the literati/Artsy side of the aisle. And as Rohin priced out, iPads have stayed relatively high-priced compared to e-readers, which have gone down steadily in price, almost in sync with the adoption curve timing for most new electronic devices. I think penetration has a long way to go, but the fact that iPad pricing remains so high is not just because of the later introduction — demand is strong for iPads. So iPads might be great for targeting that specific, “elitist,” demographic, but not e-readers as a whole, which are probably closer to the mean in terms of what user base they reflect.

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