The share of adults in the United States who own an e-book reader doubled to 12% in May, 2011 from 6% in November 2010. E-readers, such as a Kindle or Nook, are portable devices designed to allow readers to download and read books and periodicals. This is the first time since the Pew Internet Project began measuring e-reader use in April 2009 that ownership of this device has reached double digits among U.S. adults.
Tablet computers—portable devices similar to e-readers but designed for more interactive web functions—have not seen the same level of growth in recent months. In May 2011, 8% of adults report owning a tablet computer such as an iPad, Samsung Galaxy or Motorola Xoom. This is roughly the same percentage of adults who reported owning this kind of device in January 2011 (7%), and represents just a 3 percentage-point increase in ownership since November 2010. Prior to that, tablet ownership had been climbing relatively quickly.
These findings come from a survey conducted from April 26-May 22 among 2,277 adults ages 18 and over, including surveys in English and Spanish and on landline and cell phones. The margin of error for the sample is plus or minus 2 percentage points.
Both e-book reader and tablet computer adoption levels among U.S. adults are still well below that of other tech devices that have been on the market longer. Cell phones are far and away the most popular digital device among U.S. adults today, followed by desktop and laptop computers, DVRs, and MP3 players.
There is notable overlap in e-reader and tablet computer ownership – 3% of US adults own both devices. Nine percent own an e-book reader but not a tablet, while 5% own a tablet computer but not an e-reader.
Further confirming the overall trend toward adoption of mobile devices, this survey marks the first time that laptop computers are as popular as desktop computers among U.S. adults. In November of last year, desktop ownership outpaced laptop ownership by 8 percentage points, 61% to 53%. This changing pattern is the result of both a steady decline in the popularity of desktops and a steady increase in the popularity of laptops over time. Laptops have already overtaken desktops in popularity among adults under age 30, and appear poised to do the same among older adults.