April 4, 2012 at 10:00 PM ET
21 percent of those in the U.S. say they've read an e-book in the past year, and while many are gravitating to e-readers and tablets, a surprising number say they read books on their computers and cellphones.
Most are not ready to completely give up printed books: 88 percent who read e-books in the past year also said they read printed books.
The findings are shared in a new study, "The rise of e-reading" from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.
As of mid-December 2011, Pew said 17 percent of Americans had read an e-book in the last year, and the bump up to 21 percent, as of February, was likely the result of all those Amazon Kindle Fires (released in November) and Barnes & Noble Nooks being delivered by Santa over the holidays.
When it comes to other "long-form material," including magazine pieces, 43 percent of Americans ages 16 and older are reading digital text, and many say they are reading more because books and articles are available in a digital format, Pew said.
"Every institution connected to the creation of knowledge and storytelling is experiencing a revolution in the way information is packaged and disseminated," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet Project, and one of the authors of the study, in a statement. "It’s now clear that readers are embracing a new format for books and a significant number are reading more because books can be plucked out of the air."
Pew surveyed 2,986 Americans ages 16 and older between Nov. 16 and Dec. 21, 2011; it also queried Americans about tablets and e-book readers in two other surveys, done in January, involving 2,008 adults, ages 18 and older. The report was based on research funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Among other findings:
"E-book readers and tablet computers are finding their place in the rhythms of readers’ lives," said Kathryn Zickuhr, an author of report, in a statement. "But printed books still serve as the physical currency when people want to share the stories they love."
There will always be a place for printed books in some readers' hearts: When asked what they like most about book reading, 2 percent cited "the physical properties of books -– their feel and smell –- as a primary pleasure," Pew said. And that's just not something an iPad or Nook can provide.