E-book readers still owned by small niche

Though e-book readers seem to have become hot products, two recent surveys show that they're still used by only a small percentage of people.

The tech industry buzzes a lot about e-book readers. But how widely are they actually used?

Among 1,529 consumers who responded to a July 2009 questionnaire from research firm In-Stat, only 5.8 percent currently own an e-book reader. And only 11 percent of those questioned said they planned to buy one in the next 12 months, according to the In-Stat report released this week.

Those low results may be even more significant given that In-Stat's survey audience consisted of high-end consumers who typically adopt new technology earlier than the general public.

Another study released last week by Forrester discovered that consumers find e-book readers much too expensive. Extrapolating from the 4,706 U.S. consumers questioned, Forrester found that almost 65 percent of U.S. adults online would consider a price of $98 or less too expensive for an e-book reader but would still purchase one.

Fewer than 20 percent said $99 to $148 was too pricey for a reader though they would still buy one, while 14 percent said the same about readers in the $149 to $198 range.

Forrester Research

Those results are significant in a market where Amazon's least expensive Kindle sells for $299, even after a recent price cut, and Sony's less-pricey Pocket edition Reader sells for $199.

In-Stat's survey found a greater tolerance for high prices. Among its audience, 40 percent of potential buyers would pay $200 to $299 for a reader, 29 percent would pay $100 to $199, and 13.6 percent would pay less than $100.

In-Stat

Among current users of e-book readers, In-Stat found the number one requested feature is e-mail. Potential buyers cited better battery life and Internet connectivity as the two most important factors in persuading them to buy a reader.

Of the number of e-book users questioned in the In-Stat survey, more than 58 percent own the Amazon Kindle, while 9 percent use Sony's Reader. Around 45.5 percent of them spend between $9 and $20 a month on e-books.

In its report, Forrester predicted that 2 million U.S. consumers will buy an e-reader this year, in addition to the 1 million who bought one in 2008.

Forrester's blog dissected the meaning of its survey: "The maximum addressable market for eReaders as they are currently priced is substantial--but to reach the largest market possible, the prices will need to come way down. And even then, eReaders are never going to be as big a market as MP3 players, which 110 million US consumers own."

About the author

Journalist, software trainer, and Web developer Lance Whitney writes columns and reviews for CNET, Computer Shopper, Microsoft TechNet, and other technology sites. His first book, "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time," was published by Wiley & Sons in November 2012.

 

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