More Americans own e-readers than tablets, survey finds

Pew survey also confirms trend that Americans increasingly favor laptop computers over desktops

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More American are using e-readers than tablets, according to a Pew Research Institute survey.

The Pew survey of 2,277 adults that finished on May 22 found that 12% of Americans owned an e-reader device in May compared to 8% who owned a tablet like the popular iPad

Also, ownership grew faster for e-readers like the Nook or Kindle than ownership of tablets over the six months between November 2010 and May, the Pew survey found.

The telephone survey found that Hispanic Americans are the fastest-growing ownership group of both e-reader and tablet devices.

E-reader ownership grew from 6% of American adults in November 2010 to 12% in May, Pew said.

Tablet ownership grew from 5% to 8% over the same period. Tablet ownership had been climbing "relatively quickly" through Nov. 2010, Pew said, but growth was virtually flat from January to May, growing from only from 7% to 8%.

Pew also found that 3% of U.S. adults own both kinds of devices, while 9% own an e-reader but not a tablet, and 5% own a tablet but not an e-reader.

Among demographic groups Pew studied, Hispanics showed the biggest growth in e-reader ownership in the six month period ending in May, tripling from 5% to 15%. Hispanics represented the largest e-reader ownership group, followed by whites at 11% and African Americans at 8%.

Hispanics also had the biggest tablet ownership by demographic group in May at 15%, up from 7% in November, Pew said. Ownership of the devices among white Americans jumped from 4% to 7% over the six months while African Americans grew from 4% to 8%.

Pew didn't comment on the reasons for the trend toward owning e-readers, although observers note that the devices are much less expensive (and far less functional) than tablets and have been on the market longer.

The Kindle e-reader with special offers can be had for $114, while Pad 2 pricing starts at $499.

Pew started tracking e-reader ownership in April 2009 (although some e-readers were around much earlier). The researcher started tracking tablet ownership in May 2010, about a month after the first iPad went on sale.

The Pew survey also confirmed the widely-recognized trend that laptops are as popular as desktops.

The May survey found desktop ownership at 57% of Americans compared to laptop ownership at 56%, a statistical tie since the poll has amargin of error of 2 percentage points. In November, desktop ownership had outpaced laptops by 8 percentage points, 61% to 53%.

Even though tablets and e-readers get plenty of media attention, Pew found that cell phones are by far the most widely owned computing devices in the U.S. (83%), with desktops second (57%), and laptops third (56%). E-readers and tablets were well behind at 12% and 8% respectively.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

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