January 28, 2022

Pew Internet Releases New Findings About eBook Readers, Devices, and Awareness of eBook Services in U.S. Public Libraries

The report released today (December 27, 2012) is titled: E-book Reading Jumps; Print Book Reading Declines. A PDF version of the complete report is also available.

Key Findings

The population of e-book readers is growing. In the past year, the number of those who read e-books increased from 16% of all Americans ages 16 and older to 23%. At the same time, the number of those who read printed books in the previous 12 months fell from 72% of the population ages 16 and older to 67%.

Overall, the number of book readers in late 2012 was 75% of the population ages 16 and older, a small and statistically insignificant decline from 78% in late 2011.

In all, the number of owners of either a tablet computer or e-book reading device such as a Kindle or Nook grew from 18% in late 2011 to 33% in late 2012. As of November 2012, some 25% of Americans ages 16 and older own tablet computers such as iPads or Kindle Fires, up from 10% who owned tablets in late 2011. And in late 2012 19% of Americans ages 16 and older own e-book reading devices such as Kindles and Nooks, compared with 10% who owned such devices at the same time last year.

What About Libraries?

This move toward e-books has also affected libraries. The share of recent library users who have borrowed an e-book from a library has increased from 3% last year to 5% this year. Moreover, awareness of e-book lending by libraries is growing. The share of those in the overall population who are aware that libraries offer e-books has jumped from 24% late last year to 31% now.


We would have thought that the growth of library ebook borrowing would have been greater than 2% given the significant growth in both ebook reading and ebook reader/tablet ownership noted earlier.

What would be interesting to learn is how many potential ebook readers visit a library’s web site, view ebook titles and give up because they:

  1. Can’t Find Anything To Read
    In other words, ebook availability in terms of both publishers not offering access to titles or wait times to get a desired ebook that the library does own.
  2. Digital Hoop Jumping
    Challenges in easily placing an available book on the desired device(s).


  • The data analyzed in today’s Pew Internet report was gathered during October-November, 2012.
  • Make sure to review the footnotes about changes to survey questions regarding libraries and ebooks.

Today’s report follows last week’s report from Pew Internet (also discussing ebooks) where we also shared a few thoughts about the findings.

See: Pew Releases Report About eBook Reading, eReader Usage, and Library Use in Different Communities
Released December 20, 2012.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.