When it comes to tablets and e-readers, American adults apparently feel it is better to receive than to shell out their own cash.
After a slowdown in the fall of 2011, the share of adults who owned tablet computers or e-readers nearly doubled over the holidays, according to a new report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. The findings strongly suggest last year's slowdown was caused at least in part by people who anticipated receiving one of the devices as holiday gifts.
The percentage of adults in the United States who own tablets reached 19 percent in early January, up from 10 percent in mid-December, according to the study, which was released on Monday. The results were identical for the share of adults who own e-readers.
The surge came after a period of zero growth between August and December 2011, when the share of adults owning tablets held steady at 10 percent.
While overall numbers for tablet and e-reader sales were identical for the holiday period, differences appear in the demographic breakdown. For tablets, much of the surge can be attributed to people in households making more than $75,000 a year, 36 percent of whom now own a tablet. Sales were also strong among people with college degrees or higher, 31 percent of whom are now tablet owners.
But e-readers proved more popular among women than men. And while higher-educated people were still more likely to buy e-readers than those without college degrees, the gap wasn’t as significant as it was with tablets.
More tablets in the hands of consumers is good news for marketers, according to a new study from Adobe. Tablet users spent 54 percent more per purchase in 2011 than visitors who use smartphones, the study said, with an average order total of $123 per purchase.
Tablet shoppers spend more than their smartphone counterparts for two reasons, according to Adobe: One, they are more affluent than smartphone users, a finding consistent with the Pew study. Adobe also speculated that tablets are simply more conducive to shopping.
Whether the surge in tablet and e-book ownership will mean greater Web sales overall remains to be seen, but it has apparently already contributed to a boom in e-book sales. For 42 of the top 50 selling book titles, e-books were the most popular format from December 26 to January 1, a new high, according to USA Today's Best Selling Books list.
The Pew data came from one pre-holiday survey of about 3,000 people and two post-holiday surveys of about 1,000 people each.
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Douglas Quenqua is a journalist based in Brooklyn, NY who writes about culture and technology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, The New York Observer, and Fortune.
March 19, 2014