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Do digital books encourage reading?

It appears that e-books are surging to new heights of popularity. A recent study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that the number of American adults who have read an e-book rose to an all-time high of 21 percent in February of this year, up from 17 percent in mid-December.

The jump in the number of people reading e-books is attributed to a surge in sales of tablets and e-readers over the holiday period, and the increased availability and ease of use of digital content outlets. This second point was emphasized by the number of people who are reading e-books on more than one device. Among those who have read an e-book in the last year, 42 percent did so on a computer, 41 percent on an e-reader, 29 percent on a smartphone, and 23 percent on a tablet.

And it’s not just digital books. When the Pew survey was expanded to include other long-form digital content such as magazines, journals and news articles, the proportion of adults consuming such content jumped to 43 percent.

The average e-book reader read 24 books in all formats over the last 12 months, compared to an average of 15 books for non-e-book readers. More interestingly, 30 percent of those who read e-content say they now spend more time reading than before, a number that increases still further if they are e-reader (35 percent) or tablet (41 percent) owners.

The idea that e-readers and tablets can get people to read more is not a new one. A 2010 Marketing and Research Resources study found that 40 percent of e-reader owners said they read more than they did with print books, and Amazon has previously reported that its customers buy over three times as many books after they buy a Kindle than they did before.

Although these surveys were conducted among adults, the implications for parents and educators are clear. While most electronic gadgets are considered a distraction when in the hands of kids, they can encourage engagement and reading is one of those areas that can benefit.

A 2011 New York Times article explored the attraction of e-readers and e-books for teens and younger children. (The Online Mom contributed to the article). Although at the time there was some uncertainty about whether the fascination with e-readers would last, parents were willing to use any means possible to get their children to read.

“There’s something I’m not sure is entirely replaceable about having a stack of inviting books, just waiting for your kids to grab,” said Eryn Garcia, mother of two young children. “But I’m an avid believer that you need to find what excites your child about reading. So I’m all for it.”

Do e-readers and digital books encourage you and your children to read more? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!

Comment by Eileen O-H, posted 4/20/2012, 10:47 AM:

I love my basic Kindle (the $79 one). I am reading more than ever because it's so easy to carry in my purse AND I have tons of books on it - both for me and my kids. It's great for when they're bored (out and about usually - drs office, etc) and I can hand them the kindle rather than my iPhone and let them choose a book.
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