iPad makes big strides as e-reader

iPad users three times more like to read newspapers or magazines on the tablet, survey says

Apple's iPad, while far more than an e-reader, is having a clear impact on the e-reader market -- it even seems to be affecting the kind of content people are reading on e-readers.

For example, in a ChangeWave Research survey of 245 e-reader owners that was released today, the percentages of iPad owners who said they read newspapers and magazines on Apple's tablet were nearly three times as great as the percentages of owners of other e-readers who said they use their devices to read newspapers and magazines.

"That finding is revolutionary with the iPad and has long-term implications for the media," said Paul Carton, an analyst at ChangeWave who spoke in a webconference with reporters.

According to ChangeWave, 50% of the iPad owners surveyed said they read newspapers with the device and 38% said they use it to read magazines. Of the respondents who own other e-readers, such as the Amazon.com Kindle or the Barnes & Noble Nook, 14% said they read newspapers on their e-readers and 11% said they use them to read magazines.

The Kindle was the most popular device among the 245 respondents; 62% of the respondents said they used Amazon's e-reader. The iPad, was No. 2, used by 16% of the respondents, according to ChangeWave. Carton said iPad's second-place finish was significant, since the survey was conducted within weeks of its debut. Seven percent of the respondents said they used the Sony Reader, and the same percentage said they have smartphones with an e-book capability or use "other" e-reader devices, while 3% said they use Barnes & Noble's Nook.

In a related ChangeWave survey with a much larger sample -- 3,174 consumers -- respondents said they primarily use e-readers to read e-books rather than newspapers, magazines or blogs. When asked why they would buy an iPad, the No. 1 response, at 15%, was to use it as an e-reader. Other reasons given included the iPad's mobility and its size and weight.

Many analysts have forecast that the iPad, with its full-color, video-capable touchscreen, would outperform the Kindle, Nook and Sony Reader, which have black-and-white screens based on e-ink technology.

One of those analysts, Carl Howe at Yankee Group Research Inc., said in January that the manufacturers of black-and-white e-readers "need to either step up their efforts toward color and video or watch Apple claim their customers." In an e-mail today, Howe said he stands by that comment. However, he did add that he doesn't think the iPad will hurt the overall e-reader market, but instead will help it grow. The iPad outsold the Nook and Kindle in April, he said.

"I expect that trend will continue for the foreseeable future, simply because they all serve different markets, and the iPad is a whole lot more than an e-reader," Howe added.

Van Baker, an analyst at Gartner Inc., said the success of e-readers will depend on many factors, not just the device's hardware. One consideration, for example, will be access to books and other content from a variety of publishers.

"The iPad is the one e-reader that is cross-platform, or cross-store," Baker noted in an e-mail. "If you want to buy books from the iBook store, you can do that, but if you want to buy from the Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Kobo bookstore, you can do that, too," Baker said. "This puts the iPad in a unique position among the e-readers in the market."

Apple's e-book sales should grow when iBook reader software comes out on the iPhone, he noted, since there will already be 100 million credit-card accounts registered with Apple for its iPhone and other devices.

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 mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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