eReader/Tablet Ownership Up to 17% of U.S. Adults: Social Networks Taking Note

Looking at Pew Internet’s data on gadget ownership yesterday, Frank wrote:

Social Media Needs To Focus On Smartphones

This is not only true but is exactly what social network services have done up until now. No phone, for example, is considered complete with a Facebook and, to a lesser extent, Twitter app. The question is, what do they need to do to prepare for the future.

E-reader ownership doubles in six months

The spike in dedicated ereader device ownership can be traced to two events:

1. The Amazon WiFi-only Kindle becoming available for $139 in August 2010
2. The Nook color becoming available in November 2010 and becoming the device of choice to turn into a low cost tablet

Pew’s data shows a sharp rise in ereader November 2010 as people take advantage of the availability of these two devices during the holiday gift buying season. It should be noted that the higher priced tablets (for all practical purposes, the iPad) also showed a spike in ownership. The Nook color, which is not a low-cost Android tablet, blurs the lines between dedicated ereader and tablet. As ereaders become more tablet-like, they are also gaining social network features such as sharing ebook information. The combined ownership of ereaders and tablets by adults in the U.S. is 17% (adjusted for the 3$ of adults who own both device types). This is a remarkably high percentage for device categories that did not exist just a few years ago.

While 17% is just a fraction fo the 83% of adults who own a cell phone, ereader and tablet ownership is growing fast while cell phone ownership is near or at the saturation point. Moreover, many of the phones currently owned by 83% of the adult population may not be able to work with social networks (feature phones). Smartphones and ereaders/tablets also have different functions. Smartphones are all about on-the-go quick status updates (text, photos, video). Tablets, which destroyed the netbook category and is starting to affect notebook and desktop sales, is about managing social networks in longer sessions in the office, home or longer transit commutes.

People now have multi-screen lives. For many today, this is a phone (smart or not), computer, and TV. However, there is a growing number of people who add a tablet or ereader device to this screen mix. Social network services are paying more and more attention to both ereaders and tablets in recent months because they see the trends and know that they cannot focus on just one of the several screens people live on today.