October 21, 2013 Last Updated 1:21 pm

Latest Pew study shows big gains for tablets in the US

But is it true with many new tablet owners, as it is with smartphones, that not all users are buying apps, eBooks, or digital magazines and newspapers?

For publishers hoping to move readers to their tablet editions, the latest Pew findings are encouraging: 43 percent of Americans over the age of 16 now own a tablet or eReader.

The report from the PewResearchCenter shows that tablet sales continue to grow and a very healthy pace with 35 percent of those over the age of 16 now owning a tablet. It has been over a year since tablet ownership surpassed eReader ownership, thank no doubt to Amazon introducing the Kindle Fire. But the study, while showing the growth of the market, does not address the key question on the minds of publishers: are these new tablet owners buying digital media.

Market share of smartphones, especially Android phones, has grown at a pace far faster than the growth of app sales and digital subscription sales. There are many theories for this, but most observers believe that many new smartphone users see their devices as simply more powerful phones, as opposed to a new media consumption device. Could this be true also for many new owners of low-end tablets?

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Pew reinforced previous studies that showed that showed that tablets are very common among high income American, with 50 percent of more Americans earning more than $75,000 a year owning some sort of tablet. But the demographics of tablet owners are not skewed overwhelmingly towards White, wealthy males. In fact, 36 percent of women respondents said they owned a tablet, while 34 percent of men said they did. eReaders still skew more heavily towards women with 27 percent of women saying they owned an eReader, while 22 percent of men did.

The Pew reports said that smartphone penetration is now at 55 percent of those 16 years of age of older, though feature phone ownership remains high if the study is to be believed. In fact, 7 percent of respondents still answered that they did not know if their cell phone could be considered a smart phone or not.

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