Good news for the companies that announced new e-readers this week: The number of people in the U.S. who own an dedicated e-reader (not an iPad or other multi-function tablet) has quadrupled since 2009, to 8.7 percent of the population (20.6 million people), new research from eMarketer shows. By 2012, the company predicts that 12 percent of U.S adults, or 28.9 million people, will own an e-reader, up from 1.9 percent in 2009.
The estimate is quite a bit higher than previous predictions: Last year Forrester predicted that 15.5 million people would own e-readers by the end of 2011, and that the 12 percent benchmark would not be reached until 2015.
While eMarketer’s data is predicated on the notion that each e-reader is used by only one person, the company points out that Nielsen found last year that about third of e-reader owners share their device with at least one other person. So it’s possible that e-readers are reaching more people than the 20.6 million who currently own them.
Also, as e-reader prices continue to drop, the people currently sharing may be induced to buy their own. eMarketer pointed to the $114 Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) Kindle with Special Offers, which is currently the bestselling Kindle. And this week, in addition to announcing its new touchscreen reader, Kobo dropped prices on its original readers to $99–seemingly the first e-ink reader to fall below the $100 price point that many experts believe is key to widespread sales.