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54% of U.S. kids have never read an ebook: New report

Scholastic, the world’s largest children’s publisher, released its biannual report on children and reading Monday morning. The study, conducted in partnership with the Harrison Group in fall 2012, surveyed 1,048 U.S. children ages 6 to 17 and their parents about their families’ reading habits. A few of the findings:

Most kids still haven’t read an ebook.

46 percent of kids have read an ebook, up from 25 percent in 2010. (That’s actually a higher percentage than their parents: 41 percent of parents had read an ebook, up from 14 percent in 2010.) This means, of course, that 54 percent of kids still haven’t read one.

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57 percent of girls who had never read an ebook said that they wanted to, compared to 46 percent of boys. I asked Scholastic if the company also broke down the percentage of children who had never read an ebook by gender, and they did: 52 percent of the kids who’d never read an ebook were boys and 48 percent were girls. Based on the survey’s sample size, Scholastic says, this difference wasn’t statistically significant.

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Huge growth in reading on tablets.

The most popular device for e-reading was a laptop or netbook, which 22 percent of children surveyed had used to read an ebook. The largest growth came from tablets — not surprising since the iPad (s AAPL) launched in 2010, the last time this survey was conducted.

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Kids claim they’d read more if they had more access to ebooks.

“I really need an iPad so I can read more,” wily children tell gullible parents. Just kidding! Although possibly a factor here.

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Kids want a dictionary and note-taking features.

I loved this breakdown of the features that kids want versus the features that adults want in children’s ebooks. When you look at this, it becomes clear that many children’s ebook startups have been built around features that parents want (like “read-along” options and reading time tracking) — and it looks as if, in fact, kids are more interested in standard e-reading features like highlighting and note-taking.

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The full report is here as a free PDF.

13 Responses to “54% of U.S. kids have never read an ebook: New report”

  1. I’m the parent of two boys (11 and 8) and they have not read an e-book. The biggest battle today is in managing our kids’ screen time and I don’t want to add another on-screen activity to the mix.

  2. Thanks guys for all the really great comments on this post.
    One of the things I’m very interested in, in relation to this, is that the U.S. adult ebook market appears to be plateauing somewhat. As more and more children read ebooks over the next few years, I wonder if that is going to inspire renewed growth in the market — or whether, as to Jim’s point, the readership is somewhat limited by the amount that parents are willing to spend, or if children will follow adult-like patterns.

    @Kevin Horne – you’d asked about the methodology of the survey. There’s more on that here (PDF) pp. 54-55. They note “Some survey language was modified in age-appropriate ways to ensure comprehension among children age 6–8; Children age 6–8 were not asked some survey questions due to comprehension limitations and limitations on the length
    of a survey appropriate for 6–8 year-olds.” The data was also weighted to account for distribution across gender, region, HHI and race/ethnicity.

    • Kevin Horne

      THanks for the follow-up on methodology. I took a look, and also found this:

      “Parents were invited to help young children read the survey but were asked to allow children to independently answer all questions. At the end of the survey, children were asked to record the degree to which a parent helped them with the survey. Consistent with prior research, an analysis comparing the responses of children with and without parental
      involvement showed no significant differences.”

      So little Johnny took an online survey about technology he can’t see, with *no help* wink wink from Mommy.

      Sorry, but this one reeks….

  3. Fascinating stuff. I have read the comments and have to say that I see this trend as amazingly positive. Kids want to read, wow. And now with ereaders and smart phones they can find a ton of books, many of which are free. Their parents might consider trying to catch up with their kids.

    • Do you have kids Kevin? My almost 5-year-old is pretty articulate and knowledgeable and knows exactly what my Kindle is, how it differs from my iPad, how the reading experiences both differ from physical books, etc.

      • Kevin Horne

        if it’s a statistically significant and relevant audience sample, then it would need to include 5-year-olds in Peoria where daddy doesnt already own an eToy….

  4. Who is going to pay for the books that these kids “want to read”? I love to read, but I can’t just buy all the books on Amazon I choose. I especially don’t want my kids to be able to download and charge books that I may not be aware of. Going to the library is where they have books you can borrow….not buy. I realize that one can “borrow” books now on Amazon, but it takes an adult to assess the situation.

  5. What you fail to see is how the Library (and the bookstore to some extent) is a social hub for young parents and children. I understand when your kids are reading paper-back type books things are different, but when picture books and board books are the primary medium, along with it comes the socialization & interaction pluses you only get at a physical location.

    If publishers really wanted to get people using and buying ebooks early, they would give loads of free licenses to libraries.

    Although like I was alluding to, we love to bring our young kids to a library so they can grab and manipulate books (and the toys) that libraries have. How much fun is it to have your 4 year old cruise the stacks and pull out books and actually get stuck on one that catches his or her imagination?

  6. This headline is phrased in a “half empty” kind of manner. I read it and thought, “46% of all kids have actually read an eBook??” That percentage is much higher than I would have guessed.

    • I agree, Bruce. Many students don’t have easy access to Internet. (It’s probably harder now with libraries needing to cut hours.) I’m also impressed that nearly half of all kids have read an e-book.

    • Absolutely agree with you Bruce. The fact that 46% of all kids have actually read an eBook is an amazing ramp rate from virtually zero 5-10 years ago. And look at those charts above, the % of the younger kids who “want to” is amazingly high. In short, eBooks will pretty much saturate/dominate the market within the next 5-10 years. Just amazing.