Number of Adults in U.S. Who Use E-Books Topped 50 Million in 2012—But Consumer Base, Buying Habits Changing

Press Release
Apr 18, 2013
Stamford, CT, April 18, 2013 -- Simba Information, the market research firm specializing in publishing and media, has released the fifth edition of its Trade E-Book Publishing report series, which has closely followed the digital book market since 2009. While the fourth edition correctly predicted what is widely referred to as the '2012 slowdown' in e-book adoption, the data in Trade E-Book Publishing 2013 shows that the number of e-book users did climb in 2012 to pass 50 million adults, but how they use e-books, what devices are used, what extent they buy and how much money they spend on content has changed to make the industry a lot tougher to navigate.

"In the last edition, we noted the gap between e-book 'users' and e-book 'buyers' grew wider than expected, and that was the warning sign a lot of people ignored in 2011," said Michael Norris, senior analyst of Simba Information’s Consumer Media & Technology division, commenting on the report. "Not only did the gap grow even wider in 2012, but the average amount of money spent by a given e-book buyer didn't rise [between 2011 and 2012], which makes what a lot of people think was a simple 'slowdown' in adoption a lot more complex."

The book industry also saw, surprisingly enough, an increase in the percentage of adults who purchased a paperback title, but at this point it is not know if that is a sign things are materially getting better for print or if it is simply what Norris referred to as the '50 Shades of Gray factor'—referring to the runaway erotic trilogy by E.L. James that was a major hit in print and digital form.

The children's and YA market continues to be rooted in print but both formats have shown strength in 2012: About 23% of all adults bought at least one children's/YA print book in 2011 while just 4% purchased a children's or YA e-book, a figure which reached about 25% of adults buying at least one children's/YA print and about 5% buying at least one children's/YA e-book. A "good number" of adults are buying children's/YA e-books to read for themselves, said Norris, citing the popularity of series such as Twilight and The Hunger Games among adults.

For the fifth year in a row, Trade E-Book Publishing provides the results of its 'device matrix' which shows the popularity of most major e-book reading devices—including Amazon's Kindle, Barnes & Noble's Nook, Apple's iPad and more—and how they have trended over the years. Additional analysis showing where the recent Kindle Fire and Amazon's legacy E-Ink readers stand in also provided.

The report also shows conclusively that not everyone who can access e-books chooses to do so: according to exclusive Simba data, about 63% of smartphone owners, 48% of iPad owners and 40% of non-iPad tablet owners do not use e-books.

"Any publisher who still believes that making their content available or accessible electronically is enough is kidding itself," said Norris. "The e-book industry is much more nuanced than most people think and getting a person to value and engage with your content isn't always going to be an easy sell."

A two-year analysis of how much money e-book users spent on digital titles is included in this report as well as multi-year analysis of e-book pricing trends and what proportion of e-book users acquire digital books for free. The report also provides a full psychographic and demographic overviews, including an analysis of e-book users based on gender, age, household income, education level and more.

Additional information on the report can be found at

About Simba Information -- Simba Information is widely recognized as the leading authority for market intelligence in the media and publishing industry. Simba's extensive information network delivers top quality, independent perspective on the people, events and alliances shaping the media and information industry. Simba publishes newsletters and research reports that provide key decision-makers at more than 15,000 client companies around the globe with timely news, analysis, exclusive statistics and proprietary industry forecasts. For more information, please visit

Kathy Mickey, publisher


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