October 21, 2013
Sorry, owning a tablet or e-reader no longer makes you special
by Dustin Kurtz
The Pew Internet and American Life Project released the results of their latest survey about U.S. e-reader and tablet ownership this past Friday and, I’m sorry to say, owning an e-reader and/or a tablet no longer makes you totally rad, or even all that special.
Pew surveyed 6,224 Americans aged 16 and above this September, and found that 43% owned a tablet or e-book reader. That’s up 10% from last November, and even 3% above a recent poll done by USA Today.
That ownership is evenly divided between genders, though I imagine the publishing trope that women buy and read more books on those devices remains true.
The age breakdown shows a predictable slope off with age—only 18% of those above 65 had an e-reader or tablet—as well as a hilarious dip in ownership for respondents between 18-29 years old. It’s hilarious because entrenching an entire generation in a prospectless poverty shored up by college loan debt and a culture of undervalued labor, such that they can’t afford these devices, is one of the biggest jokes we’ve played on ourselves as a nation.
Oh and one more shocking fact: a full 65% of the wealthiest demographic, those earning more than $150,000 a year, own an e-reader or tablet. Shocking, that is, because I hope they all get a nasty shock plugging the things in.
But my misplaced class ire aside, there’s a more urgent takeaway to be had from these numbers: you and your mobile reading device are no longer cool. Back when you were the only one on your train car with a Nook, maybe you were justified in holding that thing out so that everyone could see and judge you by it. But at this point, almost half the people on your car have one. We’re not impressed. No, not even if you make a half-frowny thinking face while you read. See the cute girl who just rolled her eyes at you? Yeah, it’s not because she’s jealous of your cool toy.
Forty-three percent is barely a minority! For some perspective on this, think of your Junior High homeroom class. You have a tablet? Cool, so does the smelly kid behind you and that girl with the scrunchies who has seven kids now and Jason who inducted you into the Pen 15 club.
Or, picture your extended family. Do you own a Kindle? Awesome. Very unique. Except so does the cousin who gave you pink eye that time and your bald aunt Mary and everyone on Bill’s side of the family who turned some flavor of evangelical a few years back.
That’s not to say that people who vocally refuse to use e-readers are any cooler, of course. They’re like the “I don’t own a television” crowd, crossbred with booknerds to form some sort of self-righteous mutant, smug as hell and ripe for a noogie.
But that’s another issue. Let us not grow distracted from the real news of the day: you and your reading device are lame now. Or, at least, more lame. Sorry.
Dustin Kurtz is the marketing manager of Melville House, and a former bookseller.