Tablet & E-Book Ownership Doubles Over 2011 Holiday

Both tablet computers and e-book readers saw their U.S. ownership shares nearly double between mid-December and early January, according to research published today by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. 

Acting as a significant hint to what many U.S. adults received this holiday season, both tablets and e-books rose from 10% ownership in mid-December to 19% by January. There was a corresponding jump in the number of Americans owning at least one of the above devices, from 18% in December to 29% in January.

E-Book and Tablet Ownership

Chart via Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Pew attributes the increase to the recent introduction of cheaper, more diverse products, such as Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Barnes and Noble’s Nook tablet. The Kindle Fire, in particular, has been widely credited with the title of being Apple’s strongest competitor to date. While it doesn’t have all the features of Apple’s iPad, its significantly lower price of US$199 has made it appealing to many who could not otherwise afford a foray into tablet computing.

Of note, the ownership increase over the past two months favored women more than men. Female consumers increased their ownership percentage of tablets and e-readers by 9% and 10%, respectively, while male consumers increased 8% and 7%, respectively.

Today’s news arrives in the widely-predicted run-up to the iPad 3, which many suspect will be launched in March. While the iPad 3 features are not known at this time, it is possible that Apple will follow its iPhone strategy and release the next iPad while at the same time keep the iPad 2 on the market at a reduced price. 

A reduced price iPad, combined with Apple’s recently announced plans for tablets in education, could have a drastic impact on Pew’s figures going forward.