Digital reading now matching print

11 May 2011

STAMFORD: Many consumers now spend "near equal amounts of time" reading traditional printed content and the digital equivalent, a multimarket study has found.

Research firm Gartner surveyed 1,569 people in six nations - China, India, Italy, Japan, the UK and US - and the company reported print and digital media consumption are "virtually on a par".

Younger age groups proved particularly keen when it came to reading on a screen, while 40-54 year olds exhibited the lowest degree of enthusiasm.

Men also typically displayed higher levels of favourability towards the former activity than women, according to Gartner.

"Multichannel content distribution is essential for reaching consumers who are consuming near equal amounts of print and digital text," said Nick Ingelbrecht, research director at Gartner.

"Content, publishing, and media organizations should market the synergies of multichannel products to consumers, stressing the benefits of having both print and online access, rather than selling competing stand-alone products."

Overall, 52% of participants owning devices like the iPad and Galaxy Tab thought digesting material on a tablet was easier than reading printed text, and another 42% agreed it was "about the same".

Elsewhere, 47% of laptop users suggested it was more difficult to read print via this route than when enjoying the traditional format, and 33% afforded the two channels an equal status.

"There are concerns that digital media will cannibalise print media," said Ingelbrecht.

"The evidence from our research is that print and online are not generally regarded as direct substitutes by consumers.

"Something more complicated than a straightforward substitution of print to digital media is taking place."

Approximately 40% of interviewees had not used an ebook reader such as Amazon's Kindle or Barnes & Noble's Nook, hitting 75% for Indian respondents, 57% across the US, and 56% in the UK.

Panellists in China, who were mostly affluent and educated, lodged the greatest familiarity with this medium and the strongest ratings when perceiving these appliances as offering a better experience than print.

Data sourced from Gartner; additional content by Warc staff