Analyst firm Gartner conducted a survey in the fourth quarter of 2010 in six countries including India which indicated that screen reading is now virtually on a par with print consumption.
The time people spend reading on a digital screen is now almost equal to the time spent reading printed paper text.
Tablet screens appear to be popular with a majority of tablet and iPad users preferring the screen to reading books or a newspaper. According to the survey which was conductred in the USA, the UK, China, Japan, Italy and India, 33 percent of laptop users find reading on their screens the same as reading books or a newspaper though 47 percent said it was harder, according to "Survey Analysis: Consumer Digital Reading Preferences Reveal the Exaggerated Death of Paper" by Gartner.
These screens are not yet a substitute to print. "There are concerns that digital media will cannibalize print media, based on the general decline in newspaper sales and take-up of online news services in many parts of the world, but the evidence from our research is that print and online are not generally regarded as direct substitutes by consumers," said Nick Ingelbrecht, research director at Gartner.
Media firms attempting to use different formats may risk turning off readers. "Trying to sell the same basic content to the same consumer in different formats risks alienating the consumer, who will balk at paying twice for the same thing," said Ingelbrecht. "Technology and service providers' product road maps need to address changes in consumption patterns as well as the ergonomic and cognitive factors associated with the changes in reading habits," Ingelbrecht said. "This means improving media tablets and screen readers to become more competitive with paper in terms of weight, form factor, screen resolution, waterproofing, ruggedness, easy highlighting and note taking. This will enable consumers to take and use their devices at the beach, in the bath or out into the sun where they take their paper books, newspapers and magazines," he added.
The survey reached out to 1,569 consumers and included a mixture of online, face-to-face and computer aided telephony interviews.
Younger age groups are happier to read on screen than older respondents, with the 40 to 54 years cohort least satisfied with their screen reading experience. In terms of gender, men typically reported screen reading easier than women, but both sexes said screen reading was generally the same or harder than reading printed text.
E-readers have not become mainstream across the world. In India, 75 percent of respondents had no experience of using e-readers such the Amazon Kindle, Amazon Kindle DX and Barnes & Noble Nook. In established markets such as the U.K. this was at 56 percent and in the U.S.A it was at 57 percent. Interestingly, urban Chinese respondents had the highest familiarity with e-readers and also had the highest number reporting that e-readers were easier to read, Gartner has said.
Some of the challenges with the e-reader market are related to storing and transferring books bought and Gartner suggests that technology and service providers, as well as publishers and online retailers offer localized storage solutions or online (cloud-based) digital storage services.