Tablet adoption lowers reading of physical books, newspapers, survey shows

'The less-paper model is the new reality,' Gartner says

More than half of tablet adopters are reading books and other content on their tablet screens instead of relying on paper, a survey finding that should serve as a warning to publishers to adapt quickly to electronic media, Gartner analysts said Tuesday.

"The rapid adoption of media tablets is substantively changing how consumers access, create and share content," said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi.

Gartner analyst Meike Escherich said the survey of 510 consumers shows that publishing houses need to "re-think rapidly" how they are reaching readers.

With just over 50% of respondents preferring to read onscreen than on paper, the survey shows "the threat that media tablets are bringing to printed media, beyond the damage that e-readers have already done," she added.

One-third of respondents used their tablets to read a book, compared with 13% of laptop users and 7% who used smartphones and other mobile phones, she said.

Survey participants kept a seven-day online diary, recording what they did with their three most-used devices, including tablets, mobile phones and PCs, either laptops or desktops. The survey was conducted in November 2011, in the U.S., U.K. and Australia.

While tablets are replacing paper, Escherich added that Gartner doesn't believe the paperless home will soon prevail. "But it is clear that the less-paper model is the new reality," she said.

The survey also found that respondents use multiple devices interchangeably, finding whichever device is at hand, such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop. Tablets are favored for their convenience, small size and light weight and are mainly used inside the home.

However, the mobile phone is by far the computing/connectivity device most used throughout the day, both inside and outside of the home, to make a network connection. The average survey participant used the mobile phone eight times a day, but used a tablet twice a day and a laptop three times, Gartner said.

Beyond the survey's findings of the "less-paper" trend, Escherich said she found it relevant that users spend extra time connected over a network after buying a tablet than before. "That's in the morning, in bed, at night in front of the TV, etc.," she said. "This is additional time, and not simply device substitution."

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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