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Gartner Survey Shows Growing Digital and Printed Text Parity

May 13, 2011
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STAMFORD, CT—May 12, 2011—The time people spend reading on a digital screen is now almost equal to the time spent reading printed paper text, according to a recent survey by Gartner Inc.

The majority of tablet and iPad users say they find screen reading either easier than reading printed text (52 percent) or about the same (42 percent). However, 47 percent of laptop users find screen reading harder than reading printed text, and 33 percent reported it was about the same.

In the fourth quarter of 2010, Gartner surveyed 1,569 consumers in six countries—the United States, United Kingdom, China, Japan, Italy and India—about their subjective experiences of reading on-screen vs. printed-on-paper text. The survey included a mixture of online, face-to-face and computer-aided telephony interviews.

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

“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,” added Ingelbrecht. “The survey results confirm that multichannel content distribution is essential for reaching consumers who are consuming near equal amounts of print and digital text. 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.”

According to the Gartner survey, across the demographics, screen reading is now virtually on a par with print consumption. Survey data showed that younger age groups are happier to read on screen than older respondents, with the 40-54-year-old group 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.

Yet, there is no single paradigm for screen reading, because reading a short piece of text on a mobile phone screen is a different proposition from the reading experience with an e-Reader.

“Consumers’ reading habits are shaped and reinforced by the types of reading they do and don't do. Technology and service providers' product road maps, therefore, 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.”
 
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Most Recent Comments:
Dan Halmar - Posted on May 13, 2011
No doubt screen reading will grow exponentially, but will never fully replace printed paper. Like it is said by all the experts, the key is to diversify our messages.
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Archived Comments:
Dan Halmar - Posted on May 13, 2011
No doubt screen reading will grow exponentially, but will never fully replace printed paper. Like it is said by all the experts, the key is to diversify our messages.