E-readers: Convincing The Older Generation

senior_ereaderAfter a slow start, E-readers have grown to become a significant part in many people’s reading and content consumption habits. Statistics from International Data Corporation and Pew Research reveal that almost 15 million dedicated E-readers were sold globally in 2011 alone, while in the US the percentage of adults who own an E-reader jumped from 6% in 2010 to 12% in 2011.

But uptake of E-book technology is far from even across the various age demographics. A later survey by Pew in 2012 found that only 17% of book readers aged 65+ had read an E-book in the previous 12 months, and only 23% of 50-64 year olds had done the same. Of both the 18-29 and the 30-49 age groups meanwhile, 34% of book readers had read an E-book in the past 12 months. This stark statistical difference suggests that many of the older generation remain unconvinced of the merits of E-Readers.

Reluctance to abandon the printed book

For many, these statistics are perhaps unsurprising, with gadgets often being seen as the preserve of the younger generation. And it’s hardly surprising that those who were born into the age of the computer are more readily accepting of a new digital means of consumption.

Additionally, while some older people have embraced digital technology and are as adept at using it as their younger counterparts, for many there may remain an overall fear of modern gadgets and relatively recent technologies.

Further insight may be found in the attachment that many of those who were born long before the digital revolution find in the very physical process of owning and holding an actual book. As daytime TV personality Alan Titchmarsh states in a recent article for the telegraph, “apart from furnishing a room, books are far more tactile; they engender emotions and become friends in a way that no touch screen ever can.”

Electronic text easier to read?

Clearly E-reader manufacturers have some way to go in convincing the older generation of the benefits and appeal of their products. And one piece of recent research may provide them with just the ammunition they need to target the older demographic in their marketing campaigns.

A 2013 study by German researchers from the Phillips-Universat Marburg, Johannes Gutenberg-Universat Mainz and the Georg-August University of Gottingen found that electronic screens actually made it easier for older people to read text. The study looked at how easy it was for readers of a variety of ages to read text from a number of different mediums, including E-readers and traditional printed books.

The results showed that participants aged between 60 and 77 expended less effort reading when using a tablet computer than with any other medium presented. This however was not the case for younger readers, suggesting a benefit exclusive to the older generation. The researchers suggested that the reason for this might be the higher level of contrast provided by the backlit electronic device.

However with many 60-77-year-old participants reporting that they preferred to read from paper and that they found the experience more pleasant, E-reader manufacturers may still have some way to go in convincing them.

Simon Wilson is a blogger from the Big Smoke. his interests include interior design, skiing and new technologies.  Simon has a particular interest in advancements in display and plastic technologies.

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