Digital divide: Women more likely to be ereaders

Today, eMarketer released the data from several new reports that show a clear gender-split amongst the U.S. ereader and tablet-owning crowd.  The first survey, from GfK MRI, shows a significant difference between men and women with women being the group that is more likely to own an eReader (Kindle, Kobo, others) while men are more pre-disposed to owning a tablet (iPad, PlayBook etc.).

I’ve come to think of men and women of the same age and income as having very similar habits when it comes to technology adoption, so at first these stats surprised me. And then I started thinking about how people in my immediate social circle have been buying (or receiving as gifts) these gadgets and the trend from the study was surprisingly accurate.

I gave my wife a Kobo a year ago for Mother’s Day. My step-mother received a Kindle from her son. Our neighbour bought a Kobo for his wife on our recommendation and I was originally introduced to the Kobo by a female coworker who had bought one almost as soon as it had become available in Canada. Rhonda Callow just tried her first ereader and was pleasantly surprised by the experience.

And while some of these women have iPads or other tablets in their households, none of them bought or were given these gadgets. Why is this so?

It may be as simple as this: Women read more books than men. At least that was the finding of study of U.K. respondents in 2009 as reported by The Telegraph. I couldn’t find any studies to explain why men have taken to tablets in greater numbers but here’s my theory: Tablets are not cheap. At least not compared with eReaders. You can pick up an amazing Kindle for $139. The base iPad 2 will run you $519. That’s a big gap. So going out on a limb here, I think men have an easier time prioritizing a high-priced tech purchase over other needs (wants) such as clothing, travel or food. Most of the men I know have drastically lower clothing budgets than their girlfriends/wives/partners.  Is this a massive over-generalization? I’m sure you’ll let me know in the comments :)

As second study that took a look at online shoppers provides a slightly different perspective and includes age and income data. Bizrate Insights and Forrester Research together found that tablet ownership is dominated by older, wealthier people with the average age and income at $109,690 and 44 respectively.

But also clear from the study is that these demographics are going to changing rapidly over the coming months as the reported average income of those who intend to buy a tablet is only $83,740 – still a well-off group, but less so than current owners. While the variety of tablets on the market is increasing constantly, Apple’s share of that market has changed little. And since Apple isn’t going to be dropping their iPad prices anytime soon, these numbers strongly suggest that tablet ownership is becoming something that more and more people consider a necessity.

[Source: eMarketer]

Just for fun, let’s see where Sync readers fall in the gender vs. ownership landscape. For the sake of this poll, if you bought one of the gadgets yourself, or it was given to you as a gift, you own it. If you have one in your household but you did not buy it yourself or get it as a gift, you don’t own it.

Are you a tablet or eReader owner?



  1. BarbaraSept1945

    I have an ereader for reading books. It is light, highly portable, excellent to read on.I prefer to do email, searches, photos, read newspapers etc on my laptop. I don’t see any advantage to also having a tablet unless the data storage capacity, speed etc is as great as my laptop.


  2. Alicia

    I don’t see any reason what-so-ever to waste money on ereaders. I’ll take a REAL book over something that I have to replace the battery in (eventually) or that isn’t fully recyclable (lot of parts in electronic devices aren’t recyclable) or could break if dropped.
    I’d rather enjoy a REAL book. I have books that are over 20 years old and not once have I ever had to replace them or their ‘components’.
    I wouldn’t even have a computer if it wasn’t necessary for my child’s education.


  3. Lisa

    I am a 38 year old female and I don’t own either – HOWEVER, I have downloaded the free KOBO app to my blackberry and enjoy the convenience of having a book ‘with’ me at all times and I don’t have another thing to carry, be it a physical book or a tablet in conjunction with my cell phone. The only real complaint with an electronic book on my phone is that I can’t take the ‘book’ with me when I want to relax in a bubble bath!


  4. maya

    I own an e-reader – in fact I got mine before the KOBO came out or the Kindle was readily available to ship to Canada. I have over 200 books on it, have used it daily for almost 2 years and have had zero issues with it. While I do dearly love my paper books, my husband does not love the space they take. (And please don’t suggest I get rid of them – I only get rid of the ones I don’t like.)

    I love the convenience of an e-reader, I love the fact that I can snap up cheap titles (cheaper than paper books!) and get books from the new e-publishers that have popped up. I don’t have to worry about dog-earing a book that’s gotten caught in my bag and I never lose my place.

    It really doesn’t surprise me that mostly women have e-readers. Many, many women I know who are avid readers have one, but I have only come across one male who was thinking of purchasing one and then instead decided opted for a tablet.


  5. Sah

    Hi Simon, interesting article. I agree with the findings of the reports…even men I know who were tempted by e-readers eventually ended up purchasing tablets instead. Maybe, to guys, the e-readers don’t come across as high-tech enough :)

    I absolutely love my kindle 3 though, esp since many free domain classics can be downloaded for free. I finished longer books like War & Peace on the kindle, without having to carry them around. I’ve even uploaded longer pdf and word documents I need to read for university courses to my kindle, instead of printing big stacks. And being able to download the new books I’ve been waiting for as soon as they’re released is instantly gratifying.