By Daniel Hunter

Eight million people in the UK own eReaders, according to new research from Deloitte, the business advisory firm. They are present in a third of households and one in 10 respondents said they would buy one in the next 12 months.

Deloitte’s research found that two-fifths of respondents chose reading books, whether digital or physical, as one of their top three media pastimes, up slightly from 2011 (39%). Reading books came third, second only to TV (63%) and Internet (42%) use in terms of popularity.

“The relatively low price of eReaders, the simplicity of their technology and the availability of a large body of cheap content have been principally responsible for their runaway success," Mark Lee-Amies, Deloitte media partner, said.

"It is possible that standalone eReaders will come under pressure as tablet prices continue to fall. It is not clear whether new product developments, such as back-lit screens, will be sufficient to persuade consumers to buy the latest version, particularly when pitched against aggressively-priced all-purpose tablets.”

eReader ownership continues to grow and the device is embraced most strongly by older people. It is particularly apparent among 45-54 year olds, with over a third (35%) most likely to have access to one. This could be due to greater wealth and corresponds with the higher adoption of tablets by older people.

Deloitte’s research found that avid readers are most likely to be female and aged over 24; 41 % of 25-34 year olds also chose reading as one of their favourite media pastimes. Younger female respondents are similar to their male counterparts and chose Internet use and videogames as their favourite media pastimes.

Deloitte’s research found that there had been a 65 % increase in consumers buying eBooks in 2012. Half of the respondents (50%) said they read more books in digital format than in hard or softcopy. A fifth download an eBook a few times a year. This could be due to their cheaper price, reinforced by respondents who chose affordability as the third most important factor that influenced their purchase of digital rather than physical books.***

“eBooks offered for less than £1, and in many cases for free, represent a major shift in publishing. They are contributing to a fundamental change in the economics of publishing: digital books make up about 14%of sales in volume but only seven % of value," Matthew Guest, Deloitte director, said.

“This isn’t necessarily bad news for publishers. The success of titles that were initially self-published in electronic format and became bestsellers in print when taken on by a publisher shows that demand is changing and traditional publishers will have to change strategy.”

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