Key data point to new opportunities with digital

Several new data points emerged this week on the velocity with which tablets and other mobile devices are changing the way people read.

First, Pearson released results of a survey of 1,200 college students and 200 college bound high school seniors.  The headline: college students now prefer digital reading to printed materials.  This is true both “for ‘fun’ reading (57 percent) and textbook reading (58 percent)”. Other key findings include:

Tablet ownership has tripled in the college set from a year ago. Students believe tablets will transform the way they learn. And seventy percent of college students read digital books.

Second, sales figures on iPads reached peak volumes, with nearly 3 million units of the new iPad sold in just a few days since the launch. As the Washington Post points out, the first quarter after the launch of the iPad 2 saw only 4.6 million units sold. What’s more, analysts at Piper Jaffray suggest that Apple will sell a whopping 66 million iPads in 2012. (If you want to watch the wave of new iPads sweep over America in real time, check out this new tracker developed by developers at Chitika, which pulls usage figures as consumers load apps and visit websites that serve Chitika advertisements.)

And third, the Pew Center released its comprehensive State of the News Media report on Monday, which looks across the industry to examine the economics of news. As NPR reported, Pew found that “people increasingly split their news consumption across more than one device. Nearly a quarter of adults now do so, the study finds.” This behavior has actually led people to consume more news on the whole, and, interestingly, Americans who get their news on mobile devices report a stronger bond to their preferred news brands than those who consume primarily via other means.

The momentum behind the shift to digital reading is clear, and the evidence seems to suggest that if media brands can get the economics right, there should be great opportunity ahead.