Kindle finds a mature audience

According to one estimate, half of all Kindle owners are aged 50 or above. The sampling method was far from scientific, but if anything, could have understated the proportion of older users.

The figure comes via the Kindle Culture blog, which analyzed responses to a thread in the official Amazon Kindle forum asking how old users were. The site looked at 1,387 responses and put them into age groups as follows:

  • 10-19: 4.25 per cent
  • 20-29: 13.3 per cent
  • 30-39: 15.7 per cent
  • 40-49: 19.1 per cent
  • 50-59: 21.2 per cent
  • 60-69: 18.3 per cent
  • 70-79: 6.6 per cent
  • 80-89: 1.5 per cent

It’s worth remembering that there’s some inherent bias in the poll, as people reading and responding to the Kindle forum are likely to be the most dedicated or passionate users. Most researchers would also question the inclusion of second-hand results (that is, the ages of family members and friends owning the device who were mentioned by posters).

However, the sample size is pretty solid: it’s the same size as many national opinion polls, and is statistically at a point where you’d have to dramatically increase the numbers questioned to get a noticeable improvement in reliability.

Indeed, even if the results are inaccurate, you’d expect them to be biased in favor of younger adults, the people commonly assumed to be the most likely to be posting on internet forums. (You could make a tenuous case that older users are more likely to have problems with a device and need to get online advice.)

So why the unusual demographic pattern, which flies in the face of conventional wisdom about the types of people who adopt new technology? The theories include:

  • Older readers particularly appreciate the relative ease of reading text on the large-screen compared with other devices such as smartphones.
  • The demographics have been swung by the Oprah effect, with her traditionally older audience following her recommendation.
  • The magazines available in Kindle form are particularly popular among older readers.
  • Older people are more likely to be avid readers and thus find the Kindle a worthwhile purchase.
  • Older people may have more money to spend on the Kindle because their ‘gadget budget’ isn’t eaten up by other devices seen as must-have by younger buyers such as smartphones or laptops.

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