Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kindle Demographics

As I was pulling together the final pieces for my book "Kindle Culture," one of the last items on my list was to comb through almost 70 pages of the Amazon Kindle Forum's "Average Kindle Owner's Age" thread to get a better idea of who's actually buying the Kindle.

Though I ended up culling 1,387 responses from almost 1,700 posts, these charts don't adhere to polling science standards and should thus be taken with a grain of salt. That said, my methodology included the use of second-hand figures ("my son, 27, has one too"), and the exclusion of ill-defined ages ("I'm in my 50s"), questionable responses (106-year-old Sigmund Freud says, "I like the large type!"), and a handful of entries that were repeated one or more times.

The resulting data suggests that the largest group of Kindle owners by decade are in their 50s. The next two largest are owners in their 40s at 19.1% and owners in their 60s at 18%, making the total number of Kindle owners between the ages of 40 and 69 an incredible 58.6%. Owners above 70 make up an additional 8.1%, with owners under the age of 40 accounting for just over a third of all Kindle sales.

Using broader target demographic standards, the results look like this:
Younger adults (18-34) – 22%
Adults (35-54) – 38.4%
Older adults (over 54) – 37.3%
The Kindle might also be a popular 60th birthday present--more 60-year-olds reported owning the device than any other age, with 59-year-olds coming in a close second. (Another side note I found interesting was the number of respondents in their 20s and 30s who mentioned that they had been reading since a very young age.)

There are plenty of factors that could skew these results, ranging from affluency and disposable income to the overall age of visitors who visit Amazon's boards. But if these numbers are any indication, the Kindle appears to be the first general purpose technology device I know of with an early adopter demographic that favors the over-54 age bracket over the usual 18-34 group, effectively turning one perennial marketing trend on its head.


  1. Great charts. I look forward to the book. Just a quibble. You say "general purpose technology device.' I think it's more accurately designed as a reading machine. I've heard Bezos say as much, I have one and I think that's the secret sauce.

    Your charts show that this is going to those who have the time to read. My take is that it's exactly the single purpose simplicity that is going to make it work.

    As the demo naturally ages, the market naturally increases. That's the cohort that has enough discretionary income that the $359 in return for click the button get the book is well worth it.

  2. I am 55, and I love my Kindle. I read much more, finding iteasy to take along.

  3. Well in the opinion of this twentysomething, the Kindle is an interesting device that I would love to have, but the price is outrageous. $350 is well out of line with otherwise similarly specced embedded computers. In fact, my two Chumbies cost about that combined. For the price of a Kindle, I'd much rather get another EeePC.

    When they're sub-$200 where they belong, then we'll talk.

  4. I think these numbers are wildly inaccurate given the extremely small sampling. It's more likely indicative of the age dispersion of the users of Amazon's official Kindle Forums than it is of actual Kindle owners.

    More of my thoughts on this here:



  5. I agree about the sample being pretty inaccurate. With my local sampling at work, there are 7 coworkers with Kindle's (1 and 2). The oldest person in this group is 35.

    And none of us post in forums ;).

  6. I think the younger generation will start to buy once amazon change the design to something sexy!

  7. Young people don't read books.

  8. I agree with the above comment. Young (or shall I saw YOUNGER) people do not read as much as say those of us who grew up in the "pre-laptop" age....(I am 41, and those of my co-workers and friends that DO own a eBook reader are all in the 38-50 age bracket!)

    I think we see the devices as a way to keep from lugging hard copies,novels, and work/research related printed matter around in a back back/briefcase, and keep it on a slim, light weight device. (I own a Sony Sony PRS-505...because it will display ANY format....)

    As soon as Amazon gets up to speed, I can see the wireless function becoming useful and would consider one as well...

    Having said that, I think the real numbers would be 50%...70% being a bit overoptimistic!

  9. im 21, i'd love to have a kindle but theyre way to expensive for someone in my income bracket! between trying to pay for (normal) class books and tuition, the rest of my money goes to feeding my self! :p

  10. I am a grad student and actually Kindle is fantastic for our use when we need to read truck loads of research articles but when we ourselves live on Top Raman then 350 bucks is a lot for such device. On the top of that restrictions that this device comes with... is another issue.

    I really wonder why this segment is totally ignoring the whole student population when students are more and more inclined towards e-books and its significantly big population.

    If the price drops below 200 bucks then I will 'think' of it otherwise please tell me whats wrong with netbook like EeePC?

  11. Everywhere I've seen this story, you young folks miss the point. Older people love Kindles because their eyesight isn't what it used to be. If you have a relative who has given up on reading for pleasure, a Kindle is a wonderful gift.

  12. Happy Mother's Day. Bought one for my wife (it's from my kids and me to her) since she reads about 3 novels every month...and has been like forever. Clearly this is a 'want' rather than a 'need.' Is $400 for an e-book too much? Probably. No, I'm changing my answer to a big "YES!" I am sure we'll put it to good use. Sales will take off when the price comes down to the mid $100 range (like the smaller memory ipods). Just trying to get the economy jump started.

  13. I think it's got more to do with disposable income. Younger are folks still trying to build their homes, pay off education, etc; are hard pressed to let go of that kind of cash.

  14. Think Kindle is expensive? How much do you pay for cable TV? How much do you pay for a nice dinner? How much do you spend on a nice pair of shoes? We've all got different priorities.

  15. I agree on the "expensive priorities" response. I am 32 years old and have been a voracious reader since I first learned to read, I say about the first or second grade. I do not currently own a Kindle, but trust this; it's on my wish list that is in my hubby's wallet at all times ;) Hopefully, very soon, I will be contributing to the 30-39 year old Kindle population.

  16. The issue for Bezos is not how many he sells. It's how to maintain margins. Baby boomers are now retiring. They have more money than anyone else. For enough of them, the price is highish, but not a major issue. Boomers in aggregate have the largest effective demand in the population.

    as said above, the Kindle is a single purpose device optimized to be a readying machine. The only large demo that has time to read are retired people. Based on the stats they are going to be around for another 20 years at least and it naturally replenishes.

    The days of building brand loyalty when they're young are disappearing as brand loyalty disappears. The focus on the young is much less attractive when momma takes the credit card away.

    as the Kindle DX gets into college the price will be the most the market will bear. Just makes good business sense.

  17. It is the same demographic distribution you get if you design a survey and have people on the phones asking questions. The hardest group to survey are the under 35s. They have no time for you. The older they get the more willing to talk they are. Then you have to fix that to get a represengtative sample.

  18. Miss Cellania is correct. It's about the eyesight.

  19. i'm getting one next month! and i just stumbled onto this protection thingy on wired: ...looks like it may actually work!

  20. Hey dm, those look pretty cool! I may have to do an entry on that.