Paper vs. e-book: a study on the subway

The other night, I boarded a downtown 2 train in Manhattan at 72nd st. It was somewhere around 7:15 pm.

Some time just after the 34th St. stop, I looked around me at the 5 people sharing the subway bench with me, and the 6 people sitting across from me, and I noticed something interesting about how my fellow passengers were filling the time.

What I noticed from 34th St. to 14th St:
Sample size: 12
Number of readers: 8
(Of the other 4, two were doing things on their phones, one was listening to an MP3 player, and one was eating dinner. I know it was dinner because that was me.)
What the readers were reading:
– paper books: 3
– magazines: 2
– e-readers: 2
– newspapers: 1

From Chambers St. to Park Place:
Sample size: 11 (many but not all are the same passengers as above)
Number of readers: 6-8, depending on whether you count people who are writing things
– paper books: 5
– magazines: 1
– paper notebooks: 1 (he was both reading his notes and writing further notes)
– typing on an iPad: 1 (That was me.)

Park Place to Fulton St:
Sample size: 13
Number of readers: 7-9 (same issue as above)
– Books: 5
– Magazines: 1
– Newspapers: 1
– Notebook (reading and writing): 1
– Typing on an iPad: 1 (can you guess who that was?)

At Wall Street, three book readers left, and two e-book readers sat down.

What amazes me about this data is not only how many people were reading that evening on the subway, but also how few of them were using e-readers to do so. Most impressive was how, at one point, I was seated in a row with six other people, all of us engaged with text in some way, and I was the only one using a screen rather than something made of paper.



  1. Interesting observations. Even when I mean to, I always forget to look (I’m usually too busy reading).
    Also, if you’ve never heard of it (and even if you have), you might enjoy this site:

  2. Interesting study you have here. Personally, I prefer using an e-reader while traveling for convenient page turning. 😉

    jadechristyn @ Bookish Feelings Recorded

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