Friday, 2 September 2011

reading books on the bus

yesterday, for the first time in a long time I rode the bus to work. It was a lovely bright sunny day and the first day of spring, and like most Canberra buses they had Mix 106.3 piped through the bus. And because Canberra is a low density city the 20km commute took around 40 minutes, even though the bus turns into a direct service straight to the CBD for the last 10 or so kilometres.

But what was really interesting was what my fellow passengers were doing.

When I used to ride the bus to work regularly, which is about four years ago now, people either listened to their iPod, read books and newspapers or stared out the window.

Well I'm glad to say people still stare out the window, but precious few were reading a newspaper or a real paper book - mostly it was a swathe of e-readers of various brands, the odd ipad and smartphone - you could tell the smartphone users by the way they flicked on to the next page repeatedly.

The other interesting thing of note is that the iPod phenomenon seemed to have been and gone. People were stil listening to things, but things stored on their phone.

Also missing in action were netbook users viewing spreadsheets and email and furiously composing offline memos - I'm going to guess that they have migrated to tablets.

So what does this mean?

Well I don't know. One bus ride on the first day of spring does not a survey make, but we could probably say the following:

  1. despite the absence of a clear market maker such as Amazon with the Kindle, e-readers have wide adoption in Australia.
  2. there are a lot of different brands of e-readers in use, but I spotted a couple of Kobo and different Sony models and a Kindle, plus some others I didn't recognise
  3. dedicated MP3 players are on the way out - people prefer to use their phone to reduce the number of devices carried
  4. Netbooks are also on the way out - possibly being replaced by tablets
  5. Tablets are not there yet - people still see them as too expensive to flourish on the bus or else penetration remains low
This is all based on the #170 bus service - which goes through a range of suburbs, some well off, some less so. Most commuters were heading to either the CBD or the City West terminus, very few people used the bus for a short two or three kilometre journey suggesting that most people would have enough time to read or listen to music if they so wished.

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