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Travelers increasingly turn to tablet PCs on the road

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Travelers are increasingly using tablets and e-readers on planes, trains and buses instead of more basic electronic devices such as cellphones and iPods, a study to be released Thursday concludes.

The use of tablets and e-readers such as iPads, Kindles and Nooks rose more than 50% last year across all modes of transportation, according to the study by the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University.

The increase in popularity on airline flights was most dramatic, although Wi-Fi is not yet universally available or free on planes. More than one in 12 airline passengers observed by researchers on flights in December were using a tablet.

“Technology is evolving to be more friendly for cramped airline environments," says Joseph Schwieterman, director of the institute and co-author of the study. “The digital revolution is transforming air travel in other ways. You can bring your TV episodes or address books."

No longer do travelers have to distract themselves with books, sleep or seatmates. The uptick in tablet use reflects the sleeker designs, longer battery lives and greater affordability of the devices. Now, travelers can use one device to surf the Web, watch movies, listen to music and read books.

“I think it tells a lot about (travelers') behavior. I think people have the need to always stay connected," says Paige Largent, a program manager at Chaddick and one of the study's researchers.


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