Nonclassical states of light play a central role in many quantum information protocols. Very recently, their quantum features have been exploited to improve the readout of information from digital memories, modeled as arrays of microscopic beam splitters [Pirandola, Phys. Rev. Lett. 106, 090504 (2011)]. In this model of "quantum reading," a nonclassical source of light with Einstein-Podolski-Rosen correlations has been proven to retrieve more information than any classical source. In particular, the quantum-classical comparison has been performed under a global energy constraint, i.e., by fixing the mean total number of photons irradiated over each memory cell. In this paper we provide an alternative analysis which is based on a local energy constraint, meaning that we fix the mean number of photons per signal mode irradiated over the memory cell. Under this assumption, we investigate the critical number of signal modes after which a nonclassical source of light is able to beat any classical source irradiating the same number of signals.