#FollowReader: Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading

Note from the editor: #FollowReader is a weekly Twitter-based conversation focusing on topics of interest to the the book and reading community. Co-hosted by me (@KatMeyer), and Charlotte Abbott (@CharAbbott), and sponsored by NetGalley (@NetGalley), #FollowReader features guests from all over the book publishing world.

In partnership with NetGalley, TOC will be cross-posting summaries of the weekly #FollowReader chats each week both here on the TOC blog, and at the FollowTheReader site. ~ Kat

On last Thursday’s #FollowReader, we welcomed Kelly Gallagher, VP of Publishing Services at RR Bowker (@DiscoverBowker). Kelly oversees the ongoing study, “Consumer attitudes Toward E-Book Reading” with the Book Industry Study Group, and during Thursday’s #FollowReader chat, Kelly previewed some of the results from their most recent survey.

The study itself is the result of surveying thousands of ebook readers, several times during the year (first in November 2009, then in January 2010, and most recently in July 2010). The survey respondents answer questions such as:

  • When did you first begin acquiring e-books?
  • Where do you typically acquire e-books?
  • Which genre(s) are you more likely to read as an e-book rather than a print book?
  • What device do you now use most frequently to read e-books?
  • How likely are you to buy a dedicated e-reader such as Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble nook, or Sony Reader for yourself or to give as a gift (in the next 2 months)?

What does Gallagher see as some of the more general findings from the study so far?

We are still in very early days on ebooks in all aspects – technology and adoption. I would say we are not yet even at 1.0. The market overall went from 2.8% in General Trade for 2009 to 8.3% in Q1 of 2010. While those numbers are sensational (as are other headlines) you have to look a little deeper… For example, half of all ebooks being acquired today are still ‘free’ e-books.”

Some of the interesting facts and figures from the forthcoming release of “Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading” that Kelly previewed during #FollowReader:

  • Right now Kindle holds the top spot for devices @ 40% – just passed the PC/laptop in the last survey @39%
  • Almost all PC / Laptop are .pdf still
  • Nearly half (49%) of ereading devices continue to be acquired as a gift from someone else 
  • Cost of entry is still the top reason people who read ebooks have not switched to a device.
  • Among ebook buyer, print is definitely losing ground – nearly 50% of ebook readers now say they are buying exclusively or almost exclusively ebooks/ 49% indicate they either MOSTLY or Exclusively purchase ebooks
  • 38% of those indicating first ebook purchase say they started within the last 6 months.
  • Half of all ebooks being acquired today are ‘free’ e-books”
  • When asked of e-book buyers if they would wait 3 months for the e version of their favorite author, about a third said they would just buy the hardcover… and a third said they would wait.
  • About a third of readers indicate they do not like DRM – More men than women indicate that DRM is a problem
  • iPad use so far indicates that it will be for the casual multi-function device person… not as many Heavy Buyers/Readers…
  • Those who are reading on the iPad interestingly do not report eyestrain as a problem… again though not heavy readers mostly
  • Places where ebooks are downloaded: Amazon still holds the top spot @ 61% – B&N has 20%Library 7%Sony 5% ebooks.com 10% etc
  • Genre popularity: fiction still dominates as top genre at 75%. How to guides… dropped 8% to 17% ; comics and graphic novels have jumped 6pts to 15% (thanks IPAD)… textbooks still low at 11%
  • At least 55
    % of ebook readers are now buying multiple genres
  • Purchases of ebooks direct from publisher sites has dropped 4pts to 7% since the last fielding (between January and July)
  • 21% of those responding in the study indicated they were very likely to by a new ereader for themselves
  • 9% indicated they were very likely to buy a new ereader as a gift for someone else in next 2 months
  • Of those who own devices today 44% indicated they received their device (purchase or gift) in past 6 months
  • Top identifiable place people hear about ebooks via B&M Bookstores!!! @7%; Followed by Social Networks @6%; Blogs @5%; and Online Banner ads; 2% indicate they heard of the ebook they purchased through a twitter update!

Other topics of discussion taking place during last week’s #FollowReader:

  • The implication of ereaders in school settings
  • ereaders/ ebooks as galleys — (there was a VERY vibrant sub-conversation taking place between publishers and reviewers about the growing popularity of digital galleys)
  • The lendability (or lack thereof) of ebooks
  • and, because #FollowReader participants love to see the humor in things: the problem of ebooks in the bath

To view the entire archived #FollowReader conversation from last Thursday, just click on 7/29 in the Tweebus timeline below. (or click here)