Reading and eReading

Why do people buy eReaders?

Participants on Mobileread Forums frequently post surveys asking why people buy eReaders. In one survey, between January 27, 2011 and February 18, 2011, 71% of respondents checked the statement, "I really read a lot, very convenient device." An earlier survey from January 2010 and January 2011, 29% checked "gadget-love". So I claim one-third of the motivation for owning eReaders is "gadget-love". Two-third of the motivation is overcoming problems with print books. Below are the top 9 responses to the question, “What are the reasons that made you decide to buy an e-reader?” The 255 respondents could click as many choices as appropriate. This is reason the percentages add up to more than 100%.
  1. Portability (carrying many books on a trip)  86%

  2. Lack of shelf space in the home  64%

  3. Legally free books  52%

  4. Instant gratification through immediate downloading of eBooks  38%

  5. eReaders are more comfortable to hold than paper books  38%

  6. More choice than in a local bookstore or library  37%

  7. eBooks cost less than paper books  30%

  8. Gadget love 29%

  9. eBooks are more environmentally friendly  18%
Carrying around many, heavy books, 86%, is a desire of book-lovers, not gadget-lovers. Running out of shelf space, 64%, is a problem for frequent book-buyers, not frequent book borrowers. So eReader ownership more about reading than gadgetry.

In April 4, 2012, the Pew Internet and American Life Project released its analysis of a survey of 2,986 Americans 16 and older called This survey reveals some interesting observations about reading and readers as well as eReader use. Below I report those findings that seem relevant to deciding how librarians should use eReaders and eBooks in their libraries.

How should librarians respond to the eReading phenomenon?

Question 1: What devices do people own?

Observation: All the devices listed below, except the MP3 players of course, can display the 3M Cloud Library and Overdrive eBooks provided by Kansas libraries. Only 19% of people own eReaders. Another 19% own tablets. PCs, laptops, and smartphones are far more common.

Question 2: What devices are used for reading eBooks?

Observation: People read eBooks on computers/laptops as frequently as eReaders. Reading on smartphones is 71% of reading on eReaders and used more frequently than tablets.

Suggestion: Librarians should not forget to tell patrons that Kansas libraries' eBooks can be read on computers, laptops and smartphones.

Question 3: 80% don't own eReaders. Why don't people want an eReader?
  • Plan to purchase one in the next six months = 8%; Thinking about purchasing = 5%
  • Don't need or want one = 24% (35% of those without tablets.)
  • Can't afford one = 19% (25% of those without tablets.)
  • Prefer print books= 10% (<1% of those without tablets.)
  • Have enough other devices = 6% (20% of those without tablets.)
  • Don't want to learn, no time, too old = 6% (10% of those without tablets.)
  • Don't read = 5% (<1% of those without tablets.)
  • Don't know what an eReader is = 5% (2% of those without tablets.)
  • Other= 8%
Suggestion: There is an increasing number of eBook-only titles being published. These titles are not available to people without eBook reading devices. Librarians should educate people about reading on smartphones, computers and laptops. And libraries could loan eReaders to those without devices.

Question 4: Where do readers get their books?
Observations: Print books dominate reading.

Audiobooks are the format people prefer borrowing over purchasing.

The 41.5% of print purchasing is 54% of the print book acquisition shown in this chart. The 15.1% of eBook purchasing is 62% of eBook acquisition shown. So do eBooks cause a preference for buying? No. The Mobileforums 2010 survey above discovered that 64% of eReader owners claimed to purchase their eReader for more shelf space. So eBooks allows eReader owners to continue practicing a preference they had before buying their eReaders.

Suggestion: Focus the marketing of eBook services and collections on concerns related to borrowing. In the Mobileforums survey, eBook owners said they purchased eReaders for "legally free books," "instant gratification through immediate downloading of eBooks", and "eReaders are more comfortable to hold than paper books." Three pages on this Web site discuss "legally free books."

Question 5: What do readers perceive as the best purposes of print books vs. eBooks?

Percentages of 701 people in survey who read print books and eBooks.

Print bookseBooks
Reading with a child81%9%
Sharing books with others69%25%
Reading in bed43%45%
Wide selection of books35%53%
Reading while traveling19%73%
Getting book quickly13%83%

Suggestion: Librarians should promote reading with children and could loan eReaders to patron going on trips. Update April 2012

1 comment:

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