Last month I ran an "EReader" contest. I asked participants to send me email telling me what sort of device they used to read ebooks, and roughly what proportion of their reading (for pleasure) was currently in electronic as opposed to paper form. Sending me an email entered them in the contest. I hoped that I'd get some useful information about the current status of EReaders and ebooks, at least among readers who are aware of me.
The results were interesting and somewhat surprising. I received 46 entries, quite a reasonable sample, I think. I'd like to share the results of this informal survey here.
First of all, here are the data concerning devices. The numbers do not add to 46 because quite a few people told me they used more than one device.
Despite the media buzz about EReader devices, fifty percent of the respondents still use either a desktop or a laptop computer to read ebooks. A number of people did mention that they were hoping to buy an EReading device soon (Nook and Kindle were mentioned about equally often). Several respondents commented that they would love an EReader but didn't feel they could afford one.
What about the question about proportions? Here are the data:
These numbers surprised me a bit also. Although there's the expected bump in the middle category, the numbers are spread pretty evenly over the entire range. I had expected that readers of erotic romance, especially, would tend to cluster in the higher percentage ranges. However, this did not seem to be true. At least half a dozen respondents explicitly said that "they love the feel of a real book". The proportion of ebooks read did not necessarily correlate with the availability of an EReader, either. I had people who use a desktop computer say that 90% of the books they read are electronic and two respondents with EReaders (a Nook and a Kindle) who said they read 10% or less in ebook form.
I made some other interesting observations. Several people owned multiple EReaders. (One individual told me she owned a Sony, a Nook AND a Kindle! Lucky lady!) Quite a few people felt that their ereading habits were in transition, either because they had just bought a new device or were planning to do so.
Kindle users seemed to be particularly enthusiastic about their EReaders. One person called it the best present she'd ever received. On the other hand, the one iPad user also raved about her device.
More than one person owned an EReader but hadn't really used it for various reasons: hadn't yet loaded her books on, didn't know how, etc.
I can't pretend that this was anything like a systematic survey. Still, I suspect that my respondents were fairly typical of romance readers at least. The results suggest to me that the popularity of EReaders and ereading is growing, but not as fast as the hype would have you believe. The publishers of print books don't have as much to worry about as they might have feared. Furthermore, price is still a major factor that is holding people back in their decision to buy a specialized ereading device. It would be interesting to re-run this contest in a year and see how things have changed.
I've said that I was surprised by my results, but in retrospect, perhaps I should not be. As it turns out, my own ereading habits and opinions are consistent with the majority of my respondents. I do my ereading on my netbook, a general purpose portable computer, rather than on a dedicated device. I read 40-50% ebooks. And like the people who answered my questions, I'm tempted to buy a dedicated device, but I won't -- not until the price comes down to $75 or less.