Thursday, September 30, 2010

EReaders and E-Reading: An Informal Survey

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.

Desktop computer16
Laptop computer14
Sony EReader9
Other EReader5

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:

< 10%7
> 80%8

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.


Charlie said...

Very interesting article. Thanks for sharing this with us. I do agree, it will be interesting to see where it is in a year from now. wonder how many of these people will get e-readers for Christmas. Bet that will be a popular gift this year!

Unknown said...

You can add me to the Kindle owners, and I love it. Thanks for sharing numbers with us, but I can bet, as Charlie says...the numbers will go up because so many readers have a Kindle on their wish list. :)

Annabeth Carew said...

Hi Lisabet,
You are a veritable font of interesting information. I read on my laptop and I'm waiting for the price to come down on e-readers. Digital will take over real fast I predict.

Margaret West said...

I still read them from my laptop. I have a wide screen one so it suits me. :-)

Anne Kane said...

Interesting survey. I think I'm about average - I tend to read ebooks on my laptop even though I own an ereader. I use it when I'm travelling.

Cheryl said...

This is a great article. How neat that you performed this survey. Santa bought me a Kindle last year and it changed my whole opinion on eBooks. Just love it and them.

Thanks for the interesting read.


Kim Richards said...

I have a Sony and love it. In my hands, it has the same 'feel' as a book with regards to weight and how it's held. No more hands aching from really thick books though; no more fiddling with pages wanting to flip on their own; no more losing my page place.

Page turning is there except it's a swipe across the screen with my fintertip instead of grasping the paper corner and pulling it over. I can read it anywhere and do, including in the dark (can we say car trips? In bed without disturbing my husband?), though I have to admit it needs a better outside light than the one attached to the case. I use a secondary light which I already owned for reading paperbacks.

Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz said...

Interesting observation and good post. I recently got a Kindle, and I am now reading my first book on it. It's very handy and light. I also use my laptop for reading books, but those are ones I am editing for a publishing house so I need to make comments. For pleasure reading, it will be either the Kindle or a print book for me.

Lee Rowan said...

I did buy a new gadget for ebook reading, but couldn't justify the high price of a dedicated reader--I bought a Gateway netbook. This way I've got a backup for travel OR if something happens to my computer. It's only about half the size of an abridged dictionary and, at the time, cost less than any of the big-name e-readers.

But I still think of ebooks as a test drive--I'm a 'real book' dinosaur for my keepers.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Thanks to all of you for your comments. To be honest, I've encountered very few people who, once they got an eReader, didn't love it.

I wouldn't buy a Kindle though, partly for "political" reasons. I haven't forgotten "Amazon Fail". I don't trust Amazon (even though I do buy from them). They have too much clout. I'm really happy to see the competition heating up because it will help level the playing field, at least a bit -- as well as bringing prices down.


Anonymous said...

I have one of the early ereaders it is the irex and my husband had to buy it somewhere overseas.(2005) he bought it because I had a room full of books and always had a half of suitcase full when we went away. I love my reader and am fortunate that it has a usb port so I can buy from anywhere as long as it supports mobipocket. alot of the new ones do not have that convience. I still buy print books though because I collect certain authors. I submited this under anonymous because I don't know how to use the other formats

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