Blog Post

Why E-readers Are Good for Books: People Read More

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

There’s a lot of angst in the book publishing industry — and among book lovers — about the rise of the e-book and the decline of the printed version, but there’s good news for those who care about books regardless of what form they take: A growing body of evidence shows that people with e-readers are reading more books. A recent survey found that 40 percent of those with e-readers said they were reading more books than they used to before they had the device, which is consistent with earlier data on e-reading habits. E-book sales climbed by more than 200 percent in the first six months of this year, according to the Association of American Publishers.

The survey by Marketing and Research Resources found that 58 percent of those with e-readers (including the Apple iPad (s aapl), the Amazon Kindle (s amzn) and the Sony Reader (s sne)) said they read about the same number of books as they did before, while 2 percent said they read fewer books. More than half of those surveyed said that they expected to use the device to read even more books in the future. While the survey was funded by Sony, other research has found a similar increase in book reading by e-reader owners. A study earlier this year by L.E.K. Consulting also found that almost half of those with e-readers were buying and reading more books, and Amazon has said that customers buy more than 3 times as many books after they buy a Kindle e-reader.

Interestingly enough, the L.E.K. survey found that 36 percent of the books read by people with e-readers were what it called “incremental consumption.” In other words, e-reader owners were reading new books, rather than books that the owner would otherwise have read in print. The global consulting group reported the findings in its second annual “Hidden Opportunities in New Media Survey” of more than 2,000 households. According to recent figures from Amazon, in the second quarter of this year the company sold 143 Kindle e-books for every 100 hardcover books sold.

Om has noted that his e-book consumption patterns fit with those described in these surveys, and he’s also described how the evolution of books from print to digital is just one of the ongoing transformations in media, including music, movies and other forms of content. Yesterday at our GigaOM Pro Bunker Session on the disintermediation of the publishing industry, Zeke Koch, Adobe’s director of product management for digital publishing, noted that an iPad app he’d worked on for an unnamed publisher attracted users who had virtually no overlap with its existing subscriber base (full video of the session here, sub req’d). If you love the feel of a printed book in your hands, this may strike you as a sad future, but the reality is, people are reading more books than ever, and that has to be a good thing. (It’s good for authors too.) For a look at other reading revolutions in the past, check out the excellent retrospective by Tim Carmody in The Atlantic.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Timo Noko

9 Responses to “Why E-readers Are Good for Books: People Read More”

  1. Lexicon Branding posted an interesting comparison of 3 popular e-Reader names (Kindle, Nook, iPad). Check it out here: I also listened to a podcast entitled “The Future of Books” through iTunes and the SF Commonwealth Club and one of the respondents echoed the same sentiments. There was some criticism about skimming vs. reading and one person mentioned that they were reading more than ever before.

  2. The survey data isn’t surprising, nor does it support hypotheses about the long-term health of book publishing. Of course early adopters of e-readers are self-selected among those with pent-up demand for reading more and on more occasions. And of course, once they’ve made the step of buying the device, the first few months is when they most enthusiastically display their escalated commitment to reading – they want to feel good about having spent the money. Finally, all these surveys rely on self-reported data, which can be notoriously inaccurate.
    Having said that, I am looking forward to buying an e-reader. But it will confirm my identity as a heavy reader in my own self-perception, not get me to read more.

  3. For me, I have definitely read more books since installing stanza and kindle on my phone. I used to have a reader on my palm too but could not buy content anywhere. The physical readers are still too expensive though I think for a single function device, but ony phone or PDA just uses what I have.
    Backlit screen does not seem to be a problem for me, and means I can read at night while my wife is asleep, which is why I am reading more. But what Iiss is the sharing. I can’t give the book to my wife to read after, I can’t loan it to a friend and get them hooked on a new author, and I can’t leVe the books fort kids to read in a few years (pretty much where all my books came from when I was a teen was secon hand shops and trading with friends.)
    I stll buy larger coffee table books, and anything not a classic novel, but I wish there was a way to easily order a paper copy too, for books I really like and want to keep forever.
    The selection of titles in NZ is still poor compared to the US, and this is driving up piracy rates. If it cant be bought, it will probably be downloaded for free somewhere.

  4. I ordered Kindle 3 after it sold out in the first round. I’m eager awaiting for a shipping date, which was suppose to be Sep 10(?) when I put in the order. In any case I have already purchased/downloaded several books from O’Reilly to be put on the device.

    I think e-reader will be like iPod. I still have a large collection of CD. But now I listen exclusively on iPod. And I do think I listen more music after I have an iPod.

  5. Absolutely. And there’s a simple reason for this: accessibility. As an e-book publisher providing multiple series of stories (20-40 pages each issue), we recognize that the information age has created a situation that enables a much shorter attention span. People bounce around (funny that one of our website success measurements is “bounce rate”). The e-book reader enables that. You can now have 50, 100, 1000 books on a single device and move between them effortlessly: WSJ to fiction to non-fiction to blog. I’m a prime example of that with dozens of books on my e-reader (iPad but with Kindle and Kobo installed as well) to which I can easily move around without any barrier. And as the e-book devices become the next series textbooks (i.e., inkling), I expect to see even more people with their noses stuck in them. Is that a good thing? Not sure…but for my publishing business’ sake, I’m hoping so :D