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

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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, the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader) 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

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