New Stats: Kids Find E-Books ‘Fun And Cool,’ But Teens Are Still Reluctant

The children’s and young adult e-book market faces special challenges not shared by the adult market, new research shows. And teens are slow to adopt e-books, in part because they do not see e-books as a social technology and they think there are too many restrictions on sharing digital titles.

The new data comes from two online surveys conducted by RR Bowker’s PubTrack Consumer in October and November. Bowker surveys a panel of 20,000 book-buying men, women and teens on an ongoing basis. This data is from two surveys conducted online in October and November 2011 — one of 1,000 parents of children ages 0 to 12, and one of 1,000 13- to 17-year-olds. It was presented at Publishers Launch Conferences’ “Children’s Publishing Goes Digital” this morning.

Market Basics: The overall children’s book market was $3.08 billion in 2010. E-books make up about 13 percent of sales for YA books and 11 percent of sales for children’s books.

In Q3 2011, the average price of a YA e-book was $4.72, compared to $11.41 for a YA hardcover and $7.43 for a trade paperback. The average price of a children’s e-book was $4.57, compared to $10.22 for a hardcover and $8.29 for a trade paperback.

The E-Book Market for 0- to 12-Year-Olds

»  Bricks-and-mortar bookstores are still the number-one source of discovery for children’s books, and more than 85 percent of children’s books are bought on impulse.
»  The child asking for a book in the store is the top driver of children’s book purchases; this influences 52 percent of purchases. This is “not just the kid being spoiled and throwing a tantrum,” cautioned Kristen McLean, who helped run the survey before she became the CEO of Bookigee. We’re seeing lots of evidence that families are very close, she says, and the generation gap has closed. Parents are sharing digital devices with their kids and handing devices down when they upgrade. Parents are also “paying close attention and asking good questions about what their children like.”
»  Twenty-seven percent of the kids in this survey have their own computer, 25 percent own an iPhone, 12 percent own an iPod Touch, 7 percent own an e-reader and 4 percent own an iPhone. “High-reading households are also high-technology households,” said Kelly Gallagher, Bowker’s VP of publishing services.
»  Special challenges for e-books: Respondents to an earlier 2011 survey said that only 37 percent of the children’s books in their houses were bought new, compared to 34 percent hand-me-downs, 17 percent given by others as gifts, and 9 percent borrowed from the library. It’s still virtually impossible to buy a used e-book or “hand down” an e-book, and e-book library lending, while growing, is in early stages.
»  Nearly two-thirds of book-buying parents want to see books identified by grade level or reading level. Many print books for children are identified this way, but “make sure you have a digital strategy” for indicating reading level, says McLean, and for “communicating some of those things that have been communicated very easily in print formats in the past….If they don’t see it, they don’t find it, they don’t buy it.”
»  Seventy-five percent of the parents surveyed still haven’t bought an e-book themselves, but of that group, 56 percent said they’re likely to begin reading them “soon.” Because of the trend in families sharing devices and technology, kids are more likely to start reading e-books when their parents start.
»  Kids and parents have different attitudes about e-books. Two-thirds of parents surveyed think it’s better for their kids to read in print. When asked why their kids aren’t reading print books, parents say print helps their kids focus better and that kids prefer the look and feel of print. But 7- to 12-year-old kids aren’t particularly concerned about the look and feel of e-books. They say e-books are “fun and cool,” cost less and entice them to read more.

The E-Book Market for 13- to 17-Year-Olds

»  Teens lag behind all other age groups in e-book adoption. Sixty-six percent of 13- to 17-year olds say they prefer print books to e-books, 26 percent say they have no preference and only 8 percent prefer e-books.
»  One reason for this resistance: Teens like using social technology to discuss and share things with their friends, and e-books at this point are not a social technology. An increasing number of teens surveyed says there are too many restrictions on using e-books: 14 percent said so in 2011, compared to 6 percent in 2010.
»  Don’t be misled by YA books like the Hunger Games trilogy on e-book bestseller lists: Adults make up a huge part of the audience for YA books. Thirty- to 44-year-olds account for 28 percent of YA print book sales and 32 percent of YA e-book sales. Eighteen- to 29-year-olds are the largest group of YA book buyers, accounting for 31 percent of YA print sales and 35 percent of YA e-book sales.
»  Teens (like other age groups) say the major barrier against reading on mobile devices is the size of the screen.
»  Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) products are teens’ “format of choice”; the most-owned device by teens surveyed was the iPod Touch, followed by iPhone and iPad.
»  Sixty percent of teens reported that their parents handed technology down to them, so surveys conducted after the holidays may show more teenagers owning e-readers (if their parents got new ones for Christmas).
»  Since teens are online so much, that is a great place for publishers to reach them: Teens are more likely to discover a book they purchase via a social network than any other age group.

Children’s Publishing Goes Digital is a special session at the Digital Book World conference, which is taking place in New York this week. See all our Digital Book World coverage here.