Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, November 28, 2011

Will You Ever Buy Mostly E-books?

The leaves are changing, Christmas music is in the air, and it's time for our annual e-book poll, which I have held every year since 2007.

Which means this is the FIFTH ANNUAL e-book poll. Wow.  Thanks to everyone who has been around for all five.

Let's get the disclaimers out of the way: Yes, I'm aware this isn't the most scientific of polls. Yes, the sample has changed from year to year. Yes, there are two polls from 2009 because I forgot one at the end of '08. Entertainment purposes only!

Here are the past polls:

2007
2008 (technically beginning of '09)
2009
2010

And here is this year's poll. Do you think there will come a time when you buy mostly e-books? Do you already? Click through for the poll if you're reading via e-mail or in a feed reader:







74 comments:

Matthew MacNish said...

I think I've only taken part in the poll once before, but I'm pretty sure my vote has changed.

MacEvoy DeMarest said...

I voted "Absolutely" even though I love physical books and even though I don't yet own an eReader bigger than my iPhone.

Don't know that that's significant, but it's gotta say something...

-Mac
www.ShelfActualization.com

Mr. D said...

The day will probably come. After all, I finally bought a cell phone!

Cameron Chapman said...

For fiction, I already buy more ebooks than paper books. For non-fiction, not yet, but I can easily see that day coming!

Leo Godin said...

I mostly read in bed at night. It's just easier for me to read from my phone. It fits in one hand, and has a back light.

sheribomb said...

I already do! :)

Serenity said...

I'm pretty sure I've voted "cold dead hands" in the past, and today I'm an Absolutely. I still love, love, love real pages. But it's the desire to declutter that has gotten me. I love the idea of a magnificent virtual library taking up almost no space in my home. Certain faves will HAVE to be on the shelf, but yea, I've converted.

Barbara Kloss said...

Wow.

I'm with Matt, too. I've only participated in this pole one other time, but my vote definitely changed. Looks like I'm not alone, either.

Thanks for doing this - crazy seeing how opinions have changed, even from last year.

Becky Taylor said...

The thing is that I buy many books for my many e-readers and I also still buy many physical books. Reading a good book creates a memory for me and leaves an emotional tracer. Seeing those books on my shelf triggers those memories for me, like a song from the past. So for me, I think it comes down to a question of what books will I want to see on my shelf 10 years from now and what books do I just want to use. Yes, I do sometimes engage in a superficial relationship with books--it's all about having my way with them and then kicking them out. After all, there is only so much room on the shelf.

Abra said...

I ALREADY buy more e-books than I do print books. I didn't mean to, but I have my Kindle with me more often than I'm in bookstores or even surfing Amazon. Consequently, I haven't read this many books in one year since college.

Jaimie said...

@Abra

Same here. E-books means I read more.

Bratty said...

I already buy more ebooks than print books. Print books I get from the library. But I often read both tpes at the same time.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

I already do. I actually prefer to read on my Kindle instead of reading paper books. Still not ready to part with the paper books I already have, though.

Serena Casey said...

Scientific or not, it's fascinating to watch the "cold-dead-handers," as someone referred to them, decline from year to year.

I certainly don't want print books to become extinct, but I never bought them anyway - I'm a library girl. I have bought a few ebooks, though, and will no doubt continue.

Wendy said...

Since I got my IPAD in Oct last year I have downloaded 57 books. I have 8 paid preorders pending. I love it.

Rick Daley said...

My wife bought me a Kindle for Valentine's Day, when I had back to back trips to Europe scheduled. Since then I've bought and read a couple print books, but the vast majority of my reading has been on the Kindle and I LOVE it. It's much better than I thought it would be.

WORD VERIFICATION: pronei. A position in favor of neis.

Christina Wible said...

Wow. That's a slanted poll. I would have answered "Absolutely" because I already do but the sentence after it implies things that I do not believe. Stuff changes. Ebooks may come or go but I'm embracing them now. I love (and publish my own books) as paper copies but I accomodate the technology as well.

Jacqueline Howett said...

Absolutely. I welcome our coming e-book overlords.


Reading is so much easier on the eyes, when you can adjust the magification by clicking the zoom button. I also like the convenience of sampling books before buying. Plus, there are so many wonderful free e-book promos. What's not to like, except the wonderful smell of paper books on shelves, lining the walls.

I'm still reading from my laptop.

Claire Dawn said...

I think in 2008 pre-my Kindle, I may have sworn no. But I already buy more e-books. That's mostly because I live in Japan and don't have much access to English language books.

Still, I wonder if it will stay that way when I'm back in the West.

Maybe there should be a category "I already by mostly e-books"

Howard S. said...

Right now, I am mostly interested in e-reading manuals, reference books and magazines. Manuals and reference books simply suit the format better (much like a website).

As for magazines, I prefer reading them on paper. However, I like to keep them and that creates problems with clutter and. More importantly, I hope e-magazines will allow me to search all of my issues for topics/articles that I want to refer back to. (For example, searching my virtual Writer's Digest library for articles on querying agents.)

Howard S. said...

Just another thought....

I view books and magazines much like art. I appreciate a lot of art pieces, however, there are only going to be so many that I can decorate my home with.

E-readers allow me to collect books much like a table book of art allows me to "collect" paintings or sculptures. While it's not the same as satisfying as having the actual paintings, I can view them at my leisure and enjoy them still.

I prefer the paper books and enjoy seeing them on my bookshelf or tables (especially hardcovers). But I have had to leave too many behind when I moved and I want more than I'll ever have room for.

Like art, I will buy my favorite works in print. Right now, I am shopping for a hardcover 1st edition of my favorite book which was published in the mid 70s. I have a paperback version but hardcovers are just more appealing. No e-book will ever truly capture the feeling of a hardcover book.

Anne-Marie said...

I moved into Absolutely as well. For travel, it is the lightest option, and I stopped buying a lot of books in recent years to support public libraries and because our house isn't getting any bigger.

Meghan Ward said...

I already read mostly e-books and find that when someone gives me a hard copy of a book, it sits unread much longer than my e-books. I'm even tempted to re-buy them in e-book form, so I can read them in the dark in bed.

Doug said...

Novels, novellas, and short stories: all e-book for the past year and a half. For entertainment reading, e-books win on just about every practical aspect except ownership rights.

I've bought a couple of tech books in paper since then. For professional, technical, and reference books, e-books currently lose on just about every practical aspect except bulk.

D.G. Hudson said...

I prefer reading the physical books. I do have an ereader and
it is convenient for some purposes (travelling, commuting, etc) but ebooks aren't my first choice.

I've just set up two bookcases in my study full of the books hubby and I have collected. Some of these books will never be in ebook form unless libraries download them.

I consider ebooks an option, not the conquerer of the book world. As for the sensual satisfaction of the reading experience - meh.

Adie said...

I like the convenience of reading e-books -- I make good use of my local library system and it's a lot easier, especially with new releases, to check out E-Pub versions. That said, I concur with Becky Taylor's comment. I find an emotional difference in reading physical books -- more than just words on paper. Also, I don't know about all e-books, but the autobiography I checked out this weekend didn't include the collection of photos -- so I'll still have to check out the paper version.

P A Wilson said...

I voted absolutely but I think you need to add an option. I already do. I haven't bought a paper book in about 3 years.

Bret Wellman said...

Wow, look at how drastic the change is over the past few years... 2007 No, 2008 idk, 2009 maybe, 2010 sure I guess, 2011 YES!

CMR Prindle said...

I agree with Doug about technical and reference books. I don't do a lot of research, but it's easier and more convenient when using multiple sources to have several physical books out that can be manipulated concurrently than flipping through my Kindle. So I guess until ereaders are as ubiquitous as PADDs, the real answer to this for me and my geeky family will be "depends".

Karen said...

I voted absolutely, because I already find myself passing over physical books in favour of the no-clutter e-book version.

But.

I recently upgraded my phone and somehow half my audiobooks were deleted. I then learned that Amazon limits the number of downloads on e and audiobooks. So, if I am to continue to embrace e-books, I want to ensure that once I buy it, it will be mine on whatever device I have. Kindles, phones, laptops - they all get upgraded every couple of years. If I can't transfer my library from one device to another, paper books may well become a bigger draw for me again.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I already buy mostly eBooks with my two Kindles. I can read while waiting for rare blood hand-offs. I'm a rare blood courier.

It saves space in my tiny apartment, too. I already have six bookcases jammed fulled!

I am also an eBook author. Have a great Holiday Season.

Eddie said...

I have always voted "cold dead hands," and this time around is no different.

I got a Nook in November 2010. In the year since then, I've read 122 books. Only 5 of them were ebooks, and those were all read in the week following my purchase of the Nook.

Since I bought my Nook, I have purchased at least 100 books, and none of them have been ebooks.

eReaders are useful for trips, when I can't lug 4 or 5 big books with me, but otherwise, there is no reason to prefer them to print.

Tere Kirkland said...

I already buy mostly ebooks. I only buy real books as gifts. Or if they have pretty pictures. ;)

Dorothy L. Abrams said...

Since we purchased a Kindle and a Kobo this year I find I buy 95% of my books in e-format for both of us in the household. We are looking at a Kindle Fire. We are totally hooked on this technology. I am also reading books on my computer when I did not previously. This is working for my book research as well as my pleasure reading. WOW!

Will Entrekin said...

At this point, I wonder if "Do you buy mostly e-books" is more relevant. For me, personally, the better question is will I ever buy mostly print books again. The same is true for many of my friends.

And the answer to that is "I doubt it."

Dani G. said...

I like the idea of all books (including kidlit) being introduced in e-book format first, and if they become popular, earning a print run as a collector edition. I'm seeing that idea bandied about more and more. Works for me.

Suze Reese said...

Fascinating results! This is my first year voting. My vote was 'absolutely' though like many others it wouldn't have been in years past. I had to vote that way since I currently do buy more e-books than bound books these days, and that's despite not having an e-reader. (Santa, are you listening?) I still love books, and own probably thousands, but it's more convenient to read on my phone or laptop. So bring on those techie Kings!

H said...

I've been around for the majority of these polls. My vote has gone from never, to maybe to absolutely.

H said...

I've been around for most of these polls and my vote has gone from never, to maybe to absolutely.

Carly said...

I have to say I'm pretty disappointed with the results thus far. This is the first time I've taken your poll- maybe my vote will change, but I hope not. I love my paper books with a passion that no fancy coding can compare to.

sara said...

This is an unfairly worded poll! I buy more e-books because there are so many books I can't get at the bookstore (or, um, cause I'm ashamed of the covers!). But I don't welcome the change. I'd rather buy paperbacks, and there are certain books I will only purchase in that format. Books I plan to re-read a million times, for instance.

Allan Douglas said...

I already do. My wife and I both actively look for Kindle versions of book titles that we are interested in.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

The e-readers are multiplying in my house and making baby e-readers. One's even mutating into a tablet. I'm not even joking a little about this.

Rick said...

I already do.

Laura C. said...

Thanks for sharing the results of past polls with us. It's amazing how much things have changed in just five years. It seems there are a lot of trees being saved! lol

Natalie said...

I already buy more e-books than paper. I read a lot (for my own pleasure + two different book clubs) so I generally borrow books from the library. But now that I have a Kindle (and the Kindle app on my laptop and phone), I buy 2-3 books per month at the 99 cents to $5.00 mark and if it's an author I love, I'll spend the $8-$10 for the e-book and have the instant gratification of instant delivery! I've purchased more books since I got my Kindle for Mother's Day this year than I purchased the past two years combined.

Wing Wife said...

Last year I took between 60 and 70 boxes of books to the local Friends of the Library. I still have my bookshelves filled with beloved books but the overflow is no longer taking over my house. I only buy e-books for my own reading on my Kindle, yet still purchase picture books for my grandchildren in hardback.

Pam Headrick said...

Well, I'm an e-book formatter, so I hope people accept this technology more and more. I know the look of e-books is getting better all the time. I know I'm trying new things with every book I format. The future price of e-books as well as e-readers is the unknown.

Dana-Lynn said...

For me, it TOTALLY depends on whether the e-book is cheaper than the actual book. I would rather have the ebook, but if I can get the actual book for less cost than the ebook, I can't justify paying more for the ebook.

Lynda R Young said...

Yep, I already buy mostly ebooks and get annoyed when a book I want to read isn't available in that format.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Already am. There has to be a compelling reason now for me to consider print (unless I'm getting the book through the library; then I get whatever they have).

Adam Heine said...

The progression is pretty interesting across the years.

This, by the way, is the first year I changed my answer from "Depends on the price/technology" to "Absolutely." The $99 Kindle Touch has a lot to do with that.

Mira said...

Wow, this poll is interesting! That's so cool that you do this annually, Nathan. The change in results is pretty dramatic.

I only read e-books now. I refuse to buy print, it takes up too much space and I prefer the ease of a reader to holding a book up. Even when a book isn't available as a e-book, I wait.

Although I own a Kindle, which I love, my preference is to read on my phone, because it's back-lit and fits in my palm and pocket. So, I can read anytime, anywhere. And I use it as a handy flashlight when the power goes out. :)

I do agree with some commentors that research is tricky to do on an e-reader. It's not as mobile as print yet. But I imagine that will change soon, someone will figure out a new app or something. Matter of time, especially with the demand of the student market.

Jillian said...

As a student, I see a lot of potential in e-books. (If you've ever gone to your local state college bookstore, and have seen how much schools ream out of students, then--like me--you'd see potential as well). However the number of textbooks in e-book format are limited, if not 0--and would end up costing students extra anyway. I've never had a professor offer an online textbook without requiring the physical book as well --which, if you ask me, defeats the purpose of an online textbook (I've never had a professor assign an e-book textbook ever, so I'm basing my opinion off my experience with online textbooks.)

If you consider all that you have to pay for in order to buy e-books, then they're obscenely overpriced. You may save a few bucks off the price of the hardcover. However, you have to pay anywhere between $80 and $200 bucks, if not more, in order to be able to even read an e-book. E-book readers are being gouged. Yeah, some books can be read for free on e-book readers. However, you can read books for free on any computer legally at, for instance, Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/). At this point, I feel like e-books are just a toy that is fun to have as opposed to a need that would actually help.

Also, I shop at used book stores a lot. I can find used paperback novels from my favorite authors for 50 cents each at my local Friends of the Library Used Book Store. At that same store, I can find hardbacks for $1.50 and all recent novels (which are classified as novels published in the last 3 years) for $3.00 each. There's no such thing as a "used e-book" that customers could buy to save money. And from what I've heard, most e-book technology even limits who you can lend e-books, that you have purchased, out to.

As a student and as someone who loves reading, I'm not going to shell out the money in order to own something that is a want and not a need. However, if the prices dropped significantly and made it actually save readers money, then I would jump ship in a heartbeat.

Alyson Greene said...

Obviously the times they are a changin', but I wonder how the dramatic change in the poll this year reflects your change in career, Nathan.

As a literary agent, your audience was book people who would be more inclined toward paper books. But now that you work for CNet, I'm sure your audience also includes many tech people who probably embrace e-books more easily.

Mira said...

Jillian - I was recently a student, I had a different experience. I saw alot of advantages of e-books, and bought some of my textbooks that way.

For one thing, just not having to cart all those heavy books to and from class - well, that was a HUGE advantage.

Maybe it helped that I didn't also have to buy the hard copy. One professor recommended the e-book, and another couple of them complimented me when they saw I had the e-book rather than the hard copy.

I used my cell phone in school, not an e-reader.

I actually think the student market is completely primed for e-books. As soon as they come up with a better way to mark and flip through pages quickly, students and professors (who have to research and might prefer to carry all their books with them in e-format) will switch over.

One more comment - watching these polls, well it's like watching history in action. We seeing a massive technology change right in front of us.

Mira said...

Okay, sorry, last comment from me.

Allyson, I get what you're saying about Nathan's readership, but actually, the poll is reflecting U.S. statistics.

Check out this link, just one example from August 2011:

http://www.mediabistro.com/ebooknewser/ebook-sales-up-116-in-august_b17180

E-book sales were up 116% in August, while everything else was in the negative except audiobooks.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting. If you plot the "Absolutely" votes on a plot, it's an exponential growth curve, which hits 100% late in 2012. While I don't expect readers to totally convert by 2013, it looks like the amount of time publishers have to reinvent themselves as digital book sellers is very short.

Adrianne

Suzanne said...

It's interesting how we change...when the Kindle first came out I swore I'd never leave my paper books. Now, as my eyesight gets worse and large print editions are generally my book of choice, I've come to appreciate reading off my backlit tablet using a kindle app.

Kate said...

E-books are great if it's impractical to have a large physical library. I lived in Korea for the last four years, and every purchase was made with the understanding that it would have to be mailed home or gotten rid of at the end of my stay. Now that I'm home, however, it's solid books all the way-- if I'm not sure if I want a physical copy, I check it out of the library first. My Kindle is still convenient for trips, though!

Jami said...

Two main things switched me from the Cold Dead Hands category to the Absolutely... In a year.
I got a kindle for winter holidays last year, and I traveled a lot this year. Having the ability to not pack my carry on with a minimum of 1 book per every 2 hours of flight actually got me to the point where if I pack correctly, a week out of town no longer requires me to check any bags. Plus, I tend to overbuy on books, so I always have something to read, regardless of what I'm in the mood for. And 2. I no longer have to worry about where I'm going to put yet another box of books (Used book store habit routinely resulted in my coming home with ~50 books every couple of months... I'm a sucker for cheap). I still by paper copies (along with E copies) for certain authors, but that has more to do with wanting their numbers to look good, and wanting something for them to sign next time I run into them, than actually reading them in paper format.

Catherine Perdue said...

I could not decide with choosing between Ebook and a paperback books. For someone like me who loves books, of course I will choose the real one, but having an Ebook is much easier because you can bring it anytime. However, I still go for the real book because staring at the screen will only get my eyes go a little sore.

Brian Tarbox said...

Buying most books from Amazon makes this easy. Last year I bought 22 ebooks and 2 pbooks. This year I bought 30 ebooks and 0 pbooks.

Michelle Miller said...

I'm still 'cold dead hands' for one simple reason: you can't put an e-book on a shelf.

Alex Beecroft said...

I already do buy more ebooks than print. In fact I get all huffy if I can't get the book I want in ebook format, and reconsider getting it at all. I've already filled the house with print books. I have no more room for them.

Katherine Hyde said...

I voted "maybe," but your criteria are not the same as mine. What might force me to buy more ebooks is the fact that my house cannot hold any more print books. I still prefer print books in every other way.

One thing I miss when I read an ebook is good design. Of course, not all print books are well designed, but very few ebooks are--it's nearly impossible given the constraints of the medium.

Anonymous said...

In the past year I've accumulated two e-readers and a tablet. I haven't read a print book in a year and don't want to go back to reading them. I only buy e-books now.

Robena Grant said...

I've voted in all of the past polls and until this year I was a maybe. Today I voted absolutely. I still love print books but adore my kindle.

Daniel McNeet said...

Nathan,

Another good post. I buy non-fiction books if I am going to use them for research. I buy fiction books also which are historical novels. My light reading I enjoy reading on my Kindle. The political thriller, "Operation Downfall" and other genre are on my kindle. E-readers are winning.
Hope you had a good Thanksgiving.

Anonymous said...

Daniel McNeet,

Way to plug your own book in an inappropriate way. Seemed off so I searched it. Shameless. So not buying it now.

Norma Beishir said...

I've already converted most of my library to either ebooks or digital audio.

And they're good for the environment.

Molly said...

I don't even own an e-Reader or an iPhone, but I still think it is something I might consider. I love the idea of having all my favorite books with me when I travel.

Jillian said...

Mira,

I agree that e-books could be a huge advantage for students--cut back on the books you have to lug into class, help you stay organized. I see a lot of potential in it. However, e-book forms of textbooks have never been offered in any class I've ever taken. If they were offered, I would buy one in a heartbeat. However I don't have a cell phone that would read ebooks, and there aren't that many options at my school (or maybe it's just my major) to get my textbooks via e-book--even if I had an e-book reader.

I think e-books will play a huge part on college campuses someday, but in my experience they haven't yet, unless you're an English major and the majority of the books you have to buy are works of literature. I'm going to school to be a teacher, so none of my linguistics, history, or childhood development textbooks are in e-book form.

Until there are e-book versions of textbooks available in a wide variety of subjects, I don't think e-books can be used in the classroom on a big scale. Though I'm sure that during my lifetime, I could very well see that transition occur. I bet some public schools will eventually experiment with the technology. There is a lot of buzz in the educational community about using technology in the classroom right now (at least in my area). However for either of those to occur, a wider variety of e-books have to be available and the prices of e-book readers have to go down.

Leigh Ann said...

I already buy mostly e-books. Keeping paper books around is nearly impossible with three small children running around - actually reading them is even harder.

My Kindle is the only thing that's enabled me to actually read anything in the last five years, since my first was born. I'll be forever grateful, and I only break the e-reading pattern for ARCs (which I'm grateful to have a good handful of.)

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