Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Will You Ever Buy Mostly E-Books? The Results!

Well well well.

Do we have ourselves a leveling off in e-book sentiment that may mirror overall trends in the book business? For the first time, the numbers did not budge.

Incorporating Monday's poll, and once again with the caveat that this poll is unscientific, people who said you'd have to pry paper books out of their cold dead hands:

2007: 49%
2008: 45%
2009: 37%
2010: 30%
2011: 25%
2012: 25%

The people who welcome their coming e-book overlords also held steady:

2007: 7% (!)
2008: 11%
2009: 19%
2010: 32%
2011: 47%
2012: 47%

Have people become entrenched in their habits? Could we be seeing a slowdown in the growth of e-books? Or is this an outlier?

What say you?






46 comments:

Elizabeth said...

I have a Kindle and I love it much more than I like to admit (I've more than once caught myself touching the side of a paper book to change a page). That said, I use it mostly for work--non-fiction, textbooks, Word documents--and for test-driving books before I buy them. I love the convenience of an e-reader, but when it comes to actually readying, I prefer paper books. I think this is because I don't really enjoy reading on my Kindle. I find it hard to get immersed in a book, often bouncing around from one book to the next, but rarely finishing them. I read one book this year that I had completely written off when I read the sample on Kindle, but loved it from page one when I read the hardcover. I still haven't figured out why that is.

Jen said...

I'm one of those you'll have to pry my books out of my cold, dead hands. I haven't jumped on the e-reader train yet. I know. I'm a dinosaur. What can I say. Books will be around forever. You can trade them, write notes in them, autograph them and they feel good in the old hand. plus they have a great smell to them.

Anonymous said...

"Have people become entrenched in their habits? Could we be seeing a slowdown in the growth of e-books? Or is this an outlier?"

I think it's indicitive of the pattern slowing down a little. There are people over a certain age who will never embrace digital books or digital anything. And that's going to take some time. But all you have to do is look at how kids nowadays read and embrace technology and the future is right there.

Mary Corrales said...

I love paperback books and always will but didn't know how great a Kindle was until I got one. Indeed, I can take dozens of ebooks with me without a hassle. There is something to be said for convenience.

Nickie said...

I buy almost exclusively e-books. The only reason I still read physical copies of books is because my library doesn't have a huge selection of e-books. Otherwise, I'd be all electronic copies all the time.

Like Anonymous pointed out, if you want to get an idea of the future of e-books vs physical copies, you need to look at kids. A lot of schools are now issuing textbooks via Kindle or iPad. If that's what kids are growing up with, that's what they'll gravitate toward later in life.

Michelle Gable said...

Very interesting results! I've tried to get into the Kindle, I read about 130-150 books/year and I travel a lot for work...a prime candidate for an e-reader. I have one and I use it but still, I always find myself returning to RFBs as I call them (real f***ing books). I buy a lot of new releases and am bitter when they are markedly cheaper on the e-reader in hardcover. When I look at my reviews on GoodReads I tend to rate books higher I read in paper form. I think in the end reading off the Kindle still feels like I'm working.

Michael Pickett said...

I gave ebooks a try earlier this year and didn't much care for the experience. I think I'll stick with paper books from now on.

Lauren B. said...

I have always been conscious of wallet and shelf space, was never a big book buyer. I always favored the library, before with physical books and now with e-books on my Kindle.

You know what would get me to finally spend more money on books? A subscription-based service.

I'm keeping my eye on Amazon Prime, but I find it difficult to gauge the selection available, and I don't want to be limited to one book a month.

Mira said...

Well, judging by the fact that Kindle sales are through the roof, I'd say this isn't representative. As you said, the poll isn't scientific in terms of method, sample, etc. In fact, it's skewed, in that the option for e-book only is phrased negatively, while the others are phrased positively.

Sorry, I don't mean to be critical, its a fun survey, but It's a snapshot of your readership who had the time and interest to fill out a survey - perhaps multiple times and hopefully honestly,, but that's really all it should be taken for.

Matthew MacNish said...

Hmm. All I'm going to say is that I'm reading a real book right now. Seed, by Rob Ziegler.

But then, I lost my Kindle charger, so I'm not sure how scientific my data is.

The Pollinatrix said...

What Jen said. And also, I already spend waaaaay too much time looking at screens.

I'm not against ebooks, and in certain circumstances I would read and even buy them, but not MORE than I read and buy paper books. This is also because I mostly get my books from thrift/used book stores, anyway.

Christine M. Monson said...

I have an ereader and barely use it. I find it works for purchasing writing reference books because they are cheaper in eformat. However, I only purchase paper books for daily reading. (It gives my eyes a break after staring at computer screens all day.) I love technology, but I'll never make the switch 100% from books to ebooks.

Josin L. McQuein said...

I think a plateau was inevitable. The only question is if the market has reached true equilibrium or if it's a temporary lull.

I wonder if your answers would be different at a different time of year. I imagine that in January, when there are numerous giftcards in play that the percentages would change in favor of e-books because e-readers are given as gifts. Later in the year, without the post-holiday surge in mind, that percentage might drop.

Regina Richards said...

I buy a lot of books. Always have, but I've only bought two this year that weren't ebooks. I hate clutter. I used to have to balance my need for a moderately minimalist environment with my love of books. No more. I can keep them all on my ereader!

Naja Tau said...

I agree with Ms. Monson and Nickie above me. I doubt I'll ever COMPLETELY switch, and in 2007 I would've said you'd never pry those pages out of my hands, but over the years, I've thrown away so many books in the dumpster or at charities... books that I didn't actually want to throw away! (For instance, if I had to move and didn't like a perfectly good book as much as the smaller sized book I had space for, didn't like it enough to ship it, etc.) and I'm developing a slouch from all the college text books I've borne for so long... I made a pact with myself to stop buying books in print if I can at all avoid it so I can move around in my apartment again and so I don't have to waste all my money when the apartment floods or when my circumstances change and I have to move. And I never have to risk buying a book I'll never use in class. If and when I need it, I can download it in 10 seconds. I did this type of thing with my music collection a long, long time ago and I would never go back. I'm wondering if the average age of the people taking that poll has plateued? I generally think of good, seasoned writers as a 30+ crowd.

Walter Dinjos said...

Why should I choose print books over ebooks? My novels are ebooks.

Bryan Russell said...

I'm sticking with my theory: The e-book overlords fear the Zombie Apocalypse because Zombies Prefer Paper. The battle is on.

Claire M. Caterer said...

I'm such a hypocrite. I do read ebooks and enjoy them. I champion the joys of ebook reading to others. But when it comes to my own book, look: I've waited my whole life to see my name on a book cover. Not a screen; a COVER. Now that it's going to happen, you'd better believe I want to see it in all its paper, cardboard, and glue-filled glory!

Carmen Webster Buxton said...

I think we will have to wait until next year to see if this is just a much much slower slope or an actual plateau.

Cecelia Dowdy said...

I embrace e-books. I love my Kindle. My house is cluttered with unread books. Granted, I'll always love a print book for nostalgic reasons, but, I prefer e-books. There's no clutter!!

Ryan G said...

I like the extreme convenience of my Nook Color- I can get an e-book or an audio-book from my local library while lying in bed. However, there's just not enough selection to justify a full-on switch, not to mention that it's just so much easier to get into a paper book.

Melanie Schulz said...

I really like both, for different reasons. I'll never stop buying paper books, but if it's a novel, I almost always buy ebooks. Words are words.

Peter Dudley said...

I think it's a natural move toward equilibrium. The slope of the curve will decrease as the technology becomes more widespread, until ultimately the question will no longer make any sense.

For example, asking this question today would be absurd: "Will you ever get around mostly by car, or will you always travel on horseback?"

I imagine that, as viewed through backwards binoculars, the curves mapping answers to the above question would look pretty similar to these numbers: A steep decline/ascent followed by a leveling off with a long tail that ultimately approaches something close to zero for the old technology.

PS to Josin: Interesting question on timing. I wonder if that would affect this population as much as the population at large.

Stoich91 said...

Uh, HECK TO THE YES it's an outlier. Sure, more people are buying ebooks, b/c their more convenient, but you're polling people on a BLOG. ON THE COMPUTER! :D Not that it makes it irrelevent, but it skews things.

For example, yesterday I was out and about (not glued to the screen like I am today ;)) reading real books and meeting with real people, thus I didn't see the poll and didn't have time to take it.

For the record, I read ebooks/real books about 50/50 and still enjoy real books better (and am by no means old and grey).

Not belittling the people who took the poll! (I took it last year and love this annual tradition). Just pointing out that in an age where society is super busy and around the holidays when everyone's schedule is crammed, you can't exactly plan on getting a perfect reading (no pun intended so sorry GOSH that's like the worst pun ever :D).

Thanks for this poll, though! Really insightful.

Taylor Napolsky said...

Yeah what peter said

Gina said...

Being entirely electronic is too Big Brother/ dystopian for my tastes. I'll keep my untraceable, unfiltered paper books, thanks. Nothing will ever change that. Even if get an e-reader,I will keep buying paper books.

bobbie said...

I love my Kindle. I read a few books a week on it. One of the benefits is that it is easy to see even if you're tired. I find some of the paperbacks are too hard to see. Still love the feel of a real book, but now I only buy those that I want in my library.

Dona said...

For me, at least, it depends on what type of book. Pure, for fun, fiction I am likely to get an ebook.

If it is a book I would use for research or reference (even travel guides, cook books and dictionaries) I want a paper copy. The difficulty with ebooks remains finding your place again. How do I find my way back to that perfect piece of data or quote? I may be old fashioned but none of the electronic 'sticky notes' has yet to reach the ease of use of a Post It.

Anonymous said...

Peter Dudley makes an interesting point, but the Amish still travel by horse. And there are city-dwellers who prefer walking to cars. There will always be a percentage of people, albeit a small percentage, who find that new technology adds nothing to their lives and so they don't embrace it.

But I'm not sure if the difference between paper and e-readers is as vast as the difference between cars and horses, so it's hard to say how big the percentage of paper-lovers will remain. Reading is similar across both formats; only the purchasing and storage aspects are different. Purchasing online can be done for both kinds of books, and there is an added social pleasure in brick-and-mortar shopping that might (or might not) help the physical bookstore survive.

When I first took this poll, I hadn't yet tried e-reading. Now that I have, I can say that I much prefer paper books, so I've switched from the "wait and see" to the "paper" camp. I don't think I'm typical, but I see that I have more company than I would have expected.

I predict that e-books will become the norm, and paper books as rare as the horse-drawn carriage, if and when two things happen: traditional publishing abandons paper books (so that even readers who love them will have trouble finding them), and kids are given e-readers before, or instead of, paper (so that e-books become their norm from infancy).

Crystal said...

I love my Kindle and must admit that since I've had it, I've seen a decrease in additions to my physical book collection (funny how we now have to distinguish the difference). However, there is just something about having the real thing in hand. Not only the book itself, but the entire bookstore experience, spending the time to browse the shelves looking for the next great (hopefully) read. I just don't get that warm fuzzy feeling when clicking through a list of books on Amazon.com. I know, sounds strange, I've learned not to mention this point to most people as I get a strange sideways look when I'm explaining my love for real books, lol!
Whether one is easier to read, or takes up less space than the other is seemingly irrevelant to me. If I had to choose one over the other, I would choose a physical book over an e-book. Absolutely no scientific thought went into this...

treeoflife said...

I've certainly changed my personal habits. Last year, every single book I bought was on my kindle. Many times though, particularly with non-fiction, I wished I bought the real book. This year it's about 50/50 between ebooks and the old fashioned paper ones. And the ebooks I have bought were because I couldn't find them in the book store.

Moyrid said...

I voted maybe. A nook is in my future- I am totally smitten. But the paper books in my families life are here to stay. We all sleep better at night after reading an actual paper book. I will still buy my most loved books in paper, and will probably own them on e-book too. My kids are no different- they have a nook but they wouldn't give up their paper books- as my eight year old says- I can't sleep with my nook- but he does sleep with his favorite books.

John Stanton said...

There is one important dimension to this equation that no one has mentioned yet. In 2007, a Kindle was around $300 retail. That’s the equivalent of buying over a hundred used paperbacks at a thrift store. Back then, I said, “Hell no!”
Last year, I bought a Kindle for $79. Now, I love it.

Jamie Krakover said...

It looks like the ebook phenomenon is settling and finding it's place. The growth seems to be slowing down and holding steady. While I think ebooks have definitely changed the market I don't think print books are going anywhere anytime soon. There's still a large demand for both and I think it's to publishing's benefit to have options for people.

Anonymous said...

It's really hard to get concrete stats with things like this.

I just read an interesting article where Bowker, who are supposed to be accurate, lied and mislead people into believing bogus stats for the number of indie books self-published last year. The Digital Reader discovered this and with a 5 minute google search found out that there were hundreds of thousands of self-published books not accounted for in the Bowker numbers. Very interesting to see how these things can be skewed.

GuyStewart said...

I've tried saying this in other fora but not sure if I'm getting through:

The REAL change will take place when STUDENTS start reading ebooks at school.

Virtually every assigned textbook and novel-for-class in my school of 2000 students is paper. Until the SCHOOL revolution occurs (and I work at a school that is 55% non-white, 40% free-and-reduced lunch, one step out of the inner city), the numbers will probably stay flat. The first company that can REALLY get an ebook into the hands of middle and high school students (and I mean REALLY make it affordable to the lower middle class and poor) will be the first to change how the US reads...

Anonymous said...

"The REAL change will take place when STUDENTS start reading ebooks at school."

I couldn't agree with you more. This was the penultimate dream of Steve Jobs. He portended this years ago and no one paid attention to him, especially no one in publishing.

Anonymous said...

I love the way roses smell, the way certain foods smell, and the way it smells after a thunderstorm. I love the way old furniture smells like wax, and I still remember the way everything smelled so good when it came from my grandmother's pocketbook.

But for the life of me I'll never get this love for the smell of musty old books as an excuse to not read digital books. Someone should come up with a candle or a spray.

T. M. Hunter said...

That the breakdown of folks reading this blog has stayed this year from last? :-)

Heidi Willis said...

I've been following you since before 2007, and I love that you do this every year. It's been fascinating to watch. I can't give scientific evidence, but within my own experience, I'd say this is right on. There's been a dramatic rise in people I know gradually embracing ebooks, but in the past year it seems it's evened out. Those who were going to switch have. Those who haven't... probably won't.

Sheila Cull said...

Your current statistics make it appear that people won't hold to old fashioned book reading, with me as the exception.

When I first read this I got the idea that a majority status for "pry paper books out of their cold dead hands," is a reading style made me feel normal.

Sheila Cull

Scott said...

I think most of us who want e-readers or are curious enough about them to buy one already have, now that they have become inexpensive enough for most of us, and those who are unsure can by e-readers that are also relatively inexpensive tablets. One of the things that kept me from experimenting a few years ago was that I could buy twenty books for the cost of the device. Then I got an iPad through work and tried ebooks, and that convinced me to get a reader that was easier to hold for long periods or in bed. I'm sure my story is far from unique--tablets are the gateway drug that leads to e-readers.

Anonymous said...

Whoever said people over a certain age will never move to E-books doesn't know many older, avid readers with eyesight problems. My otherwise Luddite 80-something relatives read e-books because enlarging the text is so easy.

Dave Wilkie said...

Very interesting survey. I have switched entirely to audiobooks, which get mentioned so rarely in these conversations. I love them and listen to them as often as is possible...in the car, while falling asleep (timer on), on airplanes, on the beach, while walking and while exercising. I have read so many more books per year that I now feel like I can be a writer...as the best say - you have to read, read, read.

I haven't found anyone as into audiobooks as me. I always seem like the outlier. And in trying to decide how to publish my novel, I wonder about the audiobook side of things. I imagine the cost to be high, but a publisher might take care of that. I'm still now leaning to self-publ thanks to this and other blogs.

As to the eBook scenario, I think paper books will become like recorded media. Gone. We will be so digitally inclined with streaming and with so very improved ease of purchase, trial and use that paper will be left on trees. Books are archaic, I hate to admit. They have been around for centuries. What else has lasted that long.

I love paper books and agree that I want to hold my novel in my hand, but I don't see it in the future. Looking at screens, while I agree can get to be too much, will be the way we do everything. As much as we may love paper, it won't make sense economically and won't fit with the times. My kids still read paper books, which gives some hope. They haven't adopted eBooks, but they are so quick to grab a textbook online that I can't see paper lasting for them either. And the younger ones may not even see paper textbooks. Sorry for the long rant, but it was fun to form an opinion here while writing.

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Anonymous said...

I love my paperback books. I own a Kobo and ipad and I rarely use them for e-reading (mainly if im traveling somewhere) i think i'd use my e-reader more if I would get a free digital copy of the paperbook I had purchased (kind of like with certain DVD releases they give you a free digital copy) I'm 27 years old and as long as I can get paperbacks I will (i love the feeling of reading that real book and I stare at screens all day so my eyes need a rest!)

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