Got a nice trawl of responses to my readers’ survey on e-books. My thanks to everyone who took part.
With 56% of the vote, the most popular e-reader by far was the Kindle. The Sony e-reader came second with 11%. (One respondent was vehemently opposed to the Kindle, on the grounds of software incompatibility. Kindle-fans spoke positively of the reading experience.)
64% said they buy more books now than before they owned an e-reader. 34% said they are buying about the same. No one says they are buying fewer books. So that’s a good thing, isn’t it?
Everyone of the people who took part in my survey said they are still visiting bricks and mortar bookshops. No one has stopped buying print books altogether, though two people said it’s very rare for them to buy a print book these days. (My wife, who did not take part in the survey, says she has given up buying print books now she has a kindle. That said, she didn’t buy a lot of books before, she just read the ones I’d bought!)
In terms of the ratio of print books to e-books, 36% buy more ebooks than print books and 36% buy about the same. A still significant 18% say they buy more print books than ebooks.
As for the number of e-books people are buying, 54% say they buy between 2 and four books a month, with an equal split of the rest between those who buy 0-1 and those who buy 5-10.
Very few people say they have bought the same book in print and e-book editions. Nobody seemed particularly interested in e-books offering an enhanced experience; in fact, a few people were strongly against this. One respondent said it would be “dreadful. I only want to read on eInk, and only text. Video, etc, would completely destroy the reading process for me. Dare I say, it would be both tacky, and sign the world was nearing its end.”
There seemed to be a willingness to try out new authors and self-published authors, though the lack of quality control was mentioned, together with the general appalling standard of proofing. This had an impact on how much people were prepared to pay for self-published e-books. However, the price people were willing to pay was higher than I had expected. One person mentioned a ceiling of £2 for self-published books (most self-publishers charge under £1 is my impression); other people set the price ceiling even higher, with £4 and even £4.99 being mentioned.
Leaving self-published e-books aside, people generally felt that e-books should be cheaper than printed books, which is fair enough. However, interestingly, concern was expressed that if e-books in general are priced too cheaply. “In order for writers to ever make any money at it, prices need to increase,” said one respondent.
Most of the respondents had downloaded legally free books. This was a mixture of new books and out of copyright classics. “Gutenberg holds more books than I will ever have time to read,” said one respondent.
In terms of the general reading experience, the convenience of the Kindle (or other e-reader) was mentioned more than once. “I’d love being able to carry around hundreds of books with me, but I’m not sure the offer is yet up to what I look for,” said one person. A number of people said that much as they like the convenience of the Kindle, they still prefer print books as a reading experience. One comment struck me as particularly interesting: “Print books have been elevated to a luxury for me and I’ll happily pay £30-40 for a great print book.”
So there you have it. If my admittedly small sample is anything to go by, the one positive thing that we can take out of the survey is that overall more books are being bought. Judged as a means of encouraging people to buy books, the Kindle is a force for good. Jonathan Franzen, eat your words.