Survey: Those With E-book Readers Read 40% More Than Physical Book Readers

Kindle with books

The Wall Street Journal consolidated a few different studies on e-book readers, giving further credence to what I posited in my Kindle review: E-book readers encourage reading.

The most informative survey was conducted recently by Marketing and Research Resources, Inc.—but paid for by Sony, a pioneer of e-book readers and a company with a considerable stake in the results. Luckily, the results aren't Sony-skewed—it looked at 1,200 e-book reader owners, including those who own the Amazon Kindle, Apple iPad, and Sony Reader.

The survey found that 40% of e-book reader owners say they read more than they did prior to the purchase of the e-book reader. 55% say they read the same amount, and only 2% say they read less. Amazon has said that Kindle owners purchase 3.3 times as many books as they did before the purchase of the Kindle, and e-book sales have risen along with sales of the Kindle (and other e-book readers). That allows authors like Seth Godin to go digital-only—there are still lots of readers out there in the digital world.

A survey from the Book Industry Study Group found an interesting gender reversal as well. Though women make up the majority of physical book purchases, 52% of e-book purchases are made by men. It's suggested that this is due to the early adopter gender spread: Men tend to be early adopters of tech more than women, and by some accounts, e-book readers still qualify as early products.

Anecdotally, I agree wholeheartedly with the findings. I've bought two books in the last week (the new Gary Shteyngart is quite good!) for my Kindle, though had I not owned the e-book reader, I'd likely have gotten it from the library or possibly just watched Top Chef instead. E-book readers, in whatever form they take, are good for the industry even as a fledgling medium.

Dan Nosowitz, the author of this post, can be followed on Twitter, corresponded with via email, and stalked in Brooklyn (no link for that one—you'll have to do the legwork yourself).

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  • Saurabh Sharma

    You have made some really solid and relevant arguments. I don't think this was a particularly scientific study. I surely don't see a reference to the the detailed study.
    "Note that the same NYT article indicates that total books sales FELL 1.8% in 2009. Yes e-books doubled their market share, but the total market is still falling..."
    This actually proves what the author of the above article is trying to prove....that people like to read on an ebook reader.
    Please note that although this article doesn't explicitly prove that eBooks are better liked as a medium to read, no study has proved otherwise either. Lot of people who say that the smell and feel of real paper can't be replaced have never even seen an eBook paper. If they had, they would realize that the smell and the feel are not the most important feature.... convenience and ease of use may count for more....

    Personally speaking, if I had an eBook reader I would definitely read more because it would just be too convenient to buy and read books.

  • Carl Chesko

    This study appears like it could be a classic case of "correlation without causation". In other words, is it really the e-reader that causes consumers to buy more books? Or does it actually work the opposite way - do consumers make a conscious choice to read more books, and then choose an e-reader as their medium.

    The increased reading done by e-reader owners could come from any number of causes. 1. The e-reader came with 3 free books, or a coupon for several e-books. 2. New toy syndrome - just like children, many of us prefer to play with the new toy instead of the stack of old books in the corner. 3. Self-justification - "I just spent hundreds on a e-reader, so I need to buy more books to justify the expense."

    Note that the same NYT article indicates that total books sales FELL 1.8% in 2009. Yes e-books doubled their market share, but the total market is still falling...

    E-book readers may be the wave of the future for the publishing industry. But, they are not a magic bullet that will automatically double book sales either...