Ebook studies about market shares and sales are all over the place. But eBook studies about reader habits are a little harder to find.
That’s why I was excited to finally see one that talked about… copyright.
What is a book “worth” when authors are being taught by Amazon that the way to promote their work is to give it away? Or when a quick search for “free ebooks” on Google can get you over 100 million results?
Here are the results from “The Online Copyright Infringement Tracker” from Kantar Media. The statistics are UK-based, but have a lot of significance for any author, reader or otherwise lover of books in all their forms.
1. Less than half of eBook readers are paying for every book they read.
- 51% consumed at least one for free
- 31% consumed ALL eBooks for free
- 49% paid for ALL eBooks
2. Not many people are reading eBooks.
- Only 11% of those surveyed said they had downloaded an eBook
- Only 6% had actually “accessed” an eBook
- 60% of eBook users were female
3. Ebook consumption is on a monthly basis.
- The median number of eBooks accessed in the past three months was 3
- Unlike most tech trends, eBook use among age groups is even across the board:
4. Amazon is the place to go for eBooks.
- 79% of eBook users said they used Amazon’s Kindle service (app, reader, etc.) to download books
5. Most people are spending money on print books, not digital.
- The value of an eBook may not be comparable to a print book – the report estimates that 76% of people who spent anything on books bought print
- 63% of people spent nothing on books, but still read something (a la free eBooks)
- That means that 63% of people are reading only free books
6. People literally think eBooks are worth about a tenth of a print book.
- One helpful chart in the report showed that fewer than 10% of readers were willing to pay for books that cost more than £9.
7. People don’t want to pay very much for streaming models, either
- The start-up, Oyster, attracted a lot of headlines as “the Netflix of books” for offering thousands of titles in a streaming model
- Unfortunately, less than half of the respondents would be willing to pay £5 a month for it
What does it mean, what does it mean?
Ebooks are not valued the same way as print books. Period. That much is obvious. Prices are getting pushed down. Print books are still much, much more popular. Especially when it comes to actually “paying” for “a book.”
Granted, these are UK statistics… but I think it’s still an important overview of the eBook market today that any reader – or writer – should consider when thinking about the future of books.
The biggest obstacle in the future will be convincing people that words on a screen are worth anything. Already, with 63 percent of readers simply not paying for eBooks at all, this seems to be a burden.
My guess is that publishers will have to really cultivate very, very premium content to keep the money going… if eBooks ever get more popular. Then again, will that just turn books that went a traditional route into pay-walled content like The New York Times?
Is the only way to make money for self-published authors going to be writing genre books in series that have to hook people with a free sample or free first novel?
I suspect that we’ll find out, sooner than later. Meanwhile, I will go back to reading the book that I was given by a friend, after just finishing the book I bought from a flea market. Where’s the profit in that?
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