Print Still Rules for Book Readers, but E-Content on the Rise

April 5, 2012

This article is included in these additional categories:

Magazines | Media & Entertainment | Men | Mobile Phone | Newspapers | Retail & E-Commerce | Technology | Women

pew-book-formats-used-by-readers-dec-11-v-jun-10-apr2012.jpgThe vast majority of adult book readers are reading print books on any given day, but the proportion reading e-books is rising rapidly, reports the [pdf] Pew Internet & American Life Project in an April 2012 study. Comparing results from a June 2010 survey and a December 2011 survey, Pew found that among book readers who reported reading a book the day before the survey, those reading print books dropped from 95% to 84%, while there was a corresponding increase in those reading e-books, from 4% to 15%. The proportion who said they were listening to an audiobook remained flat at 4%.

Print King for E-Reader Owners, Too

Print books remain popular among e-reader and tablet owners, too: 9 in 10 device owners aged 16 or older said they read a print book in the past year, compared to 93% for the overall average. And among the 56% of device owners who said they read a book “yesterday,” 63% said they read a print book, compared to 42% who read an e-book.

Print Better for Sharing; E-Books for Convenience

Looking at respondents who had read both e-books and printed books in the past 12 months, the study shows that the print format is much preferred for reading with a child (81% vs. 9%) and sharing books with other people (69% vs. 25%). Preferences for print books and e-books when reading in bed are about evenly split, at 43% and 45%, respectively. E-books take the upper hand when it comes to having a wide selection of books to choose from (53% vs. 35%), reading while traveling or commuting (73% vs. 19%), and being able to get a book quickly (83% vs. 13%).

Most Purchase the Books They Consume

Data from Pew’s “The Rise of E-Reading” indicates that most e-book and print readers prefer to buy books rather than borrow them, with the former about 13% more likely to report a preference for purchasing copies of the books (61% vs. 54%). By contrast, among audiobook listeners, 61% prefer borrowing the book, compared to 32% who prefer to buy it.

Examining these preferences more closely, among printed book readers, men are more likely to want to buy books, as are those making at least $75,000 a year. Tablet users and e-reader device users are more likely than non-users to say that they prefer to purchase their own copies of both print and e-books.

Other Findings:

  • The average e-book reader has read an average of 24 books in the past year, compared to an average of 15 books by the non-e-book reader. This trend towards greater readership by e-reader owners has also been found by Harris Interactive in March 2012 poll results. Data from that survey indicates that roughly three-quarters of e-reader users typically read at least 6 books in a given year, compared to 42% of non-users.
  • 58% of Pew survey respondents aged 16 and older said they regularly read news or a daily newspaper, and close to half said they regularly read magazines and journals. Tablet and e-reader owners were much more likely than non-owners to do both types of reading.
  • Among respondents who do not own an e-reader, the main reasons for not currently having one are not needing or wanting one (24%), cost (19%), and preferring books in print (16%).

About the Data: The Pew findings are from a survey of 2,986 Americans ages 16 and older, conducted from November 16-December 21, 2011.


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