CNet reports on a Harris Interactive poll that says 8% of American adults are now using e-readers, and another 12% expect to buy one within the next six months. (8% aren’t sure and 80% are not likely to do so.)

The poll also noted that current e-reader owners are significantly more likely than average to buy a book:

Among the e-reader users polled, 17 percent said they bought between 11 and 20 e-books, while 20 percent purchased 21 or more over the past year. By contrast, 11 percent of all Americans bought between 11 and 20 books last year, while 12 percent bought more than 21.

Only 8 percent of the e-reader audience said they bought no books this past year, compared with 21 percent of people in general who acknowledged the same.

Also, 53% of e-reader owners read more now than they did six months ago—compared to 18% of those who don’t own e-readers.

The CNet article doesn’t really follow up the implications of this survey, but it seems pretty clear to me that if publishers really want to sell more books, they’d better lose their reluctance and throw all their weight behind selling e-book readers and getting those device prices to come down. The more people own them, the more are likely to buy more books. And the more e-books publishers sell, the less print overhead they have to carry.

But on the other hand, perhaps I’m getting cause and effect reversed. It might not be that e-book readers make people want to read more, but that the people likeliest to read more are the ones who will also most want to purchase e-book readers. It’s an interesting question, and probably not one that will be be answered in the near future.


  1. So if only 23% of all Americans bought more then 11 books last year and within 6 months 20% of all Americans say they will have bought an ereader, it’s not looking good for the traditional book sellers. I have to assume that the majority of the people that want to buy an ereadrer are the people that are buying more then 11 books a year.

  2. I’m with Bob W. This survey doesn’t take into account that e-reader purchasers are likely to buy more books regardless of format. Anecdotally, we know that after getting an e-reader people tend to buy more books.

    On the other hand, if a significant portion of the publishers’ biggest customers are moving to e-readers, they need to adapt quickly. Blockbuster’s very recent Chapter 11 is a direct result of being too slow to adjust to changing technology. At this point the publishers are either deluded or simply trying to save face.

  3. As for me, I have purchased at least twelve pbooks every year for many years. My purchase of an ereader has proven to me that it is very likely that I will surpass this number by the amount of ebooks I have purchased up to this date. The ease of purchase and more importantly, the convenience factor make reading ebooks a no-brainer. This ease of purchase factor makes it more desirable to purchase than if one has to go through the comparative hassle of purchasing a pbook.

  4. Trying to simplify complex decisions usually leads to errors. There were several factors that lead to my buying an e-reader, (Kindle 2). The convenience of being able to carry a large collection of books in one small easily transportable device. The ease of reading. The ease of purchasing and reduced time to find and purchase books. The large selection of free works, especially older classics and reference works. The ability to have my shopping and to do lists on it (text files).

    There are some things that I find the paper based publications do much better. Magazines where articles are spread over many usually disconnected pages and have graphics or pictures are better on paper. I find cookbooks better on paper, though I enter the ones I plan to cook into my recipe software and print a copy for
    the clipboard in the kitchen when I cook it.

    I have noticed that I buy a lot more books since I got the Kindle and most are e-books. I am also replacing a lot of print books with e-books to free up shelf space and hopefully eliminate a few of the overflow stacks.

    E-book readers make sense for those who read a lot of long form texts and wish to have several with them at a time. The e-reader is like any tool. You need to have sufficient use to make buying one a sensible decision. If you don’t do much reading or mostly read magazines with lots of pictures, it is not for you.

    As the readers get better with each new generation and as more people are exposed to them, sales will increase to the point that those who read a lot will have one, then growth will slow dramatically.

    In many respects it is still rather early in the development of e-readers and we have many ‘problems’ to find and solve. But we will find and solve them over the next few years and e-readers, or e-reader programs on other portable devices will become ubiquitous. (Think cell phone history from the first cell phones to today’s best smart phones, many of which can host e-reader programs!)

  5. cbrjstklber: Just about everybody except Kindle owners can borrow e-books from the library.

    B&N NOOK owners can also borrow e-books from friends, although there are significant limitations on that.

  6. I checked my shelves and confirmed that I have not purchased a paperback book in all of 2010, and going back some distance into 2009 as well. I have purchased a few hardcover children’s books for gifting, but any books for myself are either e- or the library. I cannot remember the last time I set foot in my local B&N, and its parking lot is no longer overflowing on weekends. That may be due to the economic downturn rather than ebook purchases, but I wonder how many readers who are pinched in the pocketbook are like me and see an ereader as a cheaper alternative to physical books in the long run. In my favorite genre, ebooks are usually $5-7 and trade paperbacks (the only size available) are $13-20! Even if I do have more disposable income someday, I won’t go back to those paperback prices!

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