Did Pew just find that nearly twice as many paperbooks are read as e-books?

Did Pew just find that nearly twice as many paperbooks are read as e-books?

I keep seeing various things which seem to suggest that e-book growth has stagnated…that it had a meteoric rise from when the Kindle was introduced to something like 25% of the market, and then has hit a plateau.

That narrative certainly wouldn’t fit what I thought would happen.

Quite simply, I think e-books are generally better for most people, in terms of simple recreational reading of novels or popular non-fiction.

There are all sorts of advantages: the increasable font size, how portable e-books are, the ability to look up words, the way it can remember where you were without a bookmark, and so on

Sure, there are some disadvantages as well, but I honestly think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

At the very least, p-books aren’t twice as good as e-books for the most popular kinds of reading.

Pew regularly surveys Americans on their reading habits, and looking at it comparatively from year to year, it isn’t obvious that there is the same kind of explosive growth.

Taking a look at this year’s

Book Reading 2016 report

as summarized by Andrew Perrin, there is a lot of interesting information (based on their survey).

I don’t want to take too much away from it. I’ll mention that I was surprised that the younger the age segment, the higher percentage of them say they have read an e-book. My impression, in the beginning, was that e-books appealed more to older readers. The benefits one gets from e-books apply more to typical seniors than to Millenials.

I suspect that this change, if it is one, may have to do with a trend to read e-books on SmartPhones and other non-reading dedicated devices, as opposed to EBRs (E-Book Readers). My guess would be that SmartPhone use is more prevalent among younger people…I don’t tend to read e-books on my phone, because the screen is simply too small (among other reasons).

What I’ve seen as the main headline from this report, when it has appeared in the blogosphere, is soe variant of this which appears in the actual report summary:

“…print books remain much more popular than books in digital formats”

I think people writing those headlines may have missed something.

While it may be true that 54% of respondents reporting having read a “print book” in the past 12 months, only 28% having read an e-book, that doesn’t mean that about twice as many p-books were read as e-books.

My intuition is that serious readers are more likely to read e-books than casual readers…they also benefit from the advantages (especially the storage and portability) more.

Let’s say that a serious reader reads fifty books a year and a casual reader reads ten books a year. The latter number is actually high, but let’s go with it.

Next, let’s say that 75% of e-books are read by serious readers.

That would mean that serious readers read 37.5 e-books a year and 12.5 p-books.

The casual read would read 2.5 e-books and 7.5 p-books.

That would make 40 e-books versus 20 p-books.

That seems more accurate to me. I also think e-book growth will continue, especially since younger people seem to be reading them the most.

I do recommend you read the report (it’s not very long). I’d love to discuss some of the other points, if you want to ask me about them. You can do that, and tell me and my readers what you think about what I’ve said, by commenting on this post.

Bonus thought: is a refresh coming to the Echo line? Amazon has announced a September 14th event of some kind for the UK, and some people think that might be the Echo coming to the UK. The Echo Dot (I use one every day) is no longer available, with no indication of when it might be coming back in stock.

You can still get the

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

or the

Amazon Tap (at AmazonSmile*)

We might hear more on the 14th than some are currently guessing…Amazon is good at that.

By the way, this is an interesting third party device! It’s a

Portable Battery Base for Echo (Use Echo anywhere) (at AmazonSmile*)

For $49.99 at time of writing, you can run your Echo off this base for something like 5 hours…without plugging it into power! The Tap is still more portable, but for many people, this would serve that purpose. It also enables you to talk to it from across the room, which you can’t do with the Tap.

The reviews are very good, with 4.6 stars average out of 5 with 145 customer reviews.

This might be a fun gift for somebody who has already been “Alexified”. 😉

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Do you have what it takes to be a Timeblazer?

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

13 Responses to “Did Pew just find that nearly twice as many paperbooks are read as e-books?”

  1. Phink Says:

    The part about millennials reading ebooks made me think. I know you have an extensive library but I was wondering had the kindle been developed when you were 16 years old how do you think that would have affected your library size by the time you were older?

    Also, I am not a bit surprised about young whipper snappers being fond of the kindle. I would have thought they’d prefer it to a DTB more than the elders of our society. Young people love technology much more than the older people do. At least according to the bubble I live in. I have nothing but my own experiences to back that up. I have an elderly relative who loves to read but they have a hard time holding the book, their eyes are strained and it’s not as comfortable as a kindle would be but that does not matter to her. Computers are going to be the downfall of mankind and she will not have any computer type device in her home. Now, I am not mocking those views I am only expressing them as an example. That is only one example and plenty of elders have grown to love technology as well but what young person does not love technology and gizmo’s and all that come with them?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phink!

      If I’d had a Kindle when I was 16, I do think my physical library would be smaller…and my Kindle library would be bigger. I still would have bought a lot more p-books than I am now, because I think I was more into collecting than I am now. Now, we have to be aware of the amount of space our “stuff” takes up, and that’s certainly one impact.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phink!

      Sorry I split this into two responses! Been super busy lately, trying to catch up and I hit reply when I’d addressed the first part.

      When Kindles were first becoming popular and people were just doing self-reported polls, it tended to be older people embracing the device more than younger people. I think there might be a couple of factors there. First, when we are talking about Millenials, “gizmos” are much more just a part of ther lives. Do I love the fact that I have a television? Nope, I’ve always had one. For a kid the late 1940s/early 1950s, though, that would be different.

      Second, I think that for some Millenials, reading any book is a somewhat retro experience and they like to embrace that with a physical book.

      Remember that Baby Boomers, who are in that older group now, invented home computing…

      • Phink Says:

        Very good point about the TV. Plus, retro seems to be the in thing from time to time. I can’t wait for my parachute pants to come back in style. Of course I’ll have to lose 30 pounds to get in them but I can’t wait.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Phink!

        Everything’s in style…that’s up to you. 🙂

  2. Phink Says:

    I love the portable battery base for the Echo. I’m just not sure how often I’d use it since I have my tap, which I love by the way. I use it 10 times more than the Echo now. It’s super convenient for audible because I can carry it around the house with me, much easier than carrying the Echo even with this new contraption, plus the sound is really good for such a small speaker.

    I sold my DOT. I got it mostly in order to plug my BOSE into it but that was a big problem. With the auxiliary cable I had to turn the BOSE waaaayyyyy up in order to have a good amount of sound compared to when I had my iPod Classic plugged directly into the port. There is no volume indicator so when turning it back down for the iPod I had to guess and it was just irritating. Plus, once I got the tap I realized I did not need it. They were selling on eBay for 2-3 times what they cost new but I got into it with eBay a few years ago so I sold mine to a pawn shop for just a hair more than I paid for it new. I got to use it for free and am very happy about that. I very much prefer the tap myself.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phink!

      I use a Tap every day at work, and show it off…people are impressed. If someone already has an Echo, though, the battery base is less expensive that a Tap.

  3. Tom S Says:

    Pew neglected to ask “what percentage of the books you read were digital vs physical?” That would have allowed the analysis to continue further and estimate what the ratio between the two formats is. And there’s no evidence they considered audiobooks as ‘books’ for purposes of this study, but I certainly would.

    I’m surprised the ‘cellphone’ (a somewhat antiquated term, they must mean ‘smartphone’) share is so low, and laptop/desktop share so high. Non-smart cellphones still exist and a lot of people use them, but they do not have reading apps on them. I would read a lot more on a smartphone myself, except for now I have a Fire Phone and its Kindle app is comparatively sub-standard (does not sync automatically, bad typography, scroll mode is flawed etc). Tablets are good for some kinds of reading but

    The battery base is pretty but there are less costly external battery options that store more energy and can be used with other devices. I have one that cost $27 and stores enough to charge an iPad, which operates for about 10-11 hours for offline video). I’m not able to find any benchmarks about how much audio streaming that is the equivalent of, but seems like it would be more than 5 hours. I must try it with my Dot, it never occurred to me that I had this option!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Tom!

      Yes, I think it was their conclusions that were unwarranted. What they measured was how many people read e-books and p-books, not how many e-books and p-books are read. When they then use the term “popular”…well, I suppose it suggests popularity based on individuals that you treat as equivalent, but I think a movie which is seen ten times by some individuals would be seen as more popular than one that is only seen once by the same number of people.

      Oh, and I carry a power bank with me, but it couldn’t charge my Echo…wrong ports. Do you have a power bank that would take the Echo’s power cord?

  4. New Echo Dot introduced | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] Did Pew just find that nearly twice as many paperbooks are read as e-books? […]

  5. John Aga Says:

    I believe eBook readers read more books per person than people who read pbooks. I wish the survey did not assume eBook and pbooks readers have identical reading habits. I also believe that those who read on dedicated reading devices read the most per person.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, John!

      I would guess the same as you, but this survey doesn’t show that. That’s fine…but I think their summaries overstated it. Maybe I’ll do a (completely unscientific) poll myself…

  6. In which format do you read the most books? | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] Did Pew just find that nearly twice as many paperbooks are read as e-books? […]

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