Two major reports on the reading and book buying habits of Americans were issued last week. The Association of American Publishers issued its monthly StatShot and the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project published its findings on The Rise of e-Reading.
This shouldn’t be a surprise as Pew found that
- 21% of American adults said they had read an e-book in 2012 up from 17% in 2011.
- “…29% of Americans age 18 and older own at least one specialized device for e-book reading – either a tablet or an e-book reader.”
- “There are four times more people reading e-books on a typical day now than was the case less than two years ago.”
So, should writers focus all their energy on e-books? Not necessarily. The Pew survey found that “…printed books still dominate the world of book readers.”
Galley Cat, in its analysis of AAP figures, found that hardcover adult fiction still produced more revenue than e-books ($1,382.4 million to $1,251.2 million although its percentage of the market declined 6.7% over 2011. Paperback sales in this category increased 6.2% to $1,493.9. Genre fiction is the most successful category among e-book.
But in some categories all types of sales were up. Children’s/YA was notable with
- Hardcover +11.2% at $828.9 million
- Board books +1.9% a5 $55.1 million
- E-books +120.9% at $232.8 million
The AAP reported, “Some publishers have attributed this to the availability of more options for devices aimed at those demographics as well as a number of popular new releases.”
Children’s book authors should, however, pay particular attention to Pew’s finding that 81% of its respondents preferred printed books to e-books for reading with children.This suggests that most of the e-book sales above were in the YA category.
Similar differences in the rate of e-book adoption are evident in other categories. Galley Cat reported the AAP found triple digit growth in e-book sales in the Religious Presses category.
It is important for authors to research the format that is most successful in their category. That may lead them to produce a print and an e-book version, a print only version or an e-book only depending on what readers prefer.
In the longer term, authors should understand that e-book readers (the people, not the devices) are a critical market segment because they both read and buy more books than print book readers. The Pew study reported
- "The average reader of e-books says she has read 24 books...in the past 12 months, compared with an average of 15 books for a non-e-book consumer."
- "...88% of those who read e-books in the past 12 months also read print books."
- "Those who read e-books report they have read more books in all formats."
- "Men who own e-reading devices, and e-content consumers under age 50 are particularly likely to say they are reading more."
- E-book readers are more likely to buy books than print book readers by 61% to 54%.