E-Book ’em, Danno

For the past few months, I’ve been privileged to work with the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) on their latest study, Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading (http://www.bisg.org/publications/product.php?p=19&c=437). The first of four reports, covering each of the planned survey fieldings, is scheduled to drop the week of January 17. Some of the emerging trends are stunning.

One of the clear trends is the decline of PCs (desktops, laptops and netbook computers) as preferred reading devices. Dedicated e-readers, such as Kindle, Nook and the Sony Reader, are rapidly displacing these for trade titles. (Educational titles are another matter, but that’s a separate BISG study.) Tablets and other multi-functional devices like the iPad are also growing in popularity, but not nearly as much as dedicated e-readers. We also noted that Barnes & Noble’s Nook, despite the fact that it was only 12% of the growing dedicated e-reader segment, scored highest in customer satisfaction, compared to Kindle and especially iPad.

We paid particular attention to the “power buyers” — those who acquired e-book at least weekly. Their demographic indicators (younger, more educated, more urban, etc.) are particularly valuable to publishers looking to future markets. Publishers struggling with e-book economics ignore this group at their peril.

The study dealt with the “cannibalism” issue: whether e-book acquisition negatively impacted the purchase of printed books. The answer, especially for the power buyer segment, is yes. However, total acquisition numbers (both print and e-books) are up. This means that publishers will have to address pricing and other supply chain issues rapidly, developing business models adapted to this growing consumer segment.

There is more analysis in the summary report — which is well worth the price. (BISG also sells access to their Real-Time Reporting system, for publishers who need to access all the survey data.) Whether or not 2011 is “the year of the e-book” is frankly a meaningless question. The future is already here.

— John Parsons (john@bytemedianews.com)



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