Thursday, April 05, 2012

Ebook reading and purchasing patterns

The Pew Research Center just released a new report on the rise of e-reading. Commentary on the report has noted connections with the digital divide and the ever-present dominance of Amazon in the ebook market.

You can see highlights of the recent study at and (Librarian by Day Bobbi Newman was on the advisory board for the research.)  Previous reports focussed on ownership of ereader devices; this report was on reading habits.

One in five Americans (21%) have read an ebook in the last year.  But even more (22%) had not read any books in the previous year or did not answer the question.  Of those that had read ebooks, only 14% said that their most recently read ebook came from the library.

In a a response, the ALA noted the recent rise in ownership of ereader devices and ebook circulation in libraries, but also expressed concern about the gap in education and income levels between people who read ebooks and those who don't -- or those who don't read books at all. College graduates and people with household incomes greater than $75,000 were far more likely to have read an ebook in the last year than non-college graduates or those with lower income. In the growing popularity of ebooks there is a growing digital divide.

Another reaction, at, examines Amazon's share of the ebook market and the large percentage of ebooks that are only available for the Kindle. Thad McIlroy checked a representative large public library for the top 13 Amazon best-selling ebook titles and found that only 2 of them were available in any format, and none of them were available as ebooks.  (McIlroy criticizes Overdrive, but the publishers probably play a role here as well.) To read these best-sellers, you have to buy them; and to read them as ebooks you have to buy them from Amazon on a Kindle.

I'd like to bring out another point that hasn't been mentioned often: when people purchase print books, they share them with friends and family members, but when they purchase ebooks, friends and family members are more likely to have to purchase separate copies for themselves.  This happened in my own household last week.  I discovered that my husband had purchased the Hunger Games books for the Kindle app on his iPad. I had been waiting for those books to be available from the library. If he had bought them in print I could have easily borrowed his copies, but borrowing his iPad strikes me the same as borrowing a toothbrush; it's a personal device.  I'm still debating whether to break down and buy the series in another format.


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  2. I wrote my comment and it chewed it apart.

  3. Trying for the third time:
    These books are not blocked because of the publishers (although I agree that such is often the case). These particular titles are published mostly by Amazon subsidiaries or are self published, and so the blame falls to the arrangement between Amazon and Overdrive, which clearly is failing.

  4. By the way "43251442" is in fact "Thad McIlroy" at The Future of Publishing, but I could not sign in as such.