17% of U.S. Adults Read E-Books, but Only 11% Bought, says Simba Information survey

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From the press release:

Publishing forecast firm Simba Information has released the highly anticipated fourth edition of its flagship Trade E-Book Publishing report series and estimates 17% of U.S. adults have read at least one e-book in 2011, up from the 11% who did so in 2010. In keeping with the report’s tradition of measuring the commitment individual adults have to e-books, the percentage of adults who bought e-books was shown to be 11% of adults — up from 9%.

“The e-book market is expanding, but the gap between ‘users’ and ‘buyers’ grew more than expected in 2011,” said Michael Norris, senior analyst of Simba Information’s Trade Books Group, commenting on the findings. “Making the distinction between those who read and those who buy is an unbelievably important one, and we’re proud to do it for the fourth year of this report.”

Some of the usual book consumption habits still remain. The report finds that about four times as many adults bought a paperback book compared to an e-book. The children’s and young adult (YA) market continues to lag behind the digital development of adult trade: the report shows about 23% of all adults bought at least one children’s/YA print book in 2011 while just 4% purchased a children’s or YA e-book.

Another finding in the device analysis was that more consumers have begun reading e-books through tablet devices, but not every tablet goes to a new reader. Findings in the report conclude one in 10 Kindle owners have updated their Kindles in the past three months — almost certainly to the new Kindle Fire. Additionally, 53% of iPad owners — up from 40% in last year’s report — do not use e-books at all.

“The whole issue about e-books isn’t about whether customers can access content, but whether they will engage with content,” Norris said. “It’s a tougher problem and we hope this report will go a long way to help solve it by understanding e-book users and e-book buyers.”

“Trade E-book Publishing 2012” includes analysis on how much money e-book users spend on digital titles and a full psychographic analysis to profile e-book user habits like never before. Since the proprietary data is collected regularly, Simba has added specific devices to its nationally representative survey as they came to market. Devices profiled in this edition include Barnes & Noble’s Nook line, smartphones (including the iPhone), Amazon’s Kindle devices, Apple’s iPad and more. The report also analyzes devices based on specifications, such as E-Ink screens versus the increasingly common color touchscreens. Projections on which devices are expected to lead though 2014 — and which are expected to fall — are provided in the report.

The report also tracks demographics of book buyers on gender, age, household income, education level and more — and provides triple the value of the information by showing demographic details of all e-book users, e-book users who have received free e-books in the past 12 months.

2 Comments on 17% of U.S. Adults Read E-Books, but Only 11% Bought, says Simba Information survey

  1. What a confusing little press release! I sought more info on the Simba site, but found nothing.

    How are we to judge the fact that Simba found nearly 20% fewer readers of ebooks in 2011 (17% vs 21%) than did the very reputable Pew organization, as was reported here less than a week ago: http://newteleread.com/wordpress/paul-biba/pew-issues-comprehensive-survey-report-on-ereading/.

    Even more perplexing is the statement “adults who bought e-books was shown to be 11%” or two-thirds of those who read e-books. Mr. Norris of Simba wags his finger and sates that “Making the distinction between those who read and those who buy is an unbelievably important one”. Why so? To estimate the popularity of free ebooks or to further alarm us of the purported out-of-control problem of piracy?

    We learn that 10% of Kindle owners has “updated” their devices in the past three month, “almost certainly to the new Kindle Fire”. Was this $199 purchase made in order to better display their pirated booty or to show off their free public domain classics?

    Simba charges $3,250 for its report. I expect it would look stunning on either the Kindle or the iPad (although 53% of iPad owners — up from 40% last year — do not “use” e-books at all).

  2. I don’t think 17% is a great deal different from 21%. I’d be very surprised if they were more than a standard deviation apart, let alone two.

    I think the point about the distinction between those who read and those who buy is simply that if more people are reading without buying (whether legitimately or not) then it’s harder to make money by selling ebooks. It’s not necessarily a point about piracy per se.

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