|By Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director, Digital Book World, @JDGsaid
As consumers increasingly choose tablet computers over e-readers for e-book reading, the e-book business will be adversely affected, according to a new survey.
Over the course of the past six months, consumers’ preference for dedicated e-readers as a “first choice” reading device declined to 58% from 72%, according to the second installment of the Book Industry Study Group’s Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading survey. At the same time, 24% of e-book buyers prefer to read on tablet devices, up from less than 13% in August 2011 when the first installment of the survey was conducted.
As tablet popularity rises and that of e-readers falls, the e-book business could suffer, according to Kelly Gallagher, vice president of publishing services at Bowker Market Research, which partnered with BISG on the survey.
“Tablets will adversely affect the e-book business in that the tablet is a multifunction device and will therefore draw the reader into non-book activities and therefore cause them to consume books slower and therefore buy fewer books versus a single function e-reading device,” said Gallagher.
The survey, conducted among 1,000 e-book buyers in February 2012, has good news for publishers, too. Nearly two thirds of respondents said they spent more money on e-books once they bought an e-reading device of any kind and nearly three quarters said they bought more e-book titles.
In the short term, at least, e-book buying continues to rise despite the growing popularity of tablets.
As consumers increasingly turn to tablets versus e-readers, e-reader manufacturers will respond by lowering prices, said Gallagher. So much so that by year-end, Amazon and Barnes & Noble will be selling e-readers for $0 in order to encourage book-buying and customer loyalty.
“I think Nook and Kindle will actively promote this [a free e-reader] by the end of the year,” said Gallagher. “Both for different interests. Nook because the books drive the business; Give away the razors, sell the replacement blades. And Amazon to keep the reader, customer captured so that they can maintain the buyer for all their other products.”
In December 2012, Hachette Digital head Maja Thomas told Digital Book World, “I’ll expect to see a free reader come on the market with some business model around it and I’m still expecting to see that.”