E-reader market doubles over Christmas in the UK

The e-reader market doubled over Christmas, according to statistics given out by the Publishers Association at its annual digital seminar.

The figures, compiled by Book Marketing Limited, showed that 7% of British adults received a dedicated e-reader over the festive period, bringing the total percentage of adults with e-book readers up to 13%, or 6.5m adults.

The Kindle was revealed as the most popular device with 24% of those who had downloaded an e-book saying they had used the Amazon e-book reader. The iPhone was revealed as playing an important role in the e-reading market: 19% of downloaders use one to read digital content, with 13% saying that it is the device they use most often.

However, out of all devices, the Kindle was the one rising fastest, having overtaken the Sony Reader as the dominant dedicated e-reader in users' hands. According to the stats 5% of adults said they'd received a Kindle, ahead of the 4% who said they'd acquired an iPad. Just 1% of the sample said they'd received a Sony Reader. The figures suggest that of the 6.5m adults who own e-readers, 3.5m own Kindles, while 2m own Sony e-Readers. It also points to 3m iPads having been sold in the UK in total, 2m over Christmas.

The survey also revealed that 61% of those who had received an e-reader for Christmas had downloaded a paid-for e-book, with the average debutant having bought 5.9 e-books. The figures, for new e-reader owners and average purchase, suggest that as many as 10m e-books have been sold in the UK since Christmas, compared with 18.6m print books sold over the same period.

Jo Henry, BML m.d. who presented the figures, said the absolute numbers could be skewed by the fact that the sample audience came from online users and heavier book buyers, and that consumers would download less over time. "It is likely that new people into the market (and anecdotally we know this happens) are very keen to download lots, then after a while realise they're not reading them, so they slow down," she told The Bookseller. But she said the market had been driven by the Kindle since Christmas.

Richard Mollet, chief executive of The Publishers Association, who gave the keynote address at the PA’s digital conference where the findings were announced said: "Our research shows that the Christmas period, despite bad weather and consumer anxiety, has had an important and positive effect on e-reading purchases." He added: "Publishers are tapping into this burgeoning digital market; they are renowned for their innovation and, as the digital space evolves at such remarkable speed, publishers are in a very strong position to forge ahead with their own digital products, ideas and investments."

The research covers the period from Christmas Day, 25th December 2010, to 31st January 2011. It sampled over 2,076 respondents, weighted to be representative of the national population.