Reading the Future: 2010

<p>Three-quarters of readers are not aware of the Amazon Kindle. Three in every five have never even heard of a Sony Reader. The vast majority of consumers (68%) are unlikely or dead set against buying an e-book reader.</p>
<p>Those were some of the more jaw-dropping findings in the innovation and technology section of Reading the Future, <i>The Bookseller</i>'s third annual survey into what readers and book buyers are thinking, and consequently where the trade is heading to next. This year's survey&mdash;once again conducted by research and trends consultancy Next Big Thing&mdash;is a wide-ranging look at the industry, with business critical data and information ranging from the ongoing effect of the financial meltdown on buying habits, the genres that are likely to go up or down, the key factors that drive purchases, from recommendations, to marketing, to television, and where customers like to go&mdash;and will continue to go&mdash;to buy their books.<br />
Digital&mdash;from the Kindle and iPad, to the Google Books Settlement, to the Digital Economy Bill to Amazon&mdash;has dominated the book trade agenda this past year. So we thought it only right to kick off with that part of the industry that is generating the most comment, if it is only at the moment generating scant revenue.</p>
<p>First a quick word on the methodology. We ran an online poll of 3,000 people, with respondents coming from across all regions of the UK, and including a representative spread of adult age, gender and socio-economic groups. It is important to note this is geared towards book readers: we stipulated that all respondents had to have read at least one book in the last year. In order to gain an understanding of how consumer behaviours and attitudes are &shy;changing&mdash;which also helps us predict where they might go next&mdash;we asked the majority of the same questions we did last year. However, to take into account trends over the last 12 months, we added more options to some questions, as well as three new questions: how likely are respondents to buy an e-reader, what innovative products are they aware of, and which initiatives and awards are they aware of. For each of the questions, we have broken the data down further by age, gender, genre (what fans of certain genres prefer) and retail behaviour (based on respondents' preferred place to shop, i.e. indie bookshops, online etc).<br />
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<b> Q1&nbsp; None of the above</b><br />
Counter-intuitively, given the overwhelming press coverage on digi&shy;tal books&mdash;and not just in the trade press but also in the general media&mdash;the popularity and enthusiasm for different types of electronic readers has dipped. This may be affected by changes to our overall innovation question: Which of the following sounds good to you (see table 1)? Among the range of digital innovations, such as dedicated e-readers, mobile readers and netbooks, we added &quot;none of the above&quot;, which came out tops at 32.6% (respondents could tick as many answers as they wished).</p>
<p>Yet we also added two new options (tablets and gaming devices), so the overall dip in e-reader interest is telling. This is perhaps more recessionary than a growing Luddite-ism among consumers; with so many e-reading options out there (and others on the way) there is confusion about which is the &quot;right&quot; choice. Customers do not want to get burned, particularly because of the high cost of devices.</p>
<p>Surprisingly perhaps, it is not the youngest readers who are most interested in the idea of an e-reader: it is 41&ndash;60-year-olds. Also, though for the last two years books &quot;downloadable to a mobile phone/iPod&quot; were most popular with 16&ndash;30s, this year they were most popular with 31&ndash;35s: the new &quot;Smart Phone Generation&quot;. Books readable on gaming devices or iPads were most popular with 16-30-year-olds.</p>
<p>Fans of serious non-fiction and science fiction are generally most positive about innovative products in general. However, crime fans are most interested in e-readers, and romance and celebrity biography fans in mobile phone-readable books and netbooks. Conversely, crime and romance fans are also the ones most likely to say they are not interested in book technology at all; an interesting mix of techies and luddites. <br />
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<b> Q2 The nice price</b><br />
There are more recessionary concerns in our next question: Which of the following might persuade you to buy an e-reader (see table 2)? This year's respondents were more concerned about the cost of the device than last year's. The biggest driver of potential purchase for an e-reader now is a price under &pound;100. The second biggest driver is &quot;if it was as easy to read as a book&quot;. The strength of this driver (20%) compared to the weakness of &quot;if it was easy/simple to use&quot; (just 11%), suggesting a continuing concern over screen quality.</p>
<p>We included three new options this year: if the device were in&shy;tegrated with the web, if it supported enhanced e-books, and if physical and digital books could be bought as a single bundle. None of these were particularly popular. Fewer than one in 20 cited them as key factors, although all three are not widely available, and it is hard for a consumer&shy; to see the benefits of something they have not seen &quot;in the flesh&quot;.</p>
<p>Interestingly, this year those who favour independent bookshops to buy most of their books care more than those who favour the internet about how attractive such a player might look (a reversal of last year's poll); and they care less about ease than they did last year. This suggests such consumers are becoming more accepting of e-readers.<br />
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<b> Q3 What's a Kindle?</b><br />
We asked which of a range of products consumers were aware of (see table 3). The most interesting finding is how little general awareness of e-readers there still is. Approximately three quarters of respondents are aware of the BlackBerry, iPhone and Nintendo DS&mdash;most certainly because these products are actually used by the consumers. <br />
The Apple publicity machine has worked, though. Sixty percent of respondents have heard of the iPad, astonishing given this survey was concluded in March, two months before the device's 28th May UK launch. Compare that to the Sony Reader, which is known by less than half, and the Kindle by only just over a quarter. Other e-readers, from the iLiad to the BeBook Neo, are far less well known even than the two industry leaders, a suggestion that a far greater marketing spend is needed on e-readers.</p>
<p>Older respondents are most aware of e-readers. Over 35s are most aware of the Sony Reader and 36&ndash;55-year-olds of the Kindle, while the 16&ndash;25s are slightly more aware of the iPad. Otherwise, the devices are fairly equally known among age groups (though awareness often falls off among the 60+). Men are more aware of most of the products than women, but women are more aware of BlackBerrys, iPhones and Nintendo DS.<br />
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Q4 Don't get burned</b><br />
When we asked about the possibility of buying an e-reader (see table 4), there was certainly interest. More than two thirds of respondents think there is at least a chance they might buy an e-reader in the next year. However, just one in 14 respondents think they will &quot;probably&quot; buy one. And only 3% of all respondents &shy;actually own a reader yet. Clearly the e-readers currently on the market are not yet attractive enough to persuade a majority of Britons to buy them. Yet this was also true of portable MP3 players before the launch of the iPod.</p>
<p>The 25&ndash;45s are most likely to buy an e-reader in the next 12 months; and the over 45s most likely to say they will &quot;definitely not&quot; buy one, followed by 16&ndash;20s (35%). Men are much more likely than women to buy one. Perhaps expectedly, those who favour the internet for their shopping are most likely to buy one, followed by those who favour independent bookshops.</p>
<p>In larger consumer trends, customers are increasingly wary of being the first to purchase a new product. Too many consumers have been &quot;burned&quot; by products that have been superceded by much improved later versions (e.g. iPhone). Even the young&mdash;who have previously been considered &quot;early adopters&quot;&mdash;are warier today. A Microsoft survey from late last year showed just 10% of teens said they &quot;like to be ahead of everybody else and try to buy the latest technology as soon as it becomes available&quot;, whereas 40% &quot;like to wait and see what other people make of new technology before I buy it&quot;.</p>
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