Goodreads Survey Shows 86% of Tablet Owners Read on Them, 32% Don’t Read Anywhere Else

GoodreadsThe online bibliophile community Goodreads has just released some of the results of its most recent member survey and they’re raising a few eyebrows.

This survey was based on 1,500 Goodreads members. The results were presented last week at O’Reilly TOC, and based on the first half of the slides I think Otis Chandler was at TOC to meet with publishers and pitch Goodreads’ user base as a survey group. (I’m not complaining; I just thought some publishers would be interested.)

Goodreads found that 37% of the members who owned smartphones read on them, with about 13% not reading ebooks on any other device. In comparison, 86% of tablet owners read on their device, with nearly a third reporting that the tablet was their only reading device.

There’s no obvious explanation for the sharp difference in usage, but the survey does show that smartphone owners are far more likely to use them on the go, with lunch breaks and commuting as the most common reading scenario. Tablet owners, on the other hand, are more likely to read at home than anywhere else.

Good reads also mentioned that during this past holiday season tablets outnumbered ereaders under the Christmas tree. Three and a half times as many tablets were bought for each ereader purchased, confirming once again that the ebook market has moved beyond ereader hardware.

And when it comes to finding their next read, it seems that the vast majority of Goodreads members do what I do. When they finish a book, 83% seek out other books written by the author, while nearly as many look for similar books (75%). But when it comes to picking a book to read, nothing compares to word of mouth. A trusted friend was the single leading reason that members bought and read books, with reviews, samples, and buzz not even coming close.

Later in the survey the respondents revealed that price isn’t necessarily the dominant factor in where they buy ebooks, with only 44% reporting that they usually shopped around before buying. And less than half of that 44% always shop around.

And when readers do shop around, it will likely come as no surprise to learn who has the most loyal customers. It’s not Apple; 65% of the people who read in iBooks also use read Kindle ebooks (and over a quarter read Nook ebooks). And Barnes & Noble also has to share their customers with Amazon (37%).

But Amazon doesn’t have the same issue. Readers of Kindle ebooks are much more loyal than any other segment of the market, with only 18% also reading in iBooks and 15% reading Nook ebooks. This more than anything is an example of why Amazon has dominated the ebook market; they have a loyalty that cannot be matched.

BTW, Kobo placed a distant 4th in the “also read” category, coming in behind Google Play. No matter how impressive one might find their jump in revenue last year they’re still not making a lot of gains in the US market.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. fahirsch19 February, 2013

    My wife has an iPad and an iPhone. She reads on the iPhone. Why? Weight and size. She can read laying down. I can read on an iPad (doing that at this moment!) but only with the iPad on a table. With my iPhone I can read standing up while on a train (I live in Argentina, and at this time train conmuting isn’t the best of experiences), and with one hand I mange to hold the device , changes pages, and hear music at the same time.
    I have yet to try an iPad mini, which I expect to be easier to hold.

  2. fjtorres19 February, 2013

    Good survey but it’s worth remembering Goodreads members aren’t representative of the total market. Some of the results should extrapolate but others I’m pretty sure don’t. The Kindle on Nook number for one… 37% strikes me as too high to translate to non-Goodread’ers…

    1. Logan Kennelly19 February, 2013

      You misread the results. It isn’t that people are installing the Kindle application on Nook devices, they state that customers that primarily buy from B&N (those that buy what Goodreads calls Nook e-books) also buy from Amazon (which they call Kindle e-books).

      I agree that Goodreads is not a great representative sample. Not that it’s a better sample, but my experience is that people tend to buy solely from the default option on the device used for reading unless the selection isn’t very good. (Apple seems to be an exception because it took so long to get into the books market that many long-time users simply become comfortable buying from somewhere else.)

  3. flyingtoastr19 February, 2013

    “This more than anything is an example of why Amazon has dominated the ebook market; they have a loyalty that cannot be matched.”

    Or they have a proprietary format that makes it difficult to get outside their system.

    1. Nate Hoffelder19 February, 2013

      Except that far more people read on smartphones and tablets than ereaders. Those devices can run multiple reading apps, which is kinda the point of that part of the survey.

      And are you really going to suggest that the DRM on ebooks sold by B&N and Apple don’t make their ebooks as proprietary as Amazon’s? Given that removing the DRM is a greater hassle than mere conversion I would have to disagree.

      1. fjtorres19 February, 2013

        Plus: reading epubs, even DRM’ed ones, is a trivial exercise on Amazon’s tablets instead of a running guerilla war on Nooks. And despite this, the proportion of goodreads members with FIREs that read competitors’ books is half of the Nook owners. That suggests it is the *ebookstore* that draws them in, not the lock-in or even the hardware.

      2. flyingtoastr19 February, 2013

        Apple has a pretty praetorian DRM as well. But BN’s is unlocked the same as any other Adobe EPUB DRM (through ADE) or, if the software supports it, via the simple social unlock code.

        And I’m willing to bet a large number of the respondents who said “tablet” are using a Kindle Fire, which does indeed have a lot to do with proprietary lock-in.

  4. faithbw19 February, 2013

    I’m not sure what these results mean beyond the preferences of the Goodreads community. Can the survey results be generalized to tablet owners or readers overall? I’m not sure it can. I guess it is good for publishers to know some of the reading preferences of the GR community but if I were a publisher I would want to know a lot more about valid these survey results are.

  5. Paul19 February, 2013

    I tried to buy a book from Politics and Prose using their Kobe link and although it said they had a copy, it turned out it didn’t work. In the end I bought it on Amazon.

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