There's a survey circulating today that reportedly shows that ebooks aren't nearly as popular as the latest market data would make you think. While some might report that this is a sign that ebooks were overhyped, I'm not so sure this story deserves any attention.
According to a new survey from Rasmussen Reports which was conducted this month, 75 percent of Americans still prefer paper books over ebooks. A mere 15% of the 1,000 respondents to the poll indicated that they liked ebooks over paper books, with about 10% remaining undecided.
That sounds like terrible news for ebook advocates such as myself, and it sounds like potentially the death knell for digital publishing, right?
Well, no. Take a moment and look at how the conclusion is phrased:
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 75% of American Adults would rather read a book in a traditional print format than on an electronic book-reading device like a Kindle. Fifteen percent (15%) prefer reading on an electronic device. Ten percent (10%) are undecided.
Do you see how it doesn't say readers or book buyers? That could be an important detail. While I don't have many specific details about the Rasmussen survey (it's behind a paywall) I do know that there is readily available survey data that shows that the average book buyer likes ebooks.
BISG released a survey report back in April that showed a significant increase in preference among readers of ebooks for tablets over ereaders. That report also revealed that:
About 82 percent of Power Buyers (consumers who acquire e-books on a weekly basis) say they prefer e-books over print and nearly 70 percent of Non-Power Buyers say they now prefer e- over print.
You're not supposed to apply any extensive cross analysis of data from different surveys (not without knowing more about the methodology), but it's safe to point out that the data sets contradict each other and consider why.
If three-quarters of an undefined survey group likes paper but a majority of the actual customer base likes digital, what are the chances that most of that 75% don't buy very many books in the first place?
I'd say it's pretty good.
I would tend to think that the buyers are the only ones worth paying attention to, but given the extensive coverage the Rasmussen survey is going to get these next few day I might be the only blogger who figured that out.
P.S. If someone has access to the data behind the paywall, please let me know if that 75% reflects readers, book buyers, or the general population. I would really like to know.