According to early coverage, Amazon is facing fierce competition for readers on mobile phones. While the retailer is the dominant ebook retailer among respondents, the survey claims that in certain key age groups iBooks is coming in a close second.
Or at least that is the spin that some are putting on this report; I have a different opinion. I’ve read the publicly available data, and I am less than impressed by the report and the news coverage surrounding it.
To start with, I’m not sure that the survey group represents either the population as a whole, smartphone owners, or even just people who read on smartphones. As you can see in the report (embedded as slides at the end of the post), the survey group consists of 3,000 consumers in the US and UK.
Rather than a random sampling of smartphone owners, the group was artificially divided in two groups: 1,000 who (have/do) read ebooks on their smartphones, and 2,000 who (do not / have not) read ebooks on their smartphones.
The report also shows that 59% of U.K. readers, and 72% of U.S. readers, read more on their smartphone than last year. But from what group? I can’t tell you because it’s not spelled out.
And that’s not the only issue. Publishers Weekly got an early look at the non-public data, and yesterday they reported that:
Overall, Amazon and Apple represent 81% of the mobile reading market, with the Kindle app enjoying a 50% to 31% total edge over iBooks. But among 18-24 year-olds, the split is nearly even, with 41% reading via the Kindle app, and 39 % reading on iBooks. And that gap could soon evaporate, given Apple’s device edge. The Apple iPhone was voted tops in the mobile device category of the survey, with 40% claiming to be iPhone users, with 28% owning a Samsung device.
That report in the PW initially caught my eye because of the focus on the 18-24 age group. While I can agree on the value of watching this group as a bellwether of hardware adoption, they are not quite so important as book buyers.
It’s not just that teens as a rule have less money to spend, but also that an unrelated survey showed a few weeks ago that the 16-24 age group in the UK preferred paper, and that when it comes to buying ebooks they are price sensitive. A large chunk of that survey group said that ebooks should cost less than £3:
When it comes to paperbacks, 37% of young people said they would pay £5.00-£7.00 and 35% said they would pay £3.00-£5.00. However, they are less willing to pay as much for e-books, with 43% saying they should cost less than £3.00 and 27% saying they should cost between £3.00 and £5.00.
All in all, I am having trouble placing this survey report in context of either readers, book buyers, or mobile device owners. It is true that people are reading more on smartphones and tablets, and that those mobile devices outnumber ereaders by a factor of 20 to one, it’s not clear how this survey report relates to that.
And so I don’t plan to give it much attention after today. Am I wrong? The comments are open.