Skip to main content

The Bookseller Tells Us that 73% of UK Youth Prefer Paper Books, But They Forgot to Tell Us What Percentage Read Regularly

3598534263_aaba5a75c0[1]The Bookseller posted the results of a recent survey this morning, and while it is nifty to know details like 31% of British youth don’t buy ebooks, I think they missed the more important question.

The survey polled 900 Brits aged 16-24 about their reading habits, resulting in the not so surprising news that many in the survey group prefer paper. Also:

Luke Mitchell, director of Voxburner, said the research found people in the 16-24 age group think e-books are too expensive. “They told us they like to touch books and see the creases in the spine, but for bargain-driven young people the conversion to e-books will most likely be determined by price," he said. "In our research, 70% said that £6.99 was a reasonable price to pay for a paperback but only 10% were prepared to pay the same for an e-book.”

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.

That’s interesting and all, but I would much rather know what percentage of that age group are active readers. I would think that is the more important detail.

There’s an ongoing refrain that people are reading less these days, with article after article after article proclaiming the death of reading, and considering that this trend has been identified among kids in the UK I for one would like to know whether teens were showing similar habits.

I also think it would be a good idea if the UK publishing industry could find out exactly what percentage of the population were potential customers, don’t you?

image  by secretlondon123

Similar Articles


William D. O’Neil September 26, 2014 um 1:04 am

Hopeless. If book sales follow Pareto’s Law the way most sales do, then the top 20% of buyers in this age range account for 80% of the book sales to 16-24 year old buyers. If you’re interested in selling books, it’s that top 20% you want to know about.

Judging from my experience and what I see among others, tastes and preferences for most people will change radically between 16 and 24, and so will the ability and willingness to buy books. Even young people who are interested in reading often buy very few books until their late teens at least — they don’t have money to spend on them nor room to store them.

And none of this gets to two of the chief reasons for buying e-books: (1) They don’t take up any space. (2) Instant gratification — order the book and it’s there, with no wait. I would guess that these would be especially powerful for young people, or at least young people who actually read books.

Who cares about popularity or beauty contests; I want to know what choices people actually make when money is on the line.

AltheGreatandPowerful September 26, 2014 um 1:52 am

Given the many avenues to acquire free ebooks, and my lack of cash when I was a teen, I’d probably rhapsodize about old paper but read mostly ebooks. Because no matter how sexy a real paper book is, I couldn’t BUY any without cash, which I did not HAVE as a kid. Which lack of funds amongst youth this story does not address, which suggests it is of little value at all…

Nate Hoffelder September 26, 2014 um 8:08 am

Good point.

Timothy Wilhoit September 26, 2014 um 9:18 am

"That’s interesting and all, but I would much rather know what percentage of that age group are active readers. I would think that is the more important detail."

You’ve hit upon the problem with this study. Some of the data indicates there is at least a small percentage, at least 20%, that are probably regular readers. I figure the 20% that follow book reading blogs are active readers. (There are trolls with an agenda who follow book blogs, but we know who they are.) The respondents who mentioned specific authors noted a fair number of classic and/or children’s authors. Those young people could be noting authors they liked (or at least covered) years earlier in school. That doesn’t indicate whether they are current readers or that they read outside of school work. Those respondents would be highly likely to choose paper as their preferred medium. This feels a lot like the Norwegian researcher’s study when she compared paper vs. Kindle efficacy when only two of the fifty test subjects had ever used a Kindle.

Once, just once, I wish someone would do a study with self-described "heavy readers" (specifically defined by x books read per year) and have them reveal their medium of choice. I’m cynical, but it seems a lot of these studies are conducted so as to get a desired result.

AltheGreatandPowerful September 26, 2014 um 1:09 pm

1st data point – I am a mid-50s heavy reader. I typically read a book or more a day, and 350-500/year.

I worked at Borders for the discount.

When I went to grad school in Texas I took 1600 pounds of household goods and 5000 pounds of books (including only two boxes of reference books, the rest were reading for fun), after I’d given away most of my paperback collection.

Now that I can, I buy ebooks 90-95% of the time rather than paper, to read on my Kindle DX and on my Nexus tablet and on my phone and on various pcs. I carry a library with me, instead of just one book.

Write a Comment