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Are Parents Under-Reporting the eBooks They Buy for Their Kids?

One common concern with consumer surveys is that the respondents might not answer truthfully. Whether through unconscious bias or simple oversight, there’s always a chance that data from a survey might not be as reliable as it would appear.

It looks like Neilsen may have identified one such set of unreliable data:

For Nielsen’s Children’s Books in the Digital World report, parents of kids 12 and younger were asked the format of the last book they bought for their children. Ninety-six percent of parents of children up to age 6 reported buying a print book, and 94% of parents of children 7-12 said they bought a print book. However, Nielsen’s Books and Consumer research on reported book sales shows that 25%-32% of children’s books were purchased as e-books in the first-quarter of 2014. So based on this data, parents aren’t coming clean about their purchasing behavior, which suggests that they may be under-reporting their e-book purchases.

I don’t have any data on specifically YA/kids ebook sales in relation to that category, but even in the absence of data I don’t think they’re wrong. I think parents are under-reporting the number of ebooks they buy for their kids, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say that "parents appear to have a bias toward print".

Rather, I would bet that the discrepancy comes from a subconscious  bias, or rather an oversight. I think more parents don’t connect the act of paying for an ebook on their mobile device with that of buying a paper book – at least, not until they reconcile their checkbooks.

I don’t think it’s anything overt; if that were the case the parents wouldn’t be buying ebooks, wouldn’t you agree?

Why do you think parents are under-reporting the number of ebooks they buy for their kids?

image by  by boltron-

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Fbone November 19, 2014 um 7:03 pm

The respondents were asked what format was the LAST book they purchased for their child. Perhaps, the previous ones were ebooks. Was the last book for school and therefore a printed copy?

Also, the Consumer research on book sales just states 25-32% of children’s books sold are digital. Sold for whom? Adults and young adults do read "children’s" books. Rick Riordan’s titles are classified as children’s books by the publisher, librarians and teachers.

Fbone November 19, 2014 um 7:05 pm

Also, the Harry Potter titles are "children’s" books.

Sturmund Drang November 19, 2014 um 8:36 pm

Lots and lots and lots of adults buy children’s books and YA books for themselves.

They’re embarrassed about it so it’s a lot easier to buy them as ebooks.

In the long forgotten days of paper only and before I got married I had to build a relationship with a bookstore owner to even get into the children’s section without coming off as a creepoid. When I got married it was easier, but still embarrassing. The brief time my kids were in the children/YA range was better yet. Ebooks better still. Now no one but Amazon needs to know I read Clare Vanderpool. It would be great if the publishers would get their heads out of their rears and epublish ALL the Newberry Award books. I miss George the Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek and Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators.

Anyway…. that’s where I think most of the unreported children/YA books have gone.

puzzled November 20, 2014 um 4:13 am

Sounds like a Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew book: The Mystery of the Unreported EBooks.

Eric November 21, 2014 um 10:21 pm

My daughter is the director of a large middle school library and she and I were just talking about this while she’s visiting. She said that 90+% of the kids in the school have a tablet or other ereading device. (At my grandson’s parochial school, they are *required* to have one that they use each day in class for research.) She said that all (!) of the students (and she has data to back it up) read ebooks the school makes available through several services. But she also said the student almost never buy ebooks. In fact at a recent book fair at the school, they had the best year ever, students and parents buying physical books. We have no data on this disparity but posited several ideas including (1) the kids don’t have their own credit cards making it harder to purchase ebooks (2) they like to see what they are getting when they buy, hence the sales of physical books. It will certainly be interesting to see how this plays out in the future as the kids grow up.

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