The Work

Pew Report on Ebook Reading Validates Everything Brian O’Leary Ever Said

Yesterday Pew released a study on ebook reading with a lot of interesting statistics that we can expect to get liberally sprinkled into conference presentations over the next couple of years. (Was iPod adoption studied this vigoriously?)

Some interesting things – the study does not distinguish between digitally published books and “other long form content”:

Using a broader definition of e-content in a survey ending in December 2011, some 43% of Americans age 16 and older say they have either read an e-book in the past year or have read other long-form content such as magazines, journals, and news articles in digital format on an e-book reader, tablet computer, regular computer, or cell phone.

Which brings us back to that age old question, “What is a book, anyway?”

And then there is this gem:

E-book reading happens across an array of devices, including smartphones.

Yep, the computer still rules as the ebook device as choice – 42% of digital readers prefer to use it. Now if we’re defining ebooks as traditionally published books plus “other long form content”, that makes a lot more sense. We read long articles and journals for work – at our desks. We read The New York Times on our laptops. Presumably this also counts getting lost down the Wikipedia hole?

And this:

In a head-to-head competition, people prefer e-books to printed books when they want speedy access and portability, but print wins out when people are reading to children and sharing books with others.

“Speedy access and portability” is pretty much the guiding principle behind our grab ‘n’ go lives anymore. I don’t see that going away.

It would be great if publishers could pay special attention to this bit:

The majority of book readers prefer to buy rather than borrow.

In other words, “pirates gonna pirate.” But most of us will buy(Related: Can we please stop demonizing libraries as a breeding ground for ebook Blackbeards?)

Lots of other good stuff in this report. The bombshell is not that people with devices read more (that’s probably more a function of income level and education). It’s that if you narrowly define “reading a book” to sitting down with a hardcover or a paperback (or even an ebook), you’re missing out on a lot of data. In other words, as usual, Brian O’Leary is right – it’s not about the container anymore.

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