E-Book boom sparks growth in Brits reading: But what will the next chapter bring?

October 10, 2014

booksAs the announcement of the winner of the Booker Prize is hotly anticipated, it seems that the growing popularity of e-books are encouraging a nation of book worms. Today, new research from Mintel finds that one in four (26%) consumers who have bought an e-book in the past year say that they read more than they used to because e-books cost less than paperbacks, rising to as many as four in ten (38%) 16-24 year old-book owners.

Indeed more Brits are turning to e-books due to the lower cost of the literature, as three in ten (31%) e-book buyers say they prefer print books, but buy e-books because they cost less. Further to this, whilst almost a quarter (23%) of book buyers think that print books cost too much, just 16% feel the same about e-books.

Furthermore, whilst 21% of Brits have bought a fiction e-book in the past year, the boom does seem to be plateauing as this marks a slight 1 percentage point growth on 2013. However, this is a rise from the 15% of Brits claiming they had bought a fiction e-book in 2012.

Whilst the sales of e-books are still showing healthy growth, there are signs that this will steady in 2014. Sales of e-books are estimated to reach £340 million in 2014 up from £300 million in 2013, marking a 12% rise. However this rise is in stark contrast to the growth seen in previous years. Sales in 2013 for example were 38% up on 2012, which stood at £216 million. In contrast, sales of print books are estimated to stay at £1.4 billion in 2014, the same value as 2013 which would mark just a 0.4% year on year fall in revenue.

Samuel Gee, Senior Technology and Media Analyst, said:

“While e-readers have seemingly sparked consumer interest in reading, it may be that e-reader sales have had their time in the sun. With increasingly affordable and multi-functional tablets spreading into the market, the two real benefits of e-readers – greater battery life and an e-paper screen readable under sunlight – do not appear to be enough to maintain interest. However, our research shows significant potential to trade on existing consumer positivity in terms of buying e-books, including the potential for subscription services that trade off of sustained enthusiasm for the format.”

Today, 31% of Brits own an e-reader, up from 21% in 2012, but down from 35% in April 2014. Indeed, it seems that the growth of the e-reader has not caused UK book-lovers to clear their shelves. Over a third (36%) of UK book buyers buy both e-books and print books and 42% of these say that they will always buy the cheapest version of the book no matter which format it is in. Further showing that those who have picked up their e-readers aren’t leaving printed books altogether, seven in 10 (70%) e-reader owners have bought a paperback in the past year. In contrast, just 30% of print book buyers have also purchased e-books.

Both of these values are a 5 percentage-point decrease on the year before, suggesting a stabilisation in the consumer shift between formats.

“Along with the drop in e-reader purchases, the decline in users crossing over between formats suggests that the market is starting to stabilise once more. This is possibly as fewer customers are being exposed to e-readers for the first time and therefore experimenting with both formats at once.” Samuel continues.

Additionally, there seems to be many consumers who regard an e-reader as a holiday accessory. Over a third (36%) of UK book-buyers say they generally read print books, but buy e-books when travelling or on holiday.

“The risk with consumers moving to e-books on holiday is their possible non-return to the print market after they have invested in an e-reader and the start of a digital collection of books. Retailers could possibly look to counteract this by initiating an e-reader lending scheme to consumers who go on holiday. “ Samuel added.

The research additionally shows that when it comes to the gender divide, there are clear distinctions between male and female reading habits. Whilst the vast majority (86%) of women have read a book in the past year, just three-quarters (74%) of men have done the same. Furthermore women are more likely to have a read a book in both a print or a digital version and are also more likely to favour the fictional. Almost two thirds (63%) of women have purchased a fictional book in the last 12 months, compared to 48% of men.

Overall, a third (32%) of Brits have not bought a book in the past year and it seems that the most common reason is that they are not interested in reading. Indeed, a third (34%) of Brits who have not purchased a book in the past year are simply not interested in reading books, rising to 42% of men who haven’t purchased a book. On the other hand, one in five (21%) say they do not have time to read books and 12% say they can’t afford to buy them.

Mintel’s Books and e-Books UK 2014 report is available to purchase priced £1750.

Press review copies of the report and interviews with Senior Media and Technology Analyst, Samuel Gee, are available on request from the press office.

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