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