Saturday, January 29, 2011

Where consumers REALLY buy ebooks?

"Nearly 81% of eReader Owners Would ‘Likely’ Buy eBooks Online from Indie Bookstores" - this was the headline of an article I read last week on GalleyCat, quoting a Digital Book World and Verso survey. Really? Does it sounds realistic? I'm afraid not.

Just to give you the full quote, it says "nearly 81 percent of eReader owners would “likely” buy eBooks online from independent booksellers–as long as the prices were competitive.". It reminded me of similar headlines I have read in the past, such as these ones:

  • Three-quarters (77%) of consumers describe themselves as green — that is, actively living their lives consciously of their health and environment, according to a survey by Yahoo!
  • According to a BCG’s report, 34% of the public systematically look for and often purchase green products. (2008 figures)
  • A new Pike Research survey finds that 44 percent of consumers are “extremely” or “very” interested in purchasing a plug-in electric vehicle (PEV)
One thing that is common to all of these findings is that although they're very optimistic, they're not real. People say one thing on these surveys and do something else in real life. Otherwise, we would already have a very large green market.

Independent bookstores account for about 10% of the industry’s retail market overall, so it doesn't make too much sense that the same readers who generally choose to ignore independent bookstores and but their paper books somewhere else, will suddenly show affection towards these stores and buy there their e-books.

The right question I believe is not where readers are likely to buy their ebooks but where they already do it. If you ask this question, you will probably receive different results.

For example, a survey conducted by the Codex Group in early November of 6,250 frequent book buyers found according to Publishers Weekly that "more book buyers acquiring their e-books for the iPad from Amazon's Kindle store rather than through Apple's iBookstore, with the Kindle store accounting for 40% of e-book sales for the iPad and the iBookstore 29% (one factor limiting sales through the iBookstore is that Random House e-books are not directly available there because RH is not using the agency model). "

As you can see from the graph with the Codex Group's survey results, among iPad owners the market share of independent bookstores is somewhere between 0%-19%. It doesn't necessarily indicate that this is this would be the same with the general population of e-book readers, but it definitely looks more realistic than 81%.

In all, my guestimation is that when it comes to ebooks, the market share of independent bookstores will be between 5%-10%, as the competition online is more fierce than the competition offline. But, that's only my guestimation - to get a real sense of what's going on we'll have to wait to a survey that will look at the places readers actually buy their e-books.

Until then don't confuse attitudes with behavior.

You can find more resources on the future of bookstores on our website at

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Promoting sustainable reading!