I was thrown by several stats in this story. (E-Book Bummer: Growth Slower Than Thought—‘Incremental, Not Exponential’ | paidContent.) I touched on the issue of digital growth earlier today, but this story warrants a separate consideration.
According to new data from Bowker and the Book Industry Study Group, the number of book buyers who also purchased an e-book increased by 17 percent in 2011, compared to 9 percent in 2010 – well below the 25 to 30 percent growth that some had hoped for.
When I read this as ‘the number of book buyers who also bought a book rose from 9% to 17%’ it looks like an 89% increase in book buyers who also bought ebooks. Sure it wasn’t the 175% or 250% increase (as would be the case if the figure reached 25% or 30%) as some people seemed to expect, but it is still reasonable. For the record, I read it that way following a Twitter exchange with the author Laura Hazard Owen (who has been writing some great pieces on the publishing and digital change):
@eoinpurcell it's from 9% to 17%. I will fix piece if that's not clear!—
Laura Hazard Owen (@laurahazardowen) January 25, 2012
Then there is the section that says:
Seventy-four percent of book buyers have never bought an e-book (and 14 percent of those actually own an e-reader or tablet but choose not to use it to read e-books).
Parse that for a moment. 26% of book buyers HAVE bought ebooks and 14% of 76% (10.5%) also HAVE ereaders but don’t use them. Which means that circa 36.5% of book buyers have ereaders though they may or may not use them. Meaning, that while ebook purchasing might not have spread as widely as we thought, ownership of devices seems to be spreading pretty well.
Finally there is this startling statistic:
There’s a bright spot for e-book growth: Around 7 to 12 months after buying their first e-book, 72 percent of power buyers switch over to e-books exclusively.
Which reinforces the idea I’ve been pondering for a little bit, that this current phase of ebook development is about making heavy readers, heavy ereaders.
It is the reason why B&N needs to keep Nook locked into its stores and indeed why B&N has been so successful at gaining market share, because it was converting exactly the right people BOOK BUYERS into ebook buyers. It is why Amazon’s efforts are targeted at converting their best book buyers into digital readers hence their seemingly crazy popularization of the $9.99 price point (which I might add I liked, but hey) and why a broader strategy for converting light readers might not make sense just yet.
Getting ereaders into the hands of medium and heavy readers and encouraging them to use them EVENTUALLY is the key for now. There’s a whole different battle to come once that happens. Won’t that be fun?