BISG Releases E-Book Survey: But Are They Asking the Right People?

The Book Industry Study Group in the US has just released the first of three parts of a Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading study and while the initial results are intriguing, my sense is that the qualification they used for survey respondents is skewing results to make it look like more people are buying or are interested in buying e-books than might actually be true.

Maybe it’s because we are in Canada and the Kindle craze has yet to hit to the same degree, maybe it’s because I personally think that dedicated devices don’t offer as much potential for e-book adoption as the adaption of smart phones or laptops or maybe I’m just plain cranky but the fact that the qualification for this survey for respondents to indicate that ‘they had either purchased a “digital or e-book” in the last 12 months or owned a dedicated e-reader device (such as Amazon Kindle or Sony Reader)’ makes me question the data.

Out of 36,000 potential respondents, only 868 qualified. That does not feel representative of the whole market to me.

Instead of collecting information from the general book buying public, this restriction ensures that the non-converted are automatically excluded (and frankly, I don’t think that’s a small part of readers). If I surveyed my friends and family, I suspect that most of them would tell me they have bought print books in the last year but not e-books. Those are the people whose intentions should matter to publishers. Book buyers who haven’t yet bought digital are as important to these trending studies as book buyers who have…and without them, there’s an inherent skewing of data towards adoption which might not actually exist.

Also, it is definitely interesting to note that 30% survey respondents would wait to buy e-books (up to three months) but why weren’t they also asked how long they would wait to buy a trade paperback? There is already an option in the market for the price-sensitive so comparing which of the lower priced print book and lower priced e-book is more desirable gives a more accurate read on whether it’s price or format driving whatever transition is underway.

I’d love to open the dialogue here so I can understand why this type of person was chosen. Maybe it matters more to publishers to meet the needs of what really should still be considered early adopters? Maybe these people are the vanguard from which stats can accurately be drawn? I’m open to debate but at this point, sign me unconvinced…