Reading the Future

According to the results of The Bookseller’s recently released Reading the Future study, an annual survey of UK consumer reading habits, people are either getting tired of this whole digital-reading thing or just learned it exists.

(Caveat: “Released” might be too strong of a word, since you have to pay 89 pounds for access to the whole study, but they’ve given out some pretty interesting results for free)

The Bookseller used an online poll to survey 3,000 book-readers (defined as having read at least one book last year) and came away with “a wide-ranging look at the industry, with business critical data and information ranging from the ongoing effect of the financial meltdown on buying habits, the genres that are likely to go up or down, the key factors that drive purchases, from recommendations, to marketing, to television, and where customers like to go—and will continue to go—to buy their books.

Digital—from the Kindle and iPad, to the Google Books Settlement, to the Digital Economy Bill to Amazon—has dominated the book trade agenda this past year. So we thought it only right to kick off with that part of the industry that is generating the most comment, if it is only at the moment generating scant revenue.”

For those of us who don’t go a day without having a conversation or reading an article about the digital shift within the publishing industry, the results of this survey may come as a shock, or seem hilarious (Table 1 Row 8 and Table 3 Row 2 are particularly good for a laugh):

While yes, it only applies to the UK, and yes, I’m not sure how reading one book last year lets someone qualify as a “reader”, surveys like Reading the Future are essential refreshers on how the average book-buyer feels about all of the tech that the industry is currently concerned with. The Bookseller notes that readers are less excited about potentially owning an e-reader than last year, and you can’t really blame them; so many models have debuted or are in the works that it’s hard to determine which is the right one for you, and it’s so tempting to sit back and wait until the inevitable cheaper, better version comes out. I’ve never even heard of the BeBook Neo, Cool-Er or Elonex, and I try to pay attention to these sorts of things; why would the retired teacher in Northamptonshire know what a Kindle is? (OK, maybe because Oprah dedicated a whole show to it in 2008, but I digress)