E-Book Trends Change with the Seasons

We have been tracking consumer book-buying behaviour for the first three quarters of 2012, and we’re starting to see some trends develop. Over the last three quarters, we’ve seen a slight but steady drop in the number of e-books purchased in the Canadian market. We obtained this information by surveying over 1,000 book-buying Canadians on a quarterly basis. The percentage of book purchases that were for e-books has been dropping from 17.55% in the first quarter to 14.16% in the third quarter. 

With all of the hullabaloo over e-books why are we seeing a drop in sales? We can’t be certain, but there’s a lot of conjecture that e-book sales will see the effects of seasonal trends. As new devices enter the market and e-book readers and e-book gift cards are given over the holidays, we will likely see e-book sales rise in the New Year. (I know this girl is hoping for something shiny with a 7” screen in her stocking.) The next two quarters of data (Q4 2012 and Q1 2013) will be interesting to watch. We’ll see whether this hypothesis holds true.

Another data set that may support this theory is that we’re seeing an increase in respondents who are considering buying a dedicated e-book reading device over the next month. Those who have said they’re unlikely to buy an e-book reader are still in the majority but are notably declining, and, as outlined in the graph below, we’re seeing an increase in those for whom buying a reader is likely. This may be due to the upcoming holidays or because of the flood of new devices in the market – likely a bit of both.


When we look at the type of device respondents are considering for purchase, there are gains in e-reader devices and a more significant increase in tablets. The most notable gain was seen in Q3, around the time when many new devices were coming onto the market. The graph below indicates, for those who are likely to buy a device, their interest in tablets vs. e-readers.

So now we wait to see what happens in the fourth quarter to see how Canadians’ habits change over the holidays. Will there be a spike in e-reader ownership? Will gift-buying be done mostly in hardcover, paperback or EPUB? Place your bets (or place your reprints and orders!) and we’ll reconvene in the new year.

In the meantime, you can dig deeper into the information we already have by purchasing BookNet Canada’s The Canadian Book Consumer 2012. The edition that is available off of our website covers January to June of 2012. And by purchasing this copy you’ll get access to updates to the study along with a discount on future consumer research studies.