Monday, January 30, 2012

Retweet: New survey finds book publishers less positive about tablets as 'ideal e-book reading platform'

A survey conducted by Forrester Research for Digital Book World, the F+W Media, Inc. property, finds that publishers are less optimistic that tablets are "the ideal e-book reading platform".

The survey results appear today on the Digital Book World website in a post by Jeremy Greenfield, the editorial director.

What the survey found was that 31 percent of publishers survey believe that the iPad and other tablets are "the ideal" e-book reading platform, down from 46 percent in last year's survey. The use of the phrase "the ideal" may be a mistake by the author as he uses the phrase "an ideal" when saying that only 30 percent of those surveyed believe that the NOOK Color or Kindle Fire are "an ideal" reading platform.

According to the post, book publishers that represented 74 percent of U.S. publishing revenues were surveyed for this report.

In the end, however, what book publishers think the "ideal" platform is pretty irrelevant – the big question will be whether new owners of tablets will be reading books and other periodicals on their tablets. With Apple announcing that they now have 55 million iPads sold, book publishers will be hard pressed to ignore a market that continues to show amazing growth.

This Digital Book World post, and one recently on paidContent have made a lot of recent data from Bowker and the Book Industry Study Group that shows that the number of book buyers who bought an e-book only increased 17 percent in 2011. But these posts show a shocking lack of understanding of trends. Instead it would be better to look at total sales rather than adoption rates (the reason is that growth is always huge at the beginning of a platform and slows as more and more people have already adopted a platform – it's simple math).

With e-books already making up over a quarter of adult fiction purchases, the market is already huge. But because tablets require a considerable investment prior to the e-book purchase, one can probably expect penetration growth rates to continue to slow, even as sales of e-books continue to grow in total numbers (after all, not every can afford $500 to buy an iPad).

I will be curious to see what the numbers look like for e-book (as well as digital newspaper and magazine) sales in Q1 of this year. A lot of iPads and Kindle Fires were sold during the holiday season. That is a lot of new tablet owners who will be looking to add media to their new devices over the next weeks and months.

Later: the more I think about this survey the more I think it is without much merit. First, if a survey supposedly shows that a smaller percentage publishers now think that the iPad is an "ideal" platform the question should be asked why, in 2010, when so few people actually owned an iPad, did these same publishers think it was an ideal platform? In other words, what evidence did they have for their opinions?

Surveys are great, and certainly too few good ones are conducted. But with all such surveys it is better to see the actual survey numbers, along with the questions, and let the reader draw their own conclusions.