Who is the Real Audience for eBooks?

It’s a well-known fact that fans of the romance genre love eBooks, and Harlequin, Ellora’s Cave and other savvy publishers are serving their needs well, but who else is a potential eBook reader?

The Huffington Post‘s new Books section offers two possible answers: readers in developing economies…

The growth in worldwide literacy has created a massive affordability gap between those who want books, and those who can afford them. Therein lies both the threat and the opportunity facing publishers.

The publishing industry has successfully responded to the price issue in the past by releasing lower cost formats such as the mid-sized trade paperback and the small purse-sized mass market paperback. Each lower cost format dropped the price 30-50 percent.

By offering customers a cheaper, smaller and less expensive format, publishers expanded the available market for their books and enabled a larger number of readers to gain access to affordable reads.

Mark Coker, Why We Need $4.00 Books

And non-readers…

By marketing the Kindle to people like me — i.e. ‘adults’ who already read regularly and don’t need to be sold on how great books are– publishing is merely doubling down on the biggest problem facing the industry: not enough people read books. Right now, e-readers are being touted as an alternative to paper. Big mistake. E-readers should be promoted as a cool option for non readers or hesitant readers. Instead, those readers are stunningly being ignored.

Jason Pinter, Why the Digital Revolution is Missing the Big Picture

While industry navel-gazing makes for interesting reading, what’s been missing from the discussion is the perspective of consumers themselves, and the Book Industry Study Group is looking to add that critical piece to the puzzle via a new research study: Consumer Attitudes toward eBook Reading.

Although much of the publishing industry is working hard to develop and implement digital strategies, there is little available research that evaluates book consumers’ actual interest in and preferences for digital content, or the factors that influence their reading habits and purchasing decisions.

To help fill this void, BISG’s Research Committee, led by Debbie Stier, SVP, Associate Publisher for HarperStudio and Director of Digital Marketing for HarperCollins, is developing a new research study with the help of survey partner PubTrack Consumer that will directly survey today’s eBook consumer.

The study began in August 2009 and publication is planned for the 1st quarter of 2010, perhaps in time to be discussed at Digital Book World?

Stay tuned.

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