New Poll Finds Majority of Americans Read Ebooks

The proportion of Americans who read ebooks just shifted radically, according to a new poll from Harris Interactive, a company owned by Nielsen.

Some 54% of Americans currently read ebooks, according to the new poll, conducted in March 2014 among 2,234 U.S. adults. This result conflicts with a recent study from Pew, which found in January 2014 that 28% of Americans read an ebook in the last year.

The Harris Poll also found that those who read ebooks more read more books on average than other Americans. About a third of those who read ebooks exclusively or more than print read more than 20 books a year, while about a fifth of those who read more in print read more than 20 books a year.

Ebook readers also purchase more books, about double what other readers buy.

Despite the large proportion of Americans the poll says are reading ebooks, print still dominates reading habits, with nearly half of Americans reading print books exclusively compared with 6% who only read ebooks.

Calls for comment from Harris have not yet been returned.

[Press Release]

Power(ed) Readers: Americans Who Read More Electronically Read More, Period Majority of Americans, and two-thirds of Millennials, read at least some books electronically

As with just about every other aspect of our lives, the ways in which we can read books have undergone radical shifts over the past few years. Not long ago hardcover and paperback were the main options available to readers, but then e-readers hit the scene, followed by tablet computers. With the additional options of reading on your computer or your phone, these days it seems as though just about the only thing standing between Americans and a good read is setting aside the time. Americans seem to be embracing their broader options, as the majority (54%) currently read e-books, including two-thirds of Millennials (66%).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,234 adults surveyed online between March 12 and 17, 2014. (Full results, including data tables, available here)

When asked to consider any format – not just hardcovers and paperbacks, but electronic formats as well – a strong majority of Americans (84%) say they read at least one book in an average year, with over a third (36%) saying they read more than ten. On average, Americans report reading roughly 17 books per year. Looking at demographics, Baby Boomers and Matures (whose readerships average roughly 19 and 25 books per year, respectively) both read more in a typical year than Millennials (13). Women, meanwhile, (23) read twice as many books as men (11).

Two-thirds of Americans (65%) purchased at least one book in the past year, with one in ten (9%) purchasing over 20 and an average of over 8 books purchased. Women also purchased more books in the last year, on average, than men (10 vs. 7, respectively).

Powered Readers = Power Readers

Interestingly, there appears to be an intersection at work between how Americans read and how much they read. Those who read either more or exclusively in the e-book format are more likely to read over 20 books in an average year (30%) than either those who read more/only in hard copy (18%) or those who read in both formats equally (21%). They also report a higher average readership per year than either hard copy hardliners or equal-opportunity readers (22.5 books vs. 16 and 15, respectively).

Looking at the number of books purchased in the past year, with a reported average of 14 books, those favoring e-books purchased roughly twice as many as those preferring hard copies, who purchased an average of less than seven.

Print Still Predominates

However, in terms of overall users, the hard copy format is still king. Nearly half of Americans (46%) say they only read hard copy books, with an additional 16% saying they read more hard copy books than e-books. Seventeen percent (17%) read about the same number of hard copy and e-format books, while 15% read more and 6% read exclusively in the electronic format.

About half of Americans (51%) say they read the same amount in the past six months as they did before, while nearly a quarter (23%) read less in the past six months and fewer than two in ten (17%) read more. Younger Americans often get blamed for declining readership nationally, but Millennials (21%) were more likely than their elders (14% Gen Xers; 15% Baby Boomers and Matures) to have read more in the past six months.

Further reinforcing the interplay between reading format and overall readership, those who read either more or exclusively e-books are more likely to indicate reading more over the past six months (29%) than those preferring hard copies (13%) or those who reading both formats equally (16%).

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Methodology
This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between March 12 and 17, 2014 among 2,234 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #37, April 17, 2014
By Larry Shannon-Missal, Harris Poll Research Manager

About Nielsen & The Harris Poll
On February 3, 2014, Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive and The Harris Poll. Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit www.nielsen.com.

3 thoughts on “New Poll Finds Majority of Americans Read Ebooks

  1. Rudy

    Correlation doesn’t equal causation. People who read more may be more likely to read digital books. And I find the report that 54 percent of Americans read e-books puzzling. Shouldn’t it be 54 percent of Americans who read books read e-books? What percentage of Americans read ANY books?

    Reply
  2. Walter Ruggieri

    I think the whole point of this stat shows that more and more people are reading e-books. I know I am. I am an avid reader and went from spending a lot of money on \paper\ based books to spending a lot of money for e-books (and being able to buy more because they cost less). I like being able to shop for books at any time and in any place and have them available to read instantly. I think e-books sales and usage will just keep growing.

    Reply
  3. Pete Nikolai

    More accurately: 54% of Americans who were ready, willing, and able to take an online poll during March 2014 said that they have read an ebook regardless of whether they actually have or not…

    Reply

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