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The Book Industry Study Group Expects ‘Exponential Growth’ in eBooks

bealogo23.jpgWho is reading eBooks? There is Sheila, the 34-year old book lover who reads her Kindle on the beach. “If you lose sight of Sheila, you lose sight of where the consumer is going,” said Kelly Gallagher, VP of Publishing Services at RR Bowker in a presentation at BEA today focused on new research from The Book Industry Study Group on consumer attitudes toward eBook reading. “She wants access where ever she is and when she wants it.”

According to the research, which examines eBook reading and purchase behavior from print book readers who recently purchased either an eBook reader or an eBook, eBook sales went from 1.5% of all book sales in Q1 2009 to 5% in Q1 2010, with 33% of eBook buyers entering the market in the last six months. “We are expecting exponential growth,” said Gallagher.

In terms of purchase behavior, 25% of eBook consumers said that they mostly purchase eBooks and buy less print books than before; 15% said that they exclusively buy eBooks and no longer buy print and 9% said they only buy eBooks, and will forgo a purchase if the book is not in print.

At this point these sales are driven by men and women almost equally, but generally from people that make more than $35,000, which represents 75% of the demographic who purchase eBooks. Gallagher attributes this to the high prices for devices, which are likely to come down the same way smart phones did.

Gallagher warns that lower income brackets shouldn’t be ignored, as people that earn under $35,000 are one of the largest demographics for print book consumption in the country. “We have to continue to find ways to create a point of entry for our largest number of customers,” he said.

According to the research, 34% of eBook consumers are buying fewer hard covers and 34% of paperbacks. Still 11% of eBook consumers said that they are buying more print books. “There is some cannibalization going on,” said Gallagher. “And as we print more P books, the print runs cost per unit will increase.”

Despite all of the Kindle’s hype, the computer still represents the most popular eBook reading device with 37% of eBook consumers reading on a computer, 32% for the Kindle, 10% for the iPhone, 9% on Sony’s reader, 4% on mobile phones, 3% on the Nook and 3% on the iPad. The iPad number is fairly striking since the iPad was only out for 3 weeks when these numbers were calculated, noted Gallagher. And Kindle is gaining market share, while laptops are losing market share, so it is only a matter of time that the Kindle out paces computers.

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