How e-books change the way we are reading

Lately I had a public lecture about e-books and e-reader and how they change the way we are reading. The slides (in German) are as usual available on Slideshare:

The introduction is similar to other presentations of mine on this subject and not really new. It deals with e-book formats, DRM, reading devices and so on. Of course, I try to add new elements and the latest information, but the content is quite similar to other presentations. Well, you can’t always re-invent the wheel…

But I put an emphasis on the reading behaviour, and that is different to other presentations. I could use the results of an interesting study led by the German Agency for Research Q (Agentur for Forschung Q) for Skoobe, a startup company belonging to the Bertelsmann Group which provides a service with flatrate for e-books in Germany. For the trend report e-reading about 450 users of the service were asked about their behaviour. And the survey confirmed some presumptions and fndings from other studies:

  • people using e-books are not technology addicts, but people who like reading
  • the biggest age group is between 40 and 49
  • 60 % of the users of the service are women
  • people reading e-books read more in general
  • people reading e-books spend less time on TV and gaming
  • reading becomes more mobile
  • people like previews of books
  • people reading e-books read more selective (only destinct parts/chapters) and more often don’t finish reading a book
  • 70% use at least two different reading devices

So this confirms the result of another study that e-books seems to not cannibalize print books but that they promote reading in general. This was the main finding of a study led by the University of Hamburg, Institute for Marketing and Media (2012): 22% of e-book users buy more than three books a year – whereas only 15% of people not using e-books could say this. Also Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos made a similar statement in an interview in the German Newspaper „Die Welt“: he said that Kindle customers generally buy more books, even print ones. And they read more because they carry their library with them. So they are able to read evereywhere: „People read at airports, even in the line at the supermarket, everywhere.“

Another important insight is that tablets have become the preferred e-reading device. This is the result of a study conveyed by Book Industry Study Group: Multi-function tablets have become consumers‘ preferred e-reading devices, overtaking dedicated e-readers for the first time.


The domination of multifunctional tablets increases the trend to read less concentrated and more selective, because distraction is literally integrated into the tablet – with e-mails, games, news, social media, videos and much more popping up ore demanding the attention of the reader. And people often do not finish reading an e-book. This is also known to e-booksellers like Apple and Amazon. They track the way how e-books are read. And they use this knowledge to „optimize“ reading experience. Amazon has introduced the new format „Kindle singles„, which means short stories that would not be published and read as print books, but as e-books. There is a blog post about this by Christoph Koch (in German). He sees also opportunities in the tracking of user behaviour: Maybe authors will react on comments and feedback given in e-books and dedicate to this subject in a future publication.

And in the academic sector we noticed already for some time that the way how books are consumed and perceived has changed. An academic e-book dissolves as an entity and is offered and consumed in separate parts (chapters, articles) or as part of a huge platform mixing all kinds of formats (like Springerlink).

So for the near future we can expect some changes. Especially considering enhanced e-books with interactive and multimedia content there is an interesting development ahead.

Autor: mrudolf

Director of State and University Library Lucerne (Zentral- und Hochschulbibliothek Luzern), former Professor for Library Science at HTW Chur (university of applied sciences), co-editor of Informationspraxis, co-principal investigator of the Horizon Report Library Edition, blogging on library topics - and also on mindful living (in German as Männerherz)

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