Friday, June 20, 2008

That Random House/Zogby Reading Poll

A recent poll by Random House/Zogby found exactly what I, an ebook advocate, would have expected. Most people prefer print books! Where would we be without polls like this to cast a ray of light in the darkness?

82% said they preferred to read a printed book instead of an ebook. Marketing the results in this manner seems to be designed to inhibit purchases of ebooks and is an effort encourage people to keep buying printed books.

I can take the same survey results and come up with an equally valid headline that paints ebook reading in a much more positive light:

Growing Trend: A Whopping 11% Now Prefer Reading Ebooks Over Traditional Print

To me, the real news here is that the preference for non-print is as high as 11% already. That has to be an increase over previous polls. Why do most people "prefer" print? Because that's how they've always read books. Behavioral changes don't happen overnight. And the social aspect of reading ebooks hasn't gathered steam yet. When people see other people reading ebooks, they'll want to do the same thing.

More book publishers are making ebooks available, but still, I find the biggest problem is a lack of enough titles available in digital format. I've lost track of how many books I would have bought but didn't because there was no ebook format available and I didn't want to buy the printed book. Clearly the publishing industry hasn't embraced the digital format so who could expect readers to follow where publishers are reluctant to lead them? Publishers are keeping the ebook trend line below where it could be right now.

So this new poll told me what I, and I'm sure Random House, already knew, at least in terms of the general public's current acceptance of ebooks, circa 2008 AD. Let's see in a couple years whether that 11% goes up or down--anybody wagering it will go down? I didn't think so.