Responses to Ebooks Survey
I received 77 responses (thanks everyone!) to the informal Ebooks Survey I posted a few weeks ago. I was mostly interested in how readers of ebooks acquire them. Personally, I have a Kindle (a first generation Kindle Fire) and I rarely do anything except order directly from Amazon. There’s just nothing easier than having it sent directly to my device. I’ve never, like, “tethered” my reader to my computer; is that something people even do anymore? I guess cloud storage makes that redundant.
(Since I make ebooks, I also frequently use the email address Amazon gave me to load books onto my device. That’s a cool feature. Basically you just send an attachment to your Kindle’s email address and voila.)
The last ebook I bought was Gutshot by Amelia Gray. It reads well on the screen. Some books are better than others for ebook reading. This is another question I have that might be the basis of another survey: do some books work better, digitally? When I got my first reader, a Nook in 2008ish, I couldn’t read anything on it; I was too distracted by the technology. Then I downloaded The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the book’s page-turner-ness (what’s the word for that?) made it so I could finally ignore the new format.
I’m interested in these questions for all sorts of reasons, but primarily because in July, Publishing Genius is launching our ebook-only imprint, Ebook Flights. This is a series in which three similarly-themed ebooks—complementary, like a flight of beer—are released as a set. They’re short and cheap and exciting. (The first series is awesome, featuring books by Lily Hoang, Gabe Durham, and Bob Schofield.) One of the biggest questions I’ve had is how to get the books out there. To answer this, I want to know how people are reading them and where they get them from.
Like, if everyone is super savvy at using some app, I want it to be on that app. If people are actually subscribing to Oyster, I want it to be on Oyster, the Netflix of books.
People say "Netflix of books" as if they've never watched TV or read a book.
— Publishing Genius (@pubgen) April 16, 2015
I’m skeptical about the value of these ebook lending services, and I wonder how long they’ll be around. (Byliner passed, Atavist shifted, and Zola sells print books now.) But that’s just my gut. Learning “consumer behavior,” even via an informal survey with 77 respondents, could certainly change my feeling.
And I’m happy to share! Here are the results of the survey.
Do you read ebooks?
87% of respondents said they do.
I asked the 13% abstainers why they don’t. The answers were split between preferring paper and not liking to read from screens (it’s hard on the eyes, said a few people—who probably haven’t seen many e-ink displays). One respondent who doesn’t like reading on screens did say that they’ll read chapbook length ebooks when they’re free and don’t have to be downloaded. One person said they have a Kindle but forget it’s there.
Respondents could select all that apply. Here’s the breakdown:
Where do you buy ebooks?
Far and away, the most common answer is Amazon, with 17 respondents. Three people usually buy from B&N. Two from Kobo. One usually buys from Google Play and one from Scribd. Two good souls usually buy directly from the publisher.
Asked about other places to get their ebooks, the most common response was from libraries, using something called Overdrive. One person noted that Scribd has free PDFs, and someone else, bless their heart, said “illegal download.” Two people said they just use their device for reading ARCs from publishers.
A couple people mentioned Gumroad, too. Aside: I’ve used Gumroad for a couple years at Publishing Genius, and it’s a good solution for automatic delivery. But until this weekend, I didn’t realize that they also have an app for playing the media they deliver. This is brilliant (although currently their mobile app doesn’t support epub).
What is your biggest consideration when choosing where to buy an ebook?
It was a challenge to list the possible answers to this question. I thought “Price” and “Downloading is easiest” would cover all the bases, but it also seemed important to include “It’s where you have an account” even though it crosses over with “Downloading is easiest,” because, as retailers know, signing up for an account is one of the biggest factors in repeat business. And that proves to be true:
Indie publishers or authors that are doing interesting things:
68.3% of respondents said they didn’t know of any. Of the 30% who do, there were some interesting responses.
- I never buy ebooks from indie publishers, and can’t envision a world where i would ever want to.
- the shabby doll reader
- I’ve some some indie publishers offer extremely low-cost ebook versions of older books, which offers an incentive to buy them and create a resurgence in readership. One that springs immediately to mind is Artistically Declined Press.
- I honestly know them but can’t really remember. So I will just mention publishers I bought e-books from: Kuboa, Curbside Splendor, and All Due Respect Books.
- Bossfight Books has a nice model for distrib vis-a-vis their video game books.
- Selling free .pdf/.ePub with purchase of physical book. Problem being that ePub doesn’t work on Kindle.
- the newer york, cclap
- Metaphysical Circus Press has a nice design of their ebooks. They are not doing a whole lot though. Not many are pushing full potential of ebooks in the small press world. At least as far as I know.
- Eli Horowitz et al with The Silent History (episodic, and with content available based on the reader’s location) and The New World (the Atavist version).
- Klaus_ebooks is putting out digital only releases that take advantage of the form. I’m biased because my own work is being published on it. I think ebooks that recognize their difference from print and use that difference – either aesthetically or in the marketing/distribution – will be most important moving forward.
- I like to get a free download with the purchase of a “real” book. Or a download if I perform some other task, such as entering a contest, tweeting a recommendation, paying for a submission to a related journal…
- Steve Roggenbuck and Daniel snckpck Alexander have released their written collections as both free ebooks and paid physical copies. The physical copies are identical to the ebooks but come with promo material like personalized selfies and notes from the author.
- Publishing Genius
- just emailing PDFs is really interesting to me. not sure why but they feel much more like ‘objects’, which is silly but they appeal to me for that reason. they’re sort of akin to a digital codex, in which you honestly don’t know what you’ll find when you open the PDF other than that it will probably be flat. whereas reflowable ebooks like mobi or epub, it’s much harder to relish that because you know pretty much what you’re going to find in there.
- i like interactive web stuff like jackson niewland and carolyn decarlo had that one ‘ebook / site’ think it’s great when it’s still easy to get free books from nap, red lightbulbs, whatever i’d like to recieve ebooks via email more often, i think
- Future Tense has an ebook only series.
- Zoomoozophone_review is one that springs to mind. It opens instantaneously in the hosting site’s built in app, which makes for a very streamlined experience.
- Instant Future provides short ebooks, well written & edited for a good price. I know of a handful of indie publishers who offer free epubs or ebooks w/ the purchase of a traditional (analog?) book, which is a nice feature, but I feel pushy if I have to ask for it in addition to the purchase — these are also really nice to have so I can share w/ a friend or read, discreetly, at work.
I asked, “Are you capable of buying ebooks and sending them to your device without automatic delivery (like Whispersync)?” 43% said they don’t know how. 28% know how, but don’t like to. 24% commonly do it that way.
3rd-party ebook retailers
I asked, “If you’ve bought an ebook from a 3rd Party shop (like 0s&1s, which didn’t create the device or app you read on), what did you think of the process?”
- Relatively simple
- Beats me.
- i had to change the text format to another format that would work on the kindle, which was kind of a hassle
- I was unpleasantly surprised to find that I’d bought a PDF instead of an epub. I went back to the site and saw that it was listed that way, but didn’t see that when I made the purchcase at 0s&1s.
- Stupid. Proprietary is bad, incompatibility is worse.
- A little extra work than Amazon, for example, but worth it if the price is right.
- No problems or concerns.
- I had to use some ebook reading software for school that didn’t let me highlight because it was afraid i was going to steal the text or something. it was awful.
- It was okay. I honestly haven’t bought from 0s&1s, but I have bought from Curbside Splendor which sent the e-book to me by email.
- i bought some stuff from weightless once, and it wasn’t that big of deal. i also put some of my stuff on gumroad, a lot of startup ppl use that site, and i usually just choose to open the PDF or epub in iBooks I also use OverDrive from the library and read within that app. Meant to put that earlier!
- N/A, I only read free stuff via digital format besides maybe 3ebooks.
Are you a member of an ebook subscription club, like Emily Books, Scribd, or Oyster?
94% no, 6% yes.
Scribd and Oyster (no other subscription clubs were mentioned).
That was all my questions. If you have strong feelings about ebooks, I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment, or feel free to shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). And if you read this far, have I got a deal for you: get Edward Mullany’s new book for free, right now, before it’s even officially out. You don’t have to do anything! Just go here and use the promo code “pgp-friend” at Gumroad checkout. I hope you’ll let me know what you think.