Apple's iBookstore seems to be off to a good start. But as ereading grows in popularity, Apple needs to expand its offerings.
At launch, the iBookstore had 60,000 titles (I'm not sure how many it currently has). Amazon says it has 450,000 titles. Apple has a lot of catching up to do.
In a recent study to understand how portable, multi-function devices or MFDs (e.g., iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Android devices, etc) are changing consumer book reading habits, consumers who utilized these devices expressed a tremendous affinity for them, struggling to come up with any significant shortcomings to reading ebooks on them. These consumers also revealed their specific preference for MFDs, usage occasions and their ebook purchasing habits.
The two-part study with over 300 MFD owners who have read an ebook in the past six months, was conducted by online qualitative research firm iModerate Research Technologies and research and publishing consultancy, Brock Associates. A summary of the results were presented at Digital Book World 2011 in New York City.
The study found that the top three reasons MFD users prefer reading on their device as opposed to a hard copy book are the convenience it offers (80%), the ease of purchasing ebooks (61%) and the backlit screen (41%). Moreover, the three most common occasions for reading on MFDs are: while traveling (72%), while waiting for an appointment (72%) and while relaxing (70%).
"I think we can expect to see growth in ebook consumption in the coming year because consumers suggest that reading books on a multi-function device is such a convenience to them," says Laurie Brock, president of Brock Associates. "As long as they have their device with them 24/7, they are going to read on it -- especially if the price for an ebook remains reasonable."
"Reasonable" pricing remains a key. I still think most ebooks are priced too high, considering there are no printing and paper costs involved.
Qualitatively, consumers provided the reasoning behind why their reading habits have increased, and the story surrounding the benefits that MFDs and ebooks offer. Respondents indicated they are "time-filling reading" primarily on a MFD. Because respondents nearly always have these devices with them, they use them to read ebooks during otherwise "dead" pockets of time, such as when waiting at the doctor's office or while their kids play on the playground.
The greatest benefit of the ebook experience stems from the tremendous convenience of storing books on devices that respondents nearly always have on hand. Rather than lugging heavy paper books or being stuck with just one or two titles, an ereader (whether multi-function or dedicated) allows users the luxury of having an entire library at their fingertips.
The digital format provides a variety of secondary benefits that enhance the ebook experience. These include the ability to adjust text size, make notes or highlight text, bookmark pages, search within a text and read easily in the dark.
If Apple really wanted to expand iBookStore sales, it would open it up to Windows and Android devices. However, I suspect Apple will be happy to sell fewer books and have fans shell out for iOS devices. Though I hope Apple makes it easier to ready iBooks I buy on the Mac. I won't be reading "War and Peace" on my 27-inch iMac -- but it would be great if I could easily peruse a few chapters if and when I wished to.
-- Dennis Sellers