At a certain type of BBQ or dinner party the printed book versus e-reader debate is always likely to break out.
Printed book defenders tend to be more forceful and emotional in their advocacy.
Their preference for the printed book is based on intangible factors such as the feel of a book and the smell of a book. A deep passion that the traditional book is the right and proper way to read and should never be allowed to die is evident.
E-reader advocates tend to see it as a no brainer and point to more functional advantages such as lighting , weight and cost.
A UMR research online survey, using a SAYit database throws some hard numbers into the mix.
Twenty-one per cent of New Zealanders surveyed declared they owned a hand-held device used primarily for e-book reading.
A very high level of readership of books were declared. Thirty-four per cent of New Zealanders said they had read all or part of 20 print or e-books or listened to audio books in the last 12 months. Only 7 per cent had declared they had not read even part of a print or e-book or listened to an audio book.
This was much higher levels of declared readership than the USA. An Pew Research Centre telephone survey shows only 15 per cent of USA residents declaring they had read more than 20 books and 23 per cent that they had not read even a part of one book in the last 12 months.
Of all those (93 per cent of the sample) who declared they had made a start on at least one printed, e-book or audio book in the last 12 months, 95 per cent declared they had read a printed book, 36 per cent an e-book and 10 per cent that they had listened to an audio book.
On the crunch question of the best way to read, printed books were the winner. Amongst those who had at least started one e-book, 35 per cent preferred to read books in print, 22 per cent on an e-reader and 44 per cent went for the prefer both equally option.
Those most in favour of e-books were predictably under 30 year olds who only preferred the printed book by a 28 per cent to 27 per cent margin.
Those aged 45 to 49 were the most hostile age cohort for e-books with 42 per cent preferring the printed version and 18 per cent an e-reader.
Consistent with the BBQ debates the major factor cited by those who preferred reading printed books was that they enjoyed the feel and smell. A secondary factor coming through was that there was less strain on the eyes. Lower level factors cited by printed book advocates were they didn’t run out of power, it was easier to skip back and forward, habit and print books filled bookshelves.
The major factor cited by those who preferred reading books on an e-reader was portability. This was followed by a number of factors of almost equal importance – it makes finding books easier; e-books are cheaper; e-books are smaller and lighter; they can be read in all conditions and are generally easier to read.
Some evidence now suggests that the onslaught of e-books against printed book sales has stabilised but it will be intriguing to see in future tracking if the printed book retains its lead as the preferred way to read.
The New Zealand data cited was from a UMR online survey using the SAYit online database. This was a nationally representative survey of 1000 New Zealanders undertaken from 30th May.
American data cited is from a Pew Research Center study. This was a telephone survey conducted which interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1005 adults living in the continental United States January 2-5 2014.