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Are we reading more because of ebooks?

How is reading changing because of ebooks? This weekend I posted a Twitter poll asking ebook readers for their impression of any changes that were occurring in their reading habits since they started reading ebooks. Obviously twit polling is not a scientifically rigorous methodology. We know that self-reported behavior differs in some important ways from actual behavior (often making us look better in our own eyes for example), and I'd also suggest the respondents here lean to heavy users. But I thought it was interesting to at least see what people believed about what they were doing.

Of the more than 200 people who answered the poll:

•  80% believe that they're reading either somewhat or much more than before. (I reclassified some of the other category when it was clear the person was reading more)
•  14% believe that they're reading about the same
•  And 4% believe that they're reading less (either much less or somewhat less)

    Here's what the poll looks like:


    (By the way, that 80% was consistent right from the start of the poll.)

    What also interested me were the comments on twitter, LinkedIn and left in the "other" category of the poll. We had 211 poll respondents, but only 7 left comments and only 8 commented on LinkedIn so we should be careful not to over-generalize:

    •  People are reporting buying more books, whether or not they read them:
    "I buy a lot and read only a small part of it"
    "Buying but not reading"

    •  They're also reporting a greater breadth of reading (as if they're more willing to try to new kinds of books). For example:
    "Reading more varied material & reading more"

    •  And more simultaneous books being read:
    "I'm reading many more books at once than before"

    •  And there was a sense of more cursory, less deep reading:
    "I am reading 'more'... But I am also skimming more. . .reading faster, thinking less about what I am reading compared to how I used to read"
    "I am reading more cursory."
    ". . .going towards flicking through things and multitasking many things instead of committing to one thing."
    "'dark side' of e-books. . .I'm sacrificing ever more depth for breadth. . ."

    But those comments were not universal:

    "I read the same way -- I'm interested in the language and not the ink and paper. I read more because it's more convenient to have a large number of books with me always."

    "Ahh, now my experience is different. Perhaps that is because I have a Kindle, not an iPad - so there is less temptation to do other things?"

    "My reading experience hasn't really changed that much, I tend to just plough on through the book regardless of the format....until I have finished what I am reading."

    How widespread is any or all of that? We don't know. Since reading ebooks is relatively new for most people, we are seeing only the early stages of  changes that may occur in our reading habits. And what happens as people become more familiar with and skilled at new reading habits? Time will tell.

    So here's what I seem to be doing. I'm finding that I'm buying significantly more books, I'd estimate as much as 50% more. I'm also starting and dropping more books, which is completely new behavior for me (I used to have to finish a book before I could start another and I would always finish a book even if I didn't like it). Old habits seem to be gone.

    I too believe that I'm reading a lot more. And I seem to get more attached. So I find an author or series I like, I buy all of their books—right now— and then devour them in a weekend. Part of that has to do with availability on every device, so while I'm waiting in line at the airport I just keep reading on my iPhone. That sync function seems to allow for greater continuity of experience.

    What about you? Have you seen a change in your own behavior since you started reading ebooks? Please feel free to comment below and tell us what you're experiencing.



    +2 # Sally Bissell 2011-02-15 19:12
    Hi Dominique, A friend heard you interviewed on Mario Armstrong's show and made me visit your website and blog. I am a public librarian and ebooks as the wave of the future are all we talk about.
    We have found that we have had to be ten steps ahead of the curve in purchasing digital format for our customers and they are coming in droves.
    People I've never seen before are coming in with their new Nook, Kobo or Sony reader and asking for help with downloads.
    I'm buying more than I ever would have before and whenever someone wants to get me a gift it's usually for a credit for downloads!
    Electronic books are especially handy for traveling, especially with the luggage and weight limits imposed. One can take an entire libary with him on a trip.
    Sorry to be so long winded but I'm passionate about ebooks as you can see.

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