Reader Survey Says: “Readers prefer e-books to paperbacks”

Reader Survey Data
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“…by 77% to 52%”.

I know you will be shocked to hear, I have more data! Data is your friend. It helps to prove the things you suspect are true, and occasionally gives you that reality check you have been needing. In this case, the data comes directly from a reader survey so it is straight from our target market.

The data I will be sharing was compiled by a survey conducted by Marie Force and her team over at E-Book Formatting Fairies. They surveyed several thousand people, and have graciously shared that data on their website. You can see the full results here.

Some key takeaways from the survey:

  • Nearly 80% buy their books from Amazon,
  • Nearly 58% of those surveyed have not visited a brick and mortar bookstore in the last year or have done so twice in the last year.
  • 81% of those surveyed listed romance as their favorite genre with mystery coming in a very distant second at almost 5 percent.

As an aside (more data!) according to the Romance Writers of America, romance was the top-performing category on the major bestseller lists in 2012 and accounted for $1.438 billion in sales in 2012. In other words, this last data point is in no way surprising. The RWA has more statistics on their site about this particular genre if you are curious.

  • 64% of those surveyed say they pay “no attention” to who publishes a book and/or “it doesn’t matter” to them.


  • 95% of readers are “more likely” to buy a self-published book from an author who is known to them versus 68 percent who are “less likely” to buy a self-published book from an author who is unknown to them.
  • Facebook 62% and Author Websites 63% were virtually tied for first when readers were asked where they get their information about their favorite authors
  • 53% of readers are “somewhat” swayed by reviews. Twenty-nine percent fall into the “not very much” or “not at all” categories and 18 percent say they are “very much” influenced by reviews.
  • When asked which reviews are most important to them, 50% chose the reviews posted to retail sites.
  • We asked how important “star ratings” are to their purchasing decisions, and discovered that 43% will wait to purchase a book if they see “low” star ratings. 38% say they will still try a book if they like the cover and sample, even if it has “low” star reviews.  11% responded that star reviews are not at all important to them and 9% rely heavily on star reviews and will only purchase a book that meets their star-rating criteria.
  • 35% have been introduced to new authors via free books more than 20 times. 20% have found new authors through free books more than 10 times. If they liked what they read in the free book, 85% were extremely likely to buy another book from that author.

Now, admittedly this survey was more heavily focused on people who are routinely online, as that is how the survey was administered. Regardless, this supports much of what we have suspected and said often on this blog.

So, let’s make this even briefer in translation.

  • If you have a choice of genre to write in, choose romance.
  • Be on Amazon above all other retail sites.
  • If you are going with a publisher, it doesn’t matter who they are.
  • If you are independent, people will only trust you once they “know” you. This may be where free book giveaways are your friend, see the last point above.
  • Start with Facebook. (Although I would argue this also goes with the genre of choice, romance, and that other reader/genre targets would be better served elsewhere).
  • Have a good website.
  • Reviews at point of purchase (Amazon) are more important than elsewhere.
  • Star rating matters. Write a great book.

The website allows you to see the full data dump and really geek out on the statistics should you so choose. Thanks so much for the awesome information E-Book Formatting Fairies!




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