2010 Verso Study Revisited at Digital Book World

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At the recent Digital Book World conference in New York, Jack McKeown, co-owner of Books & Books in Westhampton, New York, and director of Business Development for Verso Digital, presented an update on the “2010 Survey of Book-Buying Behavior With Verso Digital.” McKeown previously discussed findings of the survey as part of ABA’s Day of Education at BookExpo America 2010.

“Across all four of our Verso surveys some common themes emerge,” McKeown told BTW.  “The e-book transition will be slower than the digital pundits predict and a hybrid print/digital market will persist for many years, especially among avid readers,” he said.

“Independent booksellers have a significant mindshare advantage waiting to be converted to added marketshare.  The imminent closure of hundreds of Borders locations and the probable continuing consolidation at B&N fuels that opportunity.  But this can only become a reality if new sources of financial capital emerge to jumpstart that effort among the next generation of indie entrepreneurs.”

The 2010 Verso study estimates that there are 62.4 million avid book readers in the U.S., who buy an average of  10 or more books a year, with older Americans comprising two-thirds of avid readers. The study also found that indie bookstores are the first or second choice among 42 percent of book buyers. However, sales “leakage” – that is, browsing but buying elsewhere – costs the indie bookstore community $260 million per year. On a positive note, the study found that better online engagement can help indies close the gap between mindshare (how avid buyers view indies) and marketshare (how often they actually shop there).

Part III of the Verso study, which examines consumers preferences regarding e-readers and e-books, found that among survey respondents e-reader ownership was up 270 percent in 2010.

Though e-reader purchases are up, the survey also found that many readers are still resistant to on screen reading. Among 2010 survey participants, 40 percent said they were unlikely to buy an e-reader within 12 months.

A whopping 90 percent of readers who had purchased an e-reader said that they planned to continue to buy print books, and more than 80 percent of respondents said they would buy e-books from indie booksellers if they were priced competitively

The study also found that the buying habits of readers of e-books tend to mimic those of readers of print books, with approximately 40 percent planning to buy at least six books a year.

Overall, the survey concluded “a robust hybrid market (print and e-book) will endure for many years,” as will publisher investment in both print and digital books.

A slideshow of the survey results is available on the Verso website.