Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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Ebooks in Oz: An update

In September and October 2012, Bowker Market Research conducted its second Global eBook Monitor survey, repeating its January 2012 survey in Australia, India, the UK and the US, and adding in New Zealand, Canada and South Africa. Key findings from the first survey were reported in the June/July 2012 edition of Books+Publishing. Rachel Levin from Bowker Market Research reveals some data from the latest survey.   

The proportion of Australians buying ebooks remained steady between January and October 2012, with nearly a quarter of the population purchasing ebooks in the six months prior to the survey in October 2012 (see chart 1). With penetration at 24%, Australia is at the same level as the UK and well ahead of New Zealand and Canada, but still somewhat behind the US. The research was conducted among the online population in each country, representative by age and sex of the total population*; the most recent Australian sample was 2000**, while that of the other six countries was 1000.

However, there is some evidence that the weight of ebook purchasing  among those buying ebooks is increasing in Australia; the proportion of Australians who had bought between six and 15 ebooks in the past six months increased from 20% in January to 30% in October 2012.


Who is buying ebooks?
Ebook purchasing tends to decrease with age and to be more prevalent among men, at least in emerging ebook markets. In Australia, males aged under 35 were still the most likely to have bought an ebook in the six months to October 2012 (27%), while males aged 55 and up were the least likely (12%) to have done this. One fifth of females aged 55 and up had bought an ebook, but they were also the group most likely to be unaware that you could do this (12%).  

What ebooks are Australians buying, and why?
Based on the survey responses, adult fiction and nonfiction titles together accounted for two thirds of ebooks bought in Australia in the six months to October 2012, up from just over half in the six months to January 2012, when relatively more consumer purchases were in the academic and professional categories (see chart 2).

When asked which factors were most likely to encourage them to purchase ebooks, no individual factors stood out for more than 23% of respondents, closely reflecting the January results. Some of the more popular reasons were: takes less space than printed books at home, cheaper than paperbacks, easier to carry around than printed books, and instant availability. There were notable increases between January and October in the proportion of respondents who were encouraged to buy because of the instant availability of ebooks and those who thought that ebooks are better for the environment, while fewer respondents in October were encouraged to buy ebooks because they are easy to download. 



How might the ebook market develop?
When asked to predict their future downloading behaviour, over a third of Australians in October 2012 said they were likely to buy an ebook in the next six months, compared to the fifth who had done so in the past. However, a similar level of increase was predicted in January 2012, a growth rate that has not been borne out by the latest survey.

Globally, the heaviest buyers of printed books are also the most likely to purchase ebooks.  However, small but significant numbers of people are being enticed into the book market by ebooksin the latest wave, some nine percent of ebook buyers from New Zealand and the US said they had not bought print books before, compared to six percent of Australian ebook buyers (a marginal increase on the five percent of Australian buyers who said this in January 2012).

What devices are being used, and what sources?
Australian ebook readers were less likely than those in the UK, the US and Canada to be using a dedicated ereading device such as the Kindle, although the percentage doing so had increased since January 2012, up from 13% to 17% (see chart 3). Australians’ device of choice was still the PC/laptop, as in most other markets, including New Zealand. Tablets were in second place in Australia, holding steady from the January wave at 24%a relatively high penetration figure. Australia also showed a surprisingly high number of ebook consumers using a smartphone; at 21% it was the highest penetration for this kind of device, ahead of the 15% recorded in the UK and well ahead of the 7-11% recorded in the other five markets.

Even with the Kindle having a relatively small share of the device market, Amazon was still the most popular source for ebooks in Australia in October, as in January (see chart 4). At 34%, this share was comparable to South Africa but trailed well behind the UK, the US and New Zealand. At 25%, the Apple iBookstore/iTunes market share was much higher in Australia than in any of the other six markets surveyed in the latest wave of researcheven the US, which showed greater use of tablet devices than Australia.

* The online population of markets such as India and Brazil is heavily weighted towards younger, working, urban populations, which has an impact on the penetration figures in these countries.

** In the January 2012 survey, the Australian sample
was 1000.  

A full report analysing the results of the September/October wave of the Global eBook Monitor study is now available. The report provides comparisons of key ebook market and buyer metrics across all seven countries, with trend data on Australia, the UK, the US and India. Demographics include age, sex, region, education, household income, employment and area type of respondent. The full report is priced at A$650; subscribers to Books+Publishing can purchase the report at a discounted price of A$500 for a limited timeplease contact Rachel Levin ( for more details. 



Category: Features