January 24, 2012

The hybrid book economy, or, what we’ve been saying for some time now


For some time now we’ve argued that print and digital can and will coexist. Each form has its strengths and limitations. Our HybridBook line is perhaps one of the best examples of these differing strengths. But just because we’re banking on a “hybrid” readership does not mean that it will become a reality.

That is unless there were some hard stats to back it up. And look at that, we have some courtesy of Verso Advertising’s2011 Survey of Book-Buying Behavior.”

A Publisher’s Weekly report by Jim Milliot and Judith Rosen breaks down the juiciest details:

According to [Jack] McKeown, the data, from Verso’s third annual survey, suggest that print and digital books will coexist for a long time. McKeown based that prediction on several trends: the number of readers who do not intend to buy a reading device seems to be solidifying at around half of all readers, and even among digital device owners the preference seems to be to buy both print and digital books. According to the survey, conducted November 30-December 4, 51.8% of book buyers said they are unlikely to buy a reading device, up from 49.0% in the 2010 survey and 40.2% in the 2009 survey. (In the most recent survey, 15.8% of book buyers already owned a reading device, up from 2.9% in 2009.)

In the most avid book-buying group—those planning to buy 10 or more books—24.9% said they will buy a print book and 29.6% said they will buy e-books. Of those planning to buy five to nine books next year, 17.4% will buy print and 17.9% digital, while the ratio favors print among those buying three to four books by a 20.4% to 15.6% margin. Measured another way, 76% of device owners said they plan to buy at least one print book in the year, and 24% will buy 10 or more print books.

The finding’s were presented this last week at the  ABA Midwinter Institute. The psychology of behind these numbers is absent from the study, but it appears that the bibliophiles will define this “hybrid” book market.


Paul Oliver is the marketing manager of Melville House. Previously he was co-owner of Wolfgang Books in Philadelphia.