How We Read When We Read On Our iPads

Last December, Amazon sold around 5 million Kindle devices of one kind or another. (Remarkably, it seems that about a dozen or so of those devices still don’t have ebooks of mine on them, but that’s an issue for another day …). I thought 2012 was set to be a Kindle year when it came to e-reading. But what I’ve noticed since is that many of my friends have bought iPads. They’re doing a lot of different things with them, but one thing most of them seem to be doing is reading. So is this actually the year of the iPad for ereading people instead?

I don’t know, but it at least suggests to me that those of us in the business of creating and selling content should pay the iPad some close attention.

On top of that, Social Media Chimps in April published a graphic looking at ereading and the devices we use. Okay, so it was April and in ereading terms April is already old, and its data predates the release of the Kindle Fire in November 2011, but their figures then said that the Kindle had 47% of the ereading market, with the iPad second with 32% (then Sony Reader at 5% and Barnes & Noble’s Nook at 4%). So, a year ago, the iPad was already an ereading big deal and this year I’m surrounded by people reading on their iPads.

If you read on a Kindle, presumably you buy Kindle ebooks from Amazon (or at least drop in to Amazon to monitor the free stuff …). If you read on an iPad, it’s not the same neat linear process. Sure, it can be. Apple might like it to be – you might buy all your ebooks from Apple’s iBooks – but the iPad user has options. Including, of course, the Kindle app.

Some of my work is currently exclusively available on Kindle, so that got me wondering: am I missing much of the iPad market? So yesterday I put out a call on Twitter and Facebook to see how iPad users are going about their ereading. Clearly there’s no scientific validity to this in terms of sampling methods or my leading question: ‘A question for people who read ebooks on their iPads: are you using Kindle or iBooks (or something else)?’ That’s my entire methodology right there.

81 people replied. 60 read using the Kindle app on their iPads, while 43 use iBooks. Six use Booki.sh (reflecting an Australian bias in the sample). Five said they use Kobo, though I wonder if they’re referring to the device rather than a Kobo app on their iPads (separate to those five, two were clear they were referring to the Kobo device). Two said they read PDFs, two said they read using Google and two use Stanza. Among applications with one user were Readmill, Bluefire, txtr, ReadCloud, Overdrive and Smartnote. One person has switched entirely to audio and several used the poll as a chance to restate their love for paper books.

Clearly, plenty of people have found themselves reading more than one way on their iPads. Sometimes it’s a legacy thing (a previous Kindle user buying an iPad and using the Kindle app), sometimes it’s about price or availability (being signed up to multiple platforms lets you buy the cheapest version, and gives you access to more content). Some people have strong preferences for strong reasons. One person, with the decency to add the hashtag #ebookgeek, has installed six different reading apps on his iPad. If a couple of million more people like that would like to follow me on Twitter, they’d be welcome.

So, the short answer is that in my biased non-randomised study based on a leading question and a very small sample, 3/4 of people using an iPad to eread use Kindle and half use iBooks. Kindle-exclusive work is missed by 1/4 of participants.

In practical terms, that’s what I wanted to know, so thank you to all who pitched in. Beyond those numbers, there’s of course the bigger picture: Amazon’s wish to dominate in its field, Apple’s wish to dominate in its, and the various cunning ways they work to achieve that. Ereading is one spot where their sandpits overlap, and it’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out.

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2 Responses to How We Read When We Read On Our iPads

  1. Kindle fan says:

    I replied to your poll as a Kindle and iPad owner, tending to read on my kindle as a preference and Kindle app on iPad otherwise. I should have explained I used to use iBooks, retailers (dymocks etc), Kobo and so on to find the cheapest prices. Now I can’t be bothered shopping around. I am generally happy with Kindle pricing and when I find it is close to the price of a real book, I wait or buy the real book. I find it crazy to buy an ebook for the same price as a book in a store, which I can lend on or sell second hand after I have finished. I prefer ebooks, but prefer a real book if the price is the same. For the record, I have never sold a Nick Earls book second hand – for some reason I keep them all, despite not usually keeping books. Now i buy them on Kindle

  2. Kindle. And yep, I have some of your books on them. Well, one. The Fix. But I recently put my book onto the Kindle market and the formatting is screwy. So paper, as a writer, is what I prefer.

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