E-reading: a technology trend driven by older, not younger, readers

A just-released report from Kobo has added detail to the 2015 finding by Nielsen UK that older women are relatively heavy ebook purchasers. As reported in The Guardian, Kobo said this makes e-reading “the first technological revolution being driven by [those aged] 45 and older, rather than younger generations”. Some 16% of Kobo’s customers buy an ebook almost everyday.

The Kobo study suggests that women account for 75% of the most active e-readers – spending at least 30 minutes a day reading.  They overwhelmingly prefer romance novels, with the category accounting for more than twice the number of unit sales as general fiction, the second most popular category. Mystery novels came in third. While women accounted for the largest group of active digital readers, older men also made up a significant proportion of the group. While men aged between 18 to 34 account for only 13% of active digital readers, men over 65 represent 34% of Kobo’s most enthusiastic readers.

“As one gets older there are a number of benefits in e-reading,” said Michael Tamblyn, Kobo chief executive. “It’s nice to be able to make the font larger, or not have to travel to the bookshop to find your next book.”

He added that digital shops own the lion’s share of romance sales. ‘It’s quite difficult for a bricks and mortar store to stock the range and selection these passionate readers want, as they can’t devote the space to it. So these customers have come much more quickly to digital.”

When combined with the Nielsen UK data that found older women also account for 32% of borrowings from UK Companions, book and e-bookpublic libraries, it is clear that women over the age of 45 “ are the engine that powers the [book] industry,”  Tamblyn said. “The industry has intuitively known this, but we wanted to shine a light on it.”

Kobo’s report is based on data from its own customers as well as a survey of 16,000 readers using both Kobo e-readers and competing devices. It confirmed that prolific readers buy and read both print and digital books, reading on average two print books a month and buying 16 print books as well as 60 ebooks a year.


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