How do people read books? (Survey Results)

Survey Results 2


I recently posted a survey about reading habits.

Today, I’m sharing the preliminary results.

The survey is still open. If you haven’t already taken the survey, please scroll down to the bottom of this post.

The survey will remain open indefinitely. You can come back to check on the survey results at any time.

Find the most up-to-date results by scrolling down to the survey questions and clicking View Results.

I also have the survey posted on a Survey tab at my blog:

It would help to have more data. Much more data. But we have a start.

The more people who take the survey, the more meaningful the data will become.


Reading Method

Interestingly, there was almost an even split between e-books and paperbacks:

  • E-book 46%
  • Paperback 40%
  • Hardbound 12%
  • Audio 2%

This split can vary significantly by genre, but I think it shows that if you only sell your book in one format, you’re really limiting your potential customer base.

The audio book market might look like a slim slice of the pie, but there is also less competition within that market.


Reading Source

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the majority vote went to Kindle:

  • Amazon’s Kindle 81%
  • I don’t read e-books 7%
  • Barnes & Noble’s Nook 4%
  • Kobo 4%
  • Apple 3%
  • Google 1%

These numbers may change somewhat with greater participation, but I think we can expect Kindle to remain the popular favorite.

It makes you wonder how much you stand to gain by opting out of KDP Select. However, there is also less competition outside of Select, which helps authors who publish elsewhere.

Also, I must apologize for leaving out an option for Other. Smashwords, for example, generates some indie sales.

Some customers buy books in multiple formats, and unfortunately the survey didn’t allow readers to select two or more answers.

Another notable statistic is that 7% don’t read e-books. But remember, 54% of readers prefer a different format over the e-book. The print market is quite significant.


Reading Kindle

It’s all over the place! There is no clear favorite.

In addition, many customers read Kindle e-books more than one way, but the survey only allowed for one answer.

  • Kindle Fire 15%
  • Kindle Paperwhite 15%
  • iPad 14%
  • I don’t read Kindle e-books 14%
  • Other Kindle device 12%
  • Android device 13%
  • Kindle for PC reading app 9%
  • Other option not listed 4%
  • iPhone 3%
  • Kindle for Mac reading app 1%

This shows that it’s worth making sure that your book formats well across all devices. If you only format a Kindle e-book with one device in mind, it probably won’t be a good fit for most readers.

Note that 14% of those polled don’t read Kindle e-books.


Reading Frequency

The people who participated in the survey are readers. None selected zero.

Of course, that’s not typical of the population as a whole.

  • 5+ books per month 45%
  • 3 books per month 20%
  • 2 books per month 14%
  • 1 book per month 11%
  • 4 books per month 10%

More than half of those surveyed read 4 or more books per month.

Remember, though, most of the people who have taken the survey already like to read. If we can get more exposure for this survey, this may change significantly.


Reading KU

At this stage, 91% of those surveyed do not subscribe to Kindle Unlimited.

What surprises me is that 45% of those surveyed read 5 or more books per month.

There are a few ways to interpret this:

  • Some avid readers are buying 99-cent books, so even though they read 5+ books per month, it doesn’t make sense for most of them to spend $9.99.
  • Some avid readers would love to sign up for Kindle Unlimited, but the books they really want to read aren’t in the program.
  • Some avid readers prefer to purchase their e-books, to keep them forever, rather than borrow up to 10 books at a time through a library.
  • Some avid readers prefer another subscription service, like Scribd.
  • Some avid readers aren’t eligible for the available payment options.
  • Some avid readers are upset about some aspect of Kindle Unlimited.
  • Some avid readers haven’t made up their mind about Kindle Unlimited yet.
  • Some avid readers haven’t heard of Kindle Unlimited.
  • Some avid readers don’t want to make the commitment needed to joint Kindle Unlimited.
  • A combination of the above.
  • We need more people to take the survey to get a better indication of the stats.

It seems that there are a lot of excuses one could have to not to sign up. So maybe 9% isn’t as small compared to 45% who read 5+ books per month as it first seems.


Reading Indie

This includes indie authors and indie publishers.

  • Read indie books less than half the time 33%
  • Read indie books about half the time 31%
  • Read indie books more than half the time 23%
  • Always read indie books 7%
  • Not sure 6%
  • Never read indie books 0%

There are people who never read indie books. They just hadn’t taken this survey yet.

Overall, there appears to be good support for indie books.

The leading answer (narrowly leading) reads indie books less than half the time, yet still does read indie books.

Nearly one-third of those surveyed read indie books about half the time.

61% read indie books about half the time or more than half.

We can see that some people aren’t sure if they’re reading indie books. Partly, it might not be easy to recognize all the major imprints, or it might not be well-known where the small publisher versus indie publisher line crosses. Or some customers just might not pay attention to how the book is published (maybe they don’t really care).


Reading Kids

How many e-books do parents let their kids read per month?

The two main answers are “not at all” and “frequently”:

  • 0 per month 48%
  • 5+ per month 32%
  • 1-2 per month 15%
  • 3-4 per month 5%

The predominant answer is a resounding NO! Some people feel strongly about not letting their kids spend too much time in the digital world (on top of video games, televisions, apps…).

It seems that children’s authors definitely need to make print editions available.

However, nearly one-third let their kids read 5+ books per month via Kindle. So there is a significant Kindle children’s market, too.

Obviously, things may vary somewhat depending on the kind of book.

Again, 32% seem to be a good fit for Kindle Unlimited, yet only 9% of those surveyed subscribe to Kindle Unlimited. If parents read a few books per month themselves and their kids read 5+ books, then wow, it seems like Kindle Unlimited would be a bargain. But maybe parents aren’t finding the books they’d like their kids to read in Kindle Unlimited; and we have that list of factors that I gave previously.

(At least one person answered zero because she didn’t have kids presently, but someone else may have answered based on hypothetical kids.)


Several readers described their personal reading habits in the comments section of my survey post.

If you’d like to read some of those comments, you can find that post here:


The more readers who take this survey, the better the results will be.

Thank you for your time. Thank you for sharing the survey.

New Questions, added 3/8/15:

Original Questions:

Chris McMullen

CopyrightΒ Β© 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

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Click here to jump to the comments section:

40 comments on “How do people read books? (Survey Results)

  1. Thanks, Chris. Even at this early stage, the results are interesting to say the least. I’ve been putting off print versions of my books because of the time and effort involved in learning yet another process. Now though I think my procrastination is at an end. -sigh-

    • It can vary a lot by genre though. I sell more nonfiction print books than ebooks, but in genre fiction it’s often ebook dominant. I would find books like yours available in print to help project the potential, and estimate the page count to see how much the print book would cost. Good luck with your books. πŸ™‚

  2. One thing I’d note on the children’s section specifically (and maybe it was just me, but the size of that slice of the pie says there may have been others) is there wasn’t an option for “I don’t have children.” I marked it a 0, since I have no children to allow to read… but that might have skewed the data. There was also no equivalent “printed books” control question for comparison. Not trying to be annoying, just dropping my observations in.

    Also, am I the only one who thought it was funny that fewer people read on Nook than who don’t read e-books at all? XD

  3. Thanks for this. However it might be flawed in that it queries only those on line. How many people do not fiddle with blogs, facebook, or even the Internet, because they are a bit more literate than that or prefer a more organic input or just cannot afford it due to buying books? I believe we would find far more people reading hardback and paperback if we asked at bookstores.

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  7. Yes, I agree that results are interesting but also that it would be useful to extend its reach (and the format means that some people might never get to see it). Have you tried to publish it on bookclubs or sites like Goodreads, Booklikes, etc?

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