E-books making Britain a nation of bookworms

THE soaring popularity of e-books is creating a nation of bookworms and e-readers have increased the amount people read, ­according to a study.

One in four consumers who bought an e-book say they read more because e-books cost less than paperbacks. Picture: Getty

More than a quarter of e-reader owners said their reading had increased since getting a device in the past year, with teenagers and young adults embracing the technology the most.

The study, from market analysts Mintel, also shows how one in four consumers who have bought an e-book in the past year say they read more than they used to because e-books cost less than paperbacks.

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This figure rises to as many as four in ten of 16- to 24-year-old book owners.

Despite the increase, analysts believe the boom does seem to be levelling off with a slight 1 per cent of market growth ­reported this year on 2013.

Samuel Gee, Mintel senior technology and media analyst, said: “While e-readers have seemingly sparked consumer interest in reading, it may be that e-reader sales have had their time in the sun.

“With increasingly affordable and multi-functional tablets spreading into the market, the two real benefits of e-readers – greater battery life and an ­e-paper screen readable under sunlight – do not appear to be enough to maintain interest.

“However, our research shows significant potential to trade on existing consumer positivity in terms of buying e-books, including the potential for subscription services.”

The study also reveals that three out of ten Brits now own an e-reader with many seeing them as essential travel kit.

“The risk with consumers moving to e-books on holiday is their possible non-return to the print market after they have invested in an e-reader and the start of a digital collection of books. Retailers could possibly look to counteract this by initiating an e-reader lending scheme to consumers who go on holiday,” Mr Gee added.

The fear that e-readers will have the same impact that digital music downloads had on CD and records sales seems to be unfounded as seven out of ten e-reader owners have bought a paperback in the past year.

Mintel said sales have levelled off after rapid growth in recent years with the market worth £340 million this year. In contrast traditional books sales are estimated to stay at £1.4 billion in 2014, the same as 2013.

Mr Gee said: “Along with the drop in e-reader purchases, the decline in users crossing over between formats suggests that the market is starting to stabilise once more. This is possibly as fewer customers are being exposed to e-readers for the first time and therefore experimenting with both formats at once.”

However, the traditional book market still looks under threat given that a third of all UK children now has a tablet computer – almost double the figure from last year, a study by Ofcom has revealed.

Some 34 per cent of children aged between five and 15 use their own tablet, up from 19 per cent last year, according to to the regulator’s annual Children and Parents: Media Use and ­Attitudes report.