In this week’s final blog post on the results of our Mobile reading survey, we’ll be turning our attention to the people who said ‘no’. While we were heartened to discover that 43% of smartphone owners on both sides of the Atlantic were using their phones to read books, that still meant that over half of these groups had decided this wasn’t for them. We wanted to know why, and what the publishing and bookselling industry could do to convert them.
The reasons that mobile reading refuseniks gave for not reading on their smartphones suggested that mobile reading platforms, publishers and booksellers have a job on their hands if they want to change their minds. 36% of non-mobile readers in the US said they found the experience of reading on a mobile unpleasant, as did 29% of UK respondents. Meanwhile 26% of refuseniks in the US and 21% in the UK said they found mobile reading platforms too difficult to use.
Both of these point towards continued limitations in the User Experience (UX) that publishers, e-reading ecosystems and booksellers offer eBook readers in the mobile space. This seems like a serious oversight. App developers in every segment from gaming to social networking pour time, effort and money getting the UX of their products and services right for their users. They know that providing a clear and pleasant UX is how they retain users who are only ever one swipe away from leaving their apps altogether.
The above findings suggest that together publishers, booksellers and e-reading platform providers are under-investing in User Experience. This can take many forms. It ranges from the poorly formatted eBooks, to irrelevant search results in eBook stores driven by incomplete metadata or convoluted instructions to sideload eBooks onto phones. And what it says to users is that reading on their phone offers frustrations and limitations on a platform that is meant to offer choice and convenience.
It would be a fatal error for the publishing industry to assume that losing a mobile reader merely means that the same person will put their phone away and pick up a print book. The mobile user who abandons an eBook halfway through will just turn to another app. They will play a game, do some social networking, look something up online, watch a video or listen to music. The phone in their hands offers a conduit to an endless choice of information and entertainment.
In 2015, 2.4 billion smartphones will be sold worldwide. That’s approximately 120 times the total number of Kindle e-readers sold between 2007 and 2014. If the publishing industry can convert even a relatively small number of those new smartphone users into being smartphone readers too, then it has a hope of returning to growth.