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Decades on from the birth of Project Gutenberg and the first portable readers, eBook sales are making headlines. Christmas 2011 witnessed a surge in sales as more buyers converted from traditional paperbacks but, although many sales forecasts remain optimistic, some predict a slump in sales as users turn to tablets for multipurpose use. We followed online eReader conversation to gauge what users make of the major players, resulting in our eReader Research Report.
The report is a sample of what Brandwatch can offer to brands interested in social media monitoring, and how bespoke reports can reveal insights into the chat surrounding specific brands, products and industries.
The two top contenders, Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook, were analysed for a one month period between May and June 2012, with broader data collected over three months.
Key findings from the report revealed that:
- Kindle was the most salient and upbeat brand, with publicity tied to a series of positive news features
- The Kindle Fire was considered to provide the best user experience, but it was also the most controversial
- Wi-Fi capability was frequently mentioned in positive texts, but cheaper eReaders were not considered better value products
Free and low cost eBooks were a major appeal for Kindle users, who weighed the cost of the device accordingly. Free Harry Potter books on the Kindle lending library, Father’s Day gift guides and Kindle sales in Waterstones stores ensured Amazon’s eReader was consistently a talking point online. The Kindle even took hold of events not exclusive to its brand, appearing in three quarters of all mentions relating to Oprah Winfrey’s digital book club. The new book club is available across all digital devices but Kindle, which Oprah endorsed back in 2008, took the lead and benefitted from the majority of upbeat news coverage.
Barnes & Noble’s Nook, by contrast, attracted negative sentiment due to news coverage of poor sales. The majority of negative Nook mentions for the month occurred on Tuesday 19 June, 81% of which were news articles covering the quarterly figures. Barnes & Noble failed to counter the negative publicity, though a higher than average level of media attention was foreseeable. In late April Microsoft invested $300m in the booksellers to grow their share of the eBook market. With such a major injection of funds, the price of B&N shares rocketed and with it the expectations of their stakeholders.
The Kindle Fire received the highest percentage of positive ‘usability’ comments. Users were generally upbeat when discussing Kindle Fire’s features and, on average, considered the cost ($200) to be more justified than the original Kindle’s $79 price tag. The negative correlation between eReader price and value suggests that the modern consumer expects more from their reading device.
This resonates with the rise of computer tablets. eReading applications, including the Kindle app, allow users to buy best-sellers on devices such as the iPad. Apple did receive negative publicity in mid-April, following lawsuits for overpriced eBooks. New models, however, are pitched as competitors to the Kindle and the Nook. Both the Google Nexus 7 and the Microsoft Surface tablet match a growing demand for multi-purpose gadgets on the move. The consumer who prefers a simple, reading-only device is part of a dwindling minority. With email, browsing and multi-media playback, the distinction between eReaders and tablets is no longer so clear.
The data highlights the growing acceptance of eReaders within traditional bookseller territory. With the new Kindle Fire being recently announced and a lull in Barnes & Noble confidence, the Nook may struggle to compete with its more advanced rivals.
For the numbers behind these and further insights, you can read the full research report here.