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A Flawed Survey Shows Amazon Has 79% of eBook Market in UK, 11% of Brits Use eBooks, and Other Nonsense

September 12th, 2013 by · 5 Comments · DeBunking

2236132379_7c0c6ea272[1]There’s a new survey out today for Ofcom, and if you have already read about the survey in The Bookseller then I suggest that you forget what you read. The survey report is bogus.

The ebook survey was conducted as part of a larger survey into media consumption habits in the UK. While I cannot criticize the specific of what’s wrong with other sections of the survey, the section on ebooks was tragically and obviously flawed.

A total of 5734 Brits were polled by Kantar Media for the survey, and of that number a total of 631 had reported using ebooks in the past 3 months.

That is only 11% of the survey group, and is a rather small figure. It is also somewhat unlikely to be true or accurate.

Past surveys have shown that somewhere between a third of adults in the UK and a third of UK household own an ereader. I’m not going to insist that one survey or another is more likely to be accurate, but I do wish to point out that they contradict and should be taken with a grain of salt.

And that’s not the only example of this survey report’s questionable accuracies. There’s a second huge goof in the report that renders one of the more important results completely worthless.

I am referring to the chart in the survey report that listed where respondents got their ebooks.

Amazon ranked first, with about 79% of respondents reporting that they got some or all of their ebooks from the retail giant. Of course, that survey question also showed that not all of that 79% got all their ebooks via Amazon; many also sourced their ebooks elsewhere.

iBooks was the second most popular (9%), with Google (search engine, 8%), Google Play Books(6%), and eBooks.com (6%) rounding out the top 5.

If you’re wondering why a search engine beat out ebookstores as a source of ebooks, you can skip the obvious answer (piracy). While the survey report is framing this as sources for ebooks, that is not what was asked in the actual survey.

This data set and the graph made from it is based on an entirely unrelated survey question. It didn’t actually ask where the respondents got their ebooks; the question asked where they were “downloading, streaming/accessing, or sharing computer software” and then collated the answers of the 638 who had accessed ebooks.

Yes, the firm that conducted the survey mixed up a question from a different section of the survey and hoped we wouldn’t notice. Seriously, you can double check this on page 56 of the report. Read the fine print and you’ll see I’m right.

This survey report goes on to try to offer a granular analysis of the the survey group’s buying and downloading habits, but given the issues with the “ebook sources” chart and the issue with the accuracy of the 11%, I am going to discard the rest of the report.

It is Bunk.

Report (PDF)

image by lejoe

P.S. I found this story via The Bookseller, who reported that Amazon had 79% of the UK ebook market. No, really.

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5 Comments so far ↓

  • Sturmund Drang

    The questions asked and inferences made are questionable, about that I do not disagree. But if you were to poll 100 of my friends I’m sure one third would say they owned an ereader/tablet and only 10 percent have read a book on them this year. Most android tablets are sitting in drawers. As for the other number, Brits traditionally read more “classics” than the rest of the world and my friend a lot of classics are downloadable through gutenberg and other sources and none of them are “pirated”. Almost one million books a week are downloaded through Gutenberg.Org alone.

  • Tim Gray

    Heh. You’re right about that Bookseller page. It blithely adds up market shares well past a 100% total. “That does not mean what you think it means.”

    Actually Amazon having a 79% share of the UK ebooks market would not surprise me that much, but it looks like it doesn’t. And I’ve never heard any mention of ebooks.com before, so that’s a surprise.

    • Nate Hoffelder

      You’d think that a search engine ranking third would have clued them in that this list meant something different, but no.

      I’ve bought stuff from ebooks.com before. It was academic titles.

    • Nate Hoffelder

      I would not be surprised either to learn that Amazon has that size of a market share, but that’s not a detail we can get from the survey report.

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