Electronic books: a survey of users in the UK

Barrie Gunter (Centre for Mass Communication Research, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK)

Aslib Proceedings

ISSN: 0001-253X

Publication date: 1 December 2005



This study provides insights into the early market for e‐books in the UK through survey research with members of a large online panel.


Data were collected from an online panel established by a leading commercial internet research company. Members of the panel are signalled each week to take part in web surveys. Respondents completed an online questionnaire posted on the company's web site. Questions explored awareness, trialling, purchase and borrowing of e‐books, examining the frequency of such behaviour and types of publications accessed and/or obtained.


A significant proportion of respondents (85 per cent) were aware of e‐books. Among these respondents, around half (49 per cent) had made trial use of them, nearly four in ten (38 per cent) had bought at least one e‐book, and one in seven (13 per cent) had borrowed an e‐book from a library. Technical books and non‐fiction publications related to hobbies and interests were among those most popularly used and bought. The main perceived advantages of e‐books are that they can be obtained more conveniently than going via a bookstore and they are often cheaper than hard copy versions.

Research limitations/implications

This online survey was dependent on respondent self‐selection. This meant that there was no central control over the return sample profile.


This survey provided an early look at the e‐book market in the UK. Findings indicated the market potential of e‐books given that the equipment needed to read them is regarded neither as too expensive nor too difficult to use. It is clear, however, that early e‐book users regard electronic reading as something to use primarily for reference work than for more extended reading for leisure and entertainment. Most e‐book users (56 per cent) still preferred not to read extended passages of text from a screen. Nonetheless, for dipping in and out of reference works e‐books have the advantage of being easier to search and easier to annotate.



Gunter, B. (2005), "Electronic books: a survey of users in the UK", Aslib Proceedings, Vol. 57 No. 6, pp. 513-522. https://doi.org/10.1108/00012530510634244

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