Results of Our ‘Digital Reading’ Survey

During the months of October and November, we conducted a survey regarding reading habits on digital devices. We are currently busy working on an online reading platform, and such feedback was immensely helpful in presenting a general overview of the tendencies people have with digital text.

We shared the online survey via INC newsletter, with the people who have previously acquired an INC publication, our personal contacts and on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. In total, we received a little above 200 replies, which according to our calculations, should give a fairly faithful representation of our audience and their reading preferences.

The survey was divided into 6 parts, namely:

  1. Researching online
  2. Reading on computer (laptop & desktop computer)
  3. Reading on a tablet
  4. Reading on a smartphone
  5. Social networks
  6. Personal questions

Beneath we present first some information related to our audience, the general outcome of the survey, and finally some more specific conclusion that we found particularly interesting.

Our audience

We noticed that our average reader is in the age range of 26-45 year old (more than 50% of the total amount of people surveyed), while a solid 21.9% of the audience is older than 46, and a fair 18.5% is younger than 26. We were quite pleasantly surprised to find out that the results came from 32 different countries, with the most common one being, of course the Netherlands (26%), followed by the United States of America (14.1%), and Australia (6.8%). Nearly half of the participants were academics (49.51%), while the second most common occupational sector belonged to that of students (18.45%), followed closely by the cultural sector (17.96%). The remaining 14% was shared among fields such as Technology, Finiance, and Public Services. We have also noticed that the majority of the contributors use devices developed by Apple (especially for what concerns tablets and smartphones).

General findings

In general, our participants seem to lean towards an easy and convenient solution when they are reading a text online (specifically a long-form or research paper in this case). There is no clear aversion towards more interactive file formats, however, it can be argued that functionality and simplicity of the format beat variety and structureal complexity. All summed up, one can rightfully assume that people regard reading digital publications still as a sort of a novelty rather than a completely legitimate counterpart to reading print publications.

A few particular remarks

1. Information

The first pieces of information people look for when reading and researching new texts, are the title (53.8% say it the most important on a scale from 1 to 5), the author (47.4%), and the keywords (46.4%).
23.8 % of our participants consider information related to the editor(s) to be the least important.
The file format of the publication and the date of publishing are considered as ‘moderately’ important during the research process. 33.8% say that the file format is secondary, and likewise is the date of publishing (for 33% of people.

The date of writing seems to be less important than the date of publishing, although the margin of difference is quite minuscule (32.4%).

2. Navigation

Our survey contributors have a strong preference for scrolling. 64.6% of them declared their fondness for scrolling on desktop or laptop computers and a staggering 71.4% on smartphones.

However, on tablets, results are more balanced. Almost 40% say they still prefer to scroll down (‘To read one page on a screen and to scroll down to read the whole content’). In contrast to the above results, 43.9% of our sampled population say they prefer ‘To read one page on a screen, but paginated (no scrolling, click on bottom to turn the pages)’, and 10.6% say they prefer to ‘read on an “emulated” book: 2 pages face to face and click on bottom to turn the pages’.

It seems that the digital readers from our surveya associate tablets with books more than the other two technological devices. A tablet has a closer physical resemblance to a book than a desktop/laptop computer or a smartphone has. The fact that out survey participants lean toward emulated page-flipping on tablets may suggest a certain nostalgia of a physicality of print book. The smartphones and other bulkier computers, instead, embrace the ephemeral and limitless entailments of digital technology.

3. Digital publishing platforms

Digital publishing platforms such as Issuu or Scribd appear quite unpopular with our survey contributors, as the majority (32.4% of them) say they use it ‘Less than once in three months’.
Issuu is slightly more popular than Scribd (27.8% compared to 25.4%), however 46.8% of the total amount of participants did not like any of the 2 platforms and sometimes even strongly reject them for a variety of reasons, such as preferring to have ‘control over the text’ and to ‘download files’.

4. Reading long Texts

Reading on a screen

Downloading and reading a PDF version convincingly wins the first spot as the most popular choice for when reading long texts (73.7% of people made this choice).
Apart from that, reading an online HTML webpage seems to be the ‘best’ alternativeto PDF (8.9%). Some also consider downloading and reading an EPUB file (7%), or a plain text file (.doc for instance, with a frequence of 3.8%).

The preference for the PDF could be explained by arguing that such a file is easily printable (60.1% of people agreed), it is easy to read on different computers/devices (43.2% expressed so) and also easy to send by email (53.5% of the surveyed claim).

Print on Demand (PoD)

60.8% said they have never purchased a book through a Print-on-Demand platform, yet 36.8% of them have done it. We consider this information quite striking, since PoD is still quite unpopular, and further, since INC publications are also available for free in digital versions.
The survey participants explained that even though it was already available for free digitally, the main reasons for purchasing a PoD book were:
– the content of the book itself (40.3% said ‘Yes, if I enjoyed the book (a lot).’)
– the preference for reading on paper (34.6% said ‘Yes, because I prefer to read on paper.’)
– the potential difficulty of reading the digital version (20.4% said ‘Yes, if the digital version is difficult to read.’)

However, although the surveyed population does not seem to be reluctant to the print-on-demand idea, some of them point out that a different layout would make them purchase a PoD book more easily, but they also insist that a cheap print quality would be ‘useless’.

5. News

People keep up with their favourite websites primarly by using social media. 53.5% of them said they use Facebook as a newsfeed, 46.9% of them said they use Twitter.
Despite some of them use social media as newsfeed, others still use the ‘traditional’ newsletter (55.4%) and RSS Feed, although the latter is used less (33.3%). Google+ doesn’t look popular, as only 5.6% of them said they used it.

We intend, thus to present the readers with a broad spectrum of different tools from which they can choose freely, since there is no specific digital reading tendency appearing at this point.


Download the survey by clicking on this link: