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What devices and formats do your customers prefer?

Most publishers create ebooks in all formats figuring it doesn't matter whether mobi is more important than EPUB or if the content is read on an iPad more frequently than on a mobile phone. That approach means these publishers have no idea how their content is being consumed. It also means they probably don't have a direct channel to their customers or some other way of polling them on their preferences.

At O'Reilly we like to stay on top of our customer reading habits and preferences. We monitor device and format trends through surveys and download statistics (from our direct sales channel). For example, here's a chart showing which primary and additional devices our customers read our books on:


As you can see, a computer is the O'Reilly customer's preferred reading device and the Kindle family is a distant second. What I find interesting here is the fact that Android tablets are much more popular reading devices for O'Reilly content than an iPad is. In fact, for our customers the small-screen iPhone/iPod combo is also a much more popular reading device than the iPad. Another interesting tidbit is that the iPad's popularity is almost exclusively as a second option, not the primary reading device.

Now let's look at preferred formats:


Here we see PDF still dominates; we learned long ago that most of the reading taking place on the computer is with PDFs, not EPUB or mobi files. This is a trend we've seen for years now and PDF doesn't seem to be any closer to relinquishing its format leadership status now than it was back in 2009, for example. And despite the Kindle's popularity EPUB is preferred much more so than mobi.

That begs the question: If the Kindle is such an important device for O'Reilly customers (see first chart), why is mobi a distant 3rd in format popularity? Is it possible our customers are loading their Kindles with PDFs? Sounds like a great question we need to add to our survey...

These charts reflect the preferences of the O'Reilly customer. Unless you also happen to publish technology books I'm pretty sure your results will look different from ours. But are you even taking the time to ask your customers these questions?



I think your graphs reflect your customer's access more than preferences. For instance, do your users really prefer reading your content on Android tablets, or do more of your users own Android tablets (approximately $199) than do iPads (approx. $500 +). Also, smart phones are becoming ubiquitous, therfore more likely to be used by default.

Joe Wikert

@Ditadude, that's a really good point about the distinction between device access and preference.

carmen webster buxton

I don't think there is that much carry-over from technical book buyers to fiction buyers. The digital revolution in trade books happened because the Kindle offered ease of access and ease of reading, including making fonts bigger. Tablets might be driving a lot of the present growth but it's still non-PDF ebooks that are leading the market. I have tried to read an 8-1/2" x 11" PDF on an iPad and it sucked.

Deena M.

I agree with @Ditadude. I myself have been a recent convert to eBook reading, and although I have no Kindle or tablet to read eBooks on, I read them on my desktop computer using Kindle for PC and through epub formats. I prefer epub over PDF because it's easier to read through.

I have to say though that eBooks will not replace my real books anytime soon. eBooks are just easier and more convenient to have around (especially since we have very limited space at home). But I will always go to booksales to find books that catch my fancy.

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