March 14, 2014 Last Updated 12:26 pm

New UK study finds young people less enthusiastic about eBooks, many still do not own a tablet

The youth insights consultancy Voxburner released a new report on digital content buying habits in which the firm sought to discover more information about the eBook reading habits of young people in the UK. The report concluded that  physical books remain the preferred format to read books due to the price of eBooks and the lack of access to a tablet or eReader.

Fault-KEThe report found that 24 percent of UK young people – those between 16-24 – are spending some money on eBooks each month. But half of those are spending less than £5 per month. Three-quarters of those surveyed never buy eBooks at all.

Luke Mitchell, Head of Insight at Voxburner, explains the reasons why young people are less likely to buy eBooks:

  • They’re too expensive. This generation is militant about value-for-money. Voxburner research shows they expect ebooks to be far cheaper than their print equivalent;
  • You can’t touch them. When it comes to books, young people want to feel the product in their hands, smell the pages and see the creases in the spine;
  • They don’t have an e-reader. Almost half of 16-24s don’t own a device they would consider reading ebooks on. A quarter say they would read an ebook on their smartphone if they really wanted to;
  • They do nothing for status. Many young people admit they like to show off their bookcase titles or be seen carrying a title that communicates the right message;
  • They resent being enslaved to technology. Contrary to belief, new Voxburner research into youth attitudes to technology reveals that digital natives do not want to spend any more time looking at screens that they already do.

“Young people are hugely attached to their smartphone,” Mitchell told TNM. “This is the primary device. Then around half the UK youth audience is in education, meaning they have a laptop to get their work done and also use as a streaming device (most 16-24s watch TV on their laptops for example). 91% own a laptop in our new YouthTech research.”

“The tablet is seen as a middle point between the smartphone and the laptop, but for many young people it’s not something they really need. There’s not a strong enough usage case,” Mitchell said.


The report’s author may be more pessimistic about their findings than they should be as previous studies have found that teens tend to be the smallest market for both print and digital book publishing products.

In 2009, Verso did a study of “avid” readers and found that 18-24 year olds lagged far behind other age groups, with the most avid readers being in the last two age groups surveyed, 55-64 years olds, and those over the age of 64. Verso concluded that older readers represented two-thirds of all “avid” readers.

Another study from two years ago, conducted by RR Bowker, found that of all age groups, those between the ages of 13 and 17 were the least likely to buy or prefer eBooks: 66 percent said they preferred print books to eBooks, and only 8 percent said they preferred eBooks to print (the remaining group having no preference).

The hesitancy to purchase eBooks, as seen by the data from Voxburner, can therefore be attributed to both preferences and a lack of access to a device – teens being in that odd age span where parents don’t buy all their gadgets, and teens are yet to be flush with income. In fact, in the RR Bowker study, teens reported that a large majority of them received their devices when they were handed down to them by their parents.


The trend seems to carry on to the Apple Newsstand, as well. The Teen category, which often takes up a large percentage of any magazine’s newsstand at the local bookseller, is actually the smallest category inside the Apple Newsstand with only 46 free apps and 2 paid apps to be found in the U.S. store.

Voxburner’s Mitchell speculates that the reason for this may be that younger readers can find similar content elsewhere. “Regarding Newsstand, clearly young people are still interested in the content that used to fill teen magazines and youth-popular publications. But they can get a lot of it elsewhere, through videos on YouTube or as fans and followers in social for example – they are mostly curating content from different sources rather than having a go-to Newsstand magazine.”

You can view the full report on the Voxburner website by simply registering with your email address.