Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey about ebooks on technical communication topics. We had 78 respondents complete the survey, and Kai Weber won the drawing for the $50 gift certificate from amazon.com. Congratulations, Kai!
I won’t pretend the results are scientific, but they do provide Scriptorium (and others producing books about tech comm) with some helpful statistics. Before the survey, I suspected that the EPUB and Amazon Kindle formats would be the most popular. Sure enough, the survey results matched that (non)prediction: 56.3 percent of respondents read EPUB books, and 55.2 percent read Amazon AZW (Kindle) book files. (Click on the following images to see the full-size charts.)
It’s not surprising that the KF8 and iBooks formats did not fare as well in the survey; both formats were new when the survey came out. In 12 to 18 months, it would be interesting to see how those formats gain traction and shake up the numbers we’re seeing now.
One statistic from the survey that did surprise me a bit is that 35.6 percent of respondents use their Android smartphones to read ebooks; that percentage is eclipsed only by e-ink Kindles (43.7 percent) and iPads (37.9 percent). 21.8 percent of respondents reported using iPhones to read ebooks. (I can’t say that I like reading ebooks on my Android phone, but it will certainly do in a pinch when I don’t have access to my e-ink Kindle, which I love.)
We also asked whether publishers should include video in ebooks about tech comm. Nearly 60 percent said yes. When asked about the maximum size of an ebook file with embedded video, the responses fell mostly in the 10–25 MB and 25–50 MB ranges:
Respondents left some good comments in the Other field for this question:
- “As long as it takes to get the message across”
- “I guess that depends on the quantity of information in the ebook. I find this question technologically limiting. What seemed like a lot of data even 5 years ago is commonplace now”
The question initiated a useful Twitter conversation between @mlanger and me. She made the very good point that just because we can include video in ebooks doesn’t mean that we should. Also, we should use images and sound instead of relying on talking heads:
@alanpringle Someone I know was doing a video podcast of him talking at a camera with a blank background behind him. Why waste bandwidth?
— Maria Langer (@mlanger) February 8, 2012
At Scriptorium, we’re still wrestling with the idea of putting video in our books. Right now, audio and video file support is not consistent across ebook types (and throw in the differences among device operating systems to make things even more fun for publishers). Streaming is a possibility, too, but not everyone has Internet access all the time. I’m hoping that as the ebook industry matures, there will be a shift toward a standard (how about EPUB 3, which is based on HTML5?) that will make it easier to include video that works across many devices. I’m not holding my breath, however: Apple and Amazon both seem very content to not follow standards up to this point.
Before I let this survey summary become a rant about ebook file formats (and I’ve had a few of those, believe me), I want to again thank the survey respondents. Your answers confirmed that producing ebooks as EPUB and Kindle files will help us reach a wide audience—for now, anyway!