/ How to Choose a Format: Consumers’ Evaluation in Choosing a Format for Reading Books in Norway

Abstract

This article contributes to the discussion of digital versus physical books and sharpens focus on the consumers of books. Using mixed methods, the article explores the emotional relationship between books, information and technology and provides new insight into the importance of habits, the impact of books as symbols of status, format choice and technology acceptance. The study looks at what are determining factors when choosing a format for reading, and how e-books and physical books compare to each other. Respondents report that their ability to relax with the book is reduced when reading an e-book and that the joy and comfort of reading a book are diminished when reading on a screen. The results confirm and extend previous research in this area and suggest that emotional value should be included in technology acceptance studies for digital reading.

Keywords: Physical books, e-books, adoption, technology acceptance, Digital products, mixed methods.

Introduction

Studies examining post-purchase or post-trial of e-books are limited, but they are valuable in areas where adoption of e-books is slower than anticipated (Antón, Camarero, & Rodríguez, 2017; Helm, Ligon, Stovall, & Van Riper, 2018; Huang & Hsieh, 2012). The greater the relative advantage a new system/innovation has to the user, the more likely it is to be adopted and used (Benoit & Rogers, 2006; Bergström & Höglund, 2018; Gerlach & Buxmann, 2011). Here, economic and social evaluations of the innovation have an impact on the decision to use the innovation (Benoit & Rogers, 2006). In this case, technology acceptance and the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations of users have a great influence on the likelihood of use (Richardson Jr & Mahmood, 2012). In connection with this, the compatibility of the user’s life and lifestyle with the innovation is also crucial in order to succeed in the market (Gerlach & Buxmann, 2011). Still, it remains uncertain how e-books are compatible with the user`s life and lifestyle in Norway.

A study conducted by Shim, Kim and Altmann (2016) in Korea used a concept of consumer innovativeness dimension that looked at what contributed to e-book adoption in Korea. They found that reading habits and hedonic and social innovativeness have a strong influence on utilization of e-books (Shim, Kim, & Altmann, 2016). Hedonic innovativeness includes motivations, such as pleasure, fun, relieving tension and/or experiencing excitement (Shim et al., 2016). Social innovativeness includes status and prestige, which corresponds with using books as a sign of social status (Bourdieu, 1987; Meyrowitz, 2003). As pointed out by Helm, Ligon, Stovall and Van Riper (2018), there is a need for a larger sample research on perceptions surrounding physical digital ownership and e-book usage. This article utilizes a large sample of open-ended question from a population survey conducted in Norway with N=1558.

In the US print books continue to be more popular than other formats, but the amount of people that read e-books or listen to audio books is increasing (Perrin, 2016, 2018). Norwegian society is one of the most digitally advanced and diverse on a global basis, with smartphone coverage for 89% of the population, access to the internet for 97% of the population and tablets for 74% (Vaage, 2018). The offering of e-books in Norway is also large, with all of the bookstore chains having their own e-book store online. This was then collected into a cloud service called Bokskya.no as a way of having all e-books purchased from commercial actors collected at one place. Furthermore, the National Library of Norway has made every text published before the year 2000 digitally available to the public for reading. E-books have been included in local libraries and they are free to borrow for the whole population. The Norwegian population has a diversity of options to choose from when it comes to e-books, both commercial and public. The high availability of digital media makes the relatively low usage of e-books a question for research - why has the Norwegian population had a slow process of embracing e-books in comparison with other digital media forms? Access to e-books is not the issue, nor is access to digital readers or the internet. The research questions are: what factors contribute to or determine the format of reading regardless of genre? What considerations do consumers make when choosing a format and comparing different formats with each other regardless of genre?

What the studies mentioned above have in common is that they all explore how and why users are reading in a particular format. Due to the diversity of technological options that e-books are placed in, the affective and emotional responses users have towards a product become interesting (Ballatore & Natale, 2016; Loebbecke, 2010). Cultural theories highlight topics and provide possible interpretations and explanations for different connections and contexts (Kellner & Durham, 2006). We know that emotions and affect play a part when it comes to consumers evaluating a medium (Balling, Begnum, Kuzmičová, & Schilhab, 2019). We also know that evaluating a product can be more than a purely rational choice and for e-books they include a balance between rational choice and emotions connected to the medium (Antón et al., 2017; Helm et al., 2018; Shim et al., 2016; Shin, 2011). By combining these theories, one can get closer to describing and interpreting why e-books in Norway, up to this point, have a relatively limited following.

This article is divided into four theoretical perspectives. First, cultural and social belonging based on cultural studies. Second, remediation and physicality based on a combination of McLuhan`s theory and cultural studies. Third, the article will discuss technology acceptance and usage of new technology. Fourth, the impact of affect and emotions when choosing a medium will be discussed. This approach is partly inspired by the expansion of the medium beyond physical print, and therefore the article utilises other theories to explain the impact of this expansion (Gregory, 2008). As e-books are becoming more popular with users, its creators want to make their differences from physical books better known rather than eliminating the existence of physical books (Balling et al., 2019).

Cultural and social belonging

A core question for cultural studies is what mass communication is influenced by and how meaning is created. Within cultural studies, systems of control and power that stem from political, social and economic backgrounds are thought to have an influence on creating meaning (Kellner & Durham, 2006). The media give aspirations, identities and experiences to people (Peters, 2003). On the other hand, cultural studies have criticised the idea of consumers as passive recipients of content (Fiske, 2010). People read and appreciate cultural products in different ways. As pointed out by McLuhan, the world of literature is divided into different experiences for those who read, due to the difference between the texts and the different levels of the texts (Meyrowitz, 2003). McLuhan argued that not only the content but also the medium influence people’s communication, making the medium a way of communicating with society and giving the medium a certain social influence (Meyrowitz, 2003). There has also been a shift in cultural studies from the production of cultural goods to their consumption, making their point of focus less about the product itself and more about the experience of the product and the users (Kellner & Durham, 2006; Miller, 2009).

Social capital is based on connections and group membership in a society (Bourdieu, 1987). The book has always created a sense of belonging within society, and it has been frequently used as a display of knowledge and wisdom (Logan & McLuhan, 2016; Striphas, 2009). When utilizing e-books, the physical display of collecting books on a bookshelf is removed and, thus, cultural capital is less visible.

Remediation and physicality

Pressman (2009) argues that a book has never been solely about the knowledge collected inside the book, but also about the physicality of the bound book. In this, the emotions connected to reading transcend the content of the book and include other factors implicit to a book (Pressman, 2009). Historically, the paper book has changed its position from being a source of knowledge to being "a medium among many" (Pressman, 2009, p.2). This article explores whether e-books are undergoing the same change and are becoming a medium utilised by the general market. As pointed out by Hayles (2004), one needs to investigate what difference the medium makes to the text. Although her main focus is text solely written for digital media, one can relate this to physical text converted to digital e-books. Expanding this point, one needs to see what differentiates the formats from each other in the eyes of the reader and user (Hayles, 2004). This is also in line with McLuhan’s argument about the medium transcending its content (Meyrowitz, 2003). Bolter and Grusin (2000) introduced the term remediation, which means that one medium is represented in another. As pointed out by McLuhan, content in any medium stems from another medium (Logan & McLuhan, 2016). Remediation is the way a medium’s characteristics are moved to another medium, and that it achieves its cultural status and significance by borrowing from the original medium (Bolter & Grusin, 2000).

Physicality is also seen as embodied capital when discussing different forms of capital (Bourdieu, 1986). The book represents not only economic value, but also can be a way of displaying social capital. A book can also be seen as symbolic capital as it can show knowledge that otherwise would be disguised (Bourdieu, 1986). When putting a book on a bookshelf, this symbolic capital becomes visible to everyone who visits and in this way increases social and cultural capital for the person (Helm et al., 2018).

Technology acceptance

Davis (1989) examined the acceptance of information technology from a work-life perspective. He found that some difficulties with the use of new technologies could be tolerated as long as the required functionality was there (Davis, 1989). Furthermore, both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations influence behavioural intentions positively to adopt technology(Torres, Johnson, & Imhonde, 2014). Extrinsic motivation is the tangible reward the user experiences or the factors that improve the experience, while intrinsic motivation is the emotional dividends that the user feels, such as satisfaction, enjoyment, pleasure and/or joy (Torres et al., 2014). For the use of e-book readers and tablets, Torres, Johnson and Imhonde (2014) conducted a study on content and availability for e-book readers and how much they impact the adoption of e-readers and e-books. When discussing impact, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and the element of playfulness have been found to increase adoption for e-book readers (Torres et al., 2014). They also found that the amount of content available to the reader makes it easier to adopt an e-Reader or a tablet (Torres et al., 2014).

A Japanese study conducted on e-books shows that attitudes have the greatest influence on purchase intentions (Koeder, Mohammed, & Sugai, 2011). They found that compatibility is important in order to create requisite attitudes, and furthermore that normative influence is the third determinant of purchasing intentions (Koeder et al., 2011). Normative influence includes peer groups, social conformity and society, and thereby suggests that mainstream popularity has not yet emerged on the Japanese market (Koeder et al., 2011). Another aspect of this is the fact that e-books do not substitute traditional books (Delgado, Vargas, Ackerman, & Salmerón, 2018; Loebbecke, 2010). As society has a diversity of technological options one might choose from, the normative influence and intrinsic and extrinsic motivations for utilising an innovation such as e-books becomes interesting. This leads back to the shift in cultural studies as pointed out by Peters (2003).

As previous studies have shown, there are many reasons for not using e-books and these include low awareness (Cassidy, Martinez, & Shen, 2012; Jung, Chan-Olmsted, Park, & Kim, 2012), a strong preference towards paper books over e-books (Bergström & Höglund, 2018; Wu & Chen, 2011), and content availability (Koeder et al., 2011). Previous studies have reported that convenience and access to a broad range of literature and the low cost of books are the greatest benefits that e-books provide (Gregory, 2008; Rojeski, 2012). Also, studies have shown that there are four reader-types with regard to the discussion of paper versus print (Shrimplin, Revelle, Hurst, & Messner, 2011). The four groups are book lovers, technophiles, pragmatists and printers, where the book lovers would not choose an e-book at all and the technophiles would not even consider a paper book (Shrimplin et al., 2011). They report that both these two groups have an emotional attachment to technology or books as physical objects. The pragmatists conclude that both formats have pros and cons, and they can easily access both formats. They enjoy the variety of options both formats offer them. The printers enjoy the search for literature but cannot read from a screen (Shrimplin et al., 2011).

Emotions and affect

Several studies have examined emotions in IT use, and both indirect and direct effects has been explored. It is important to distinguish between emotions and affect due to their conceptual differences and their different impacts (Beaudry & Pinsonneault, 2010; Malin, 2016). In conscious moments people experience feelings, and those feelings are described as emotions (Beaudry & Pinsonneault, 2010). In contrast, affect goes beyond language and rational perceptions (Beaudry & Pinsonneault, 2010), so that affect is inexpressible and thus escapes human awareness (Malin, 2016). Previous research has shown that emotions are an important factor in acceptance of technology (Davis, 1989; Richardson Jr & Mahmood, 2012; Venkatesh, Morris, Davis, & Davis, 2003).

Emotions have also been studied as an influencing factor, indirectly and directly, with regard to adaptation behaviours (Beaudry & Pinsonneault, 2010; Cai, Fan, & Du, 2017; Gerlach & Buxmann, 2011). According to Gibbs (2011), the feedback loops are contagious when dealing with audio-visual content and affect theory. For positive feedback loops, the individual who actually experiences the product and those who just observe the usage are affected by each other. Still, affect is both a social and individual experience due to the interpretation of social and individual cues (Gibbs, 2011). This article aims to find out whether Gibbs’ findings from audio-visual content are similar to those regarding books, in both physical and electronic format. Furthermore, Gibbs states that the creation of feelings about an idea creates affect (2011). This is in line with findings from Shim et al. (2016) stating that hedonic and social innovativeness reduces the affective experience and behavioural intention during the adoption process of an e-book reader. They also found that excluding the option of applications for an e-book reader (so that it becomes a tablet solely for e-books) stimulates the adoption of e-books (Shim et al., 2016). The meta-analysis conducted by Cai, Fan and Du (2017) looked at the gender differences toward technology use, and found that gender reduced the difference in affect towards technology. By looking at gender they ruled out a difference in affective responses toward technology, and because of this no gender differences will be reported on affect in this study.

Method

The survey was conducted through an online questionnaire distributed to a national web panel (Norstat) conducted in Sept-Oct 2016. The survey was conducted with a total N= 1558 and contained 39 close-ended and open-ended questions. The demographic data of the survey was the following:

Table 1. Demographic data for the survey

Full sample (n=1558)

Gender

Male

50.2%

Female

49.8%

Age

15-19 years

8%

20-29

15%

30-39

16%

40-49

18%

50-59

15%

60-69

18%

70 years and above

10%

Education

Primary and upper secondary school

68%

Higher education ≤ 4 years

23%

Higher education 4 years >

9%

Income [1]

Less than 299 999 NOK

11%

300 000 – 499 999 NOK

17%

500 000 – 699 999 NOK

16%

700 000 – 999 999 NOK

19%

1 million NOK or more

13%

Don’t want to answer

16%

Don’t know

8%

This paper builds on close-ended questions regarding which format the respondent preferred to read from and the following four open-ended questions:

  1. “Why do you prefer to read books in one of the following formats: on paper, e-Reader, tablet, PC/Mac, Mobile phone, listening to audiobooks, other formats, and does it matter which format it is?”
  2. “Does reading an e-book have any weaknesses compared to reading a paper book?”
  3. “Imagine reading a paper book; is there anything you feel is missing compared to reading on a screen?”
  4. “When you are reading a fiction book, would you prefer to read it digitally or on paper? Please elaborate on the answer.”

The response rate for the four questions is as follows:

Table 2. Response rate for the four open-ended questions.

Question

n=

1

1558

2

1516

3

1521

4

1517

The reason for the variation in responses can be explained by their nature. The second to the fourth questions are not relevant for those not having tried e-books, or those not reading books at all.

Firstly, a qualitative categorisation of the open-ended questions was undertaken in NVivo 11. This was done in order to get an overview of the responses and their settings (Creswell & Poth, 2017) and a word search was first run. The word search was followed by labelling the similar words into nodes, giving them a classification that could be set against demographic variables and grouping of respondents. The grouping is essential in order to make possible quantification of responses conducted after this (Eriksson & Kovalainen, 2008). From technology acceptance studies: context and technological aspects, such as screen resolution, charging and battery capacity were added as categories. From cultural studies: habits, feeling and experience, social status and enjoyment were included as categories. Lastly, the data were analysed and split into specific and non-specific emotions towards e-books. The qualitative responses to the open-ended questions give the best insight into the real meaning of their choices and help get their real affective and emotional responses within their context (Eriksson & Kovalainen, 2008). After categorisation, the data were exported to SPSS for quantification of the categorized variables. The second question received four labels: a) has weaknesses, b) does not have any weaknesses, c) do not know/have not tried, d) do not read books. The third question received the following labels: a) missing something, b) not missing anything, c) do not know/have not tried, d) do not read books. All of these were then put into SPSS, giving the ability to treat the variables as purely categorical (Yates, Moore, & McGabe, 1999). These results will also be supported by statements from the respondents on a qualitative basis.

Findings

With regard to the first close-ended question about preferred format for reading, overall 75% of respondents reported to prefer to read on paper (see Table 3). The analysis below investigates why most respondents share this preference for paper books. As pointed out by Hupfeld, Sellen, O’Hara, & Rodden (2013) there are differences regarding format choice based on whether reading is leisure reading or work-related reading. This study asked respondents which format they prefer for fiction, nonfiction and academic literature, and got the following results:

Table 3. Preferred format for reading overall, and for fiction, nonfiction and academic literature

Format:

Overall

Fiction

Nonfiction

Academic literature

On paper

75%

76%

62%

47%

e-Readers

3%

3%

1%

2%

Tablet

3%

2%

5%

4%

On PC/MAC

2%

1%

13%

7%

On Mobile phone

1%

1%

1%

1%

Audiobooks

7%

7%

2%

2%

Doesn’t matter

2%

3%

6%

7%

I don’t read books

7%

7%

10%

30%

Total

100%

100%

100%

100%

In all genres - paper is the prevalent one, but there are differences when it comes to nonfiction and academic literature for PC/Mac. This may be due to the availability of nonfiction and the need for academic papers online. Going forward, this study will only take the overall preference for format into consideration. Due to constraints in the data, the overall preference gives out statistically useful data, whereas the questions regarding genre includes too few respondents in some formats. Furthermore, the difference between e-readers and tablets is that an e-reader is a closed format from one supplier, where as a tablet is connected to internet and has the opportunity for multiple apps on it. A PC/Mac has internet connection and the opportunity to read more file types (eg. PDF, .doc, docx etc) and various audio files (eg. Mp3, mpeg4 etc). A mobile phone is dependent on the brand, and is a mixture between a tablet and e-reader in terms of books, but with the main function of being a phone. Often the size of a mobile phone is smaller than a tablet or e-reader, but that again is dependent of supplier and model. Audiobooks in this study has not been defined, but includes everything from YouTube audiobooks to CDs to audiobook streaming services. The importance here is that the book is read out loud to the listener.

The second open-ended question asked the respondents to elaborate on whether reading an e-book had any weaknesses compared to reading a paper book. A total of 58% of respondents state that e-books have weaknesses compared to paper books. 20% of the respondents have not tried e-books or don’t know. 15% of respondents report that e-books don’t have any weaknesses compared to paper-books.

Table 4. Does reading an e-book have any weaknesses compared to reading a paper book (open-ended question: answers have been coded into categories)

E-books compared to paper books

Percentage:

E-books have weaknesses

58%

E-books do not have weaknesses

15%

Do not know/have not tried

20%

Do not read books

7%

Total

100%

On the third open-ended question the distribution is somewhat different. Here the number of respondents that have not tried or don’t know reading on a screen compared to paper books has gone down to 3%. Furthermore, 63% of the respondents state that paper books have no shortcomings compared to on-screen reading. 27% report that paper books have shortcomings.

Table 5. Imagine reading a paper book, is there anything you feel is missing compared to reading on a screen (open-ended questions: answers have been coded into categories).

Paper books compared to reading on screen

Percentage:

Paper books have shortcomings

27%

Paper books do not have shortcomings

63%

Do not know/have not tried

3%

Do not read books

7%

Total

100%

These results make the basis for exploring more closely why people report on weaknesses and/or shortcomings. This paper will deal with perceived lack of availability of Norwegian e-books, technological difficulties, books as signs of status, different reading contexts for paper and e-books and the power of habits going forward.

Perceived Lack of Availability of Norwegian Books

When looking at the respondents’ answers to why they do not read e-books we find that they have a lack of knowledge about availability. The respondents do not know whether their preferred book is available or not. In this context, the language of available books is also an issue. There is a difference between those who prefer e-Readers and read English language literature to those reading on paper, tablet, PC/Mac or listening to audiobooks. This is supported by one respondent: “I could very well have read books digitally if there were more Norwegian books available.” Another respondent stated that availability of foreign books gives e-books a real advantage over paper books, but that it “does not matter” in terms of format preference. The availability of different language books and of different books simultaneously is one of the real strengths of e-books. This is greatly valued by those who have tried e-books, but it also has a downside for those who have tried it and got “confused” by what they were reading at that time. Another writes: “on a tablet I mostly read English books, and then the function of finding the meaning of a word immediately becomes a real advantage—reading paper books then means you have to look it up in a dictionary,” and this is stated as a real advantage of reading e-books rather than paper books. For many of the respondents reading e-books, the dictionary function that is offered in the book makes it attractive and that is the reason for them reading e-books in other languages than Norwegian. To some respondents the accessibility of foreign literature is the main reason for reading e-books, and they clearly state that for Norwegian literature, paper books are preferred as they are easier to find in a bookshop. The awareness of accessibility of e-books and built-in features are advantages to some respondents, which is consistent with findings from Balling et al. (2019) and Jung et al. (2012).

Trouble with Technology

A respondent stated “I get very angry if I accidentally push the exit button and the app closes whilst I am reading. I am used to reading and scrolling downwards on a tablet, and do not enjoy the “flip page” function.” We find that there is a relationship between having negative feelings and finding shortcomings in comparing the two formats. When given the opportunity to compare e-books to paper-books, 58% of the respondents have found weaknesses with e-books whilst 15 % do not find weaknesses. In total, 27% of the respondents do not know, have not tried reading an e-book or do not read books in general. When comparing a paper book to reading on a screen, 27% of the respondents pointed out shortcomings of the paper book, whereas 63% did not. Negative emotions, such as insecurity about how various e-Reader and tablet-reading systems work, are also common. Respondents also report that their ability to relax with the book goes down when reading an e-book and that the joy and comfort of reading a book diminish when reading on a screen. Looking at the comparison between screen-based reading and paper-based reading, we find contradicting results. Where 64% found weaknesses in an e-book, the percentage of people missing functions from reading on a screen when reading on paper is over 30%. These results suggest that the additional functions of reading on a screen are very much enjoyed, although the respondents may not have a preference for the format in the first place.

On the other hand, those who favour e-book reading report that they have the same enjoyment and comfort reading electronically as they do on paper, supporting the influence of hedonic innovativeness found by Shim et al. (2016). As a respondent puts it: “It depends on screen size for the device you are reading on. If it is small there is the disadvantage that you have to zoom and pan.” This again falls under the functional innovativeness as described by Shim et al. (2016). On the opposite side, you have a respondent who finds positive attributes on an e-Reader, but not with a tablet: “You need an e-Reader that is as good as Kindle with lighting and no reflections on the screen. It also needs battery capacity, and it cannot get wet.” On the hedonic innovativeness side of it, one states the following: “I get restless by reading an e-book on a tablet. Ending up with surfing online and such instead of reading. With a paper book, I can disconnect from everything else.” This again supports that a tablet with applications deducts from the adoption for e-books, and thereby supports Shim et al (2016). As another respondent states: “I like to physically hold the book. It gets too impersonal to read on an iPad. Newspapers are ok, but not books. Want the real thing.” One respondent states that there is trouble with the technology more than the actual book: “There are no direct weaknesses in the book itself, but I prefer paper because I don’t like reading on a screen. I find it easier to follow the lines in a book, rather than a screen.”. On the complete opposite side, a respondent stated: “I read digitally, because it goes so fast when the book gets exciting, and I’m generally more pleased with e-books independent of genre I read.”

One respondent has this opinion: “I have an iPad Mini that is more portable than physical books. I do not depend on external lighting, and the iBook’s-app adjusts the screen colour to the lighting that surrounds me.” This is a typical response from an e-book reader—they still read paper books, but the convenience and different attributes of a tablet or e-Reader are more highly valued when asking them why they prefer a digital format compared to print. This supports the findings from Antón et al. (2017), stating that the essential features of an e-book should be the focus when designing an application for reading e-books.

Books as Signs of Status

To many of the respondents the social aspect of a book is highly valued, and consequently an e-book does not provide the respondents with the social capital and status that they desire from owning a book (Bourdieu, 1987). One respondent expressed: “When one reads a book I like physical paper to turn over. To have a lot of books on the bookshelf shows that you are intelligent.” As pointed out by another respondent: “I cannot have an e-book on a shelf. It makes me look less intelligent.”. The following response was also given as to why paper books are the preferred format: “It is lovely to get ‘disconnected’ with a paper book. That meaning no PC, no mobile phone, tablet, e-Reader or anything. I can also place the book on the bookshelf afterwards.” The ability to lend out a book at any given time is also much appreciated by those who favour paper books. The social aspect of a book is equal no matter what format the respondents read on. For those with e-books, online sources are appreciated, and they often leave comments online for a book they have just read. For some respondents, reading fiction has a special place: “Fiction is something I read purely recreationally. You don’t sit down in your favourite chair on a Saturday evening with a good whisky and a good story without having the deluxe-edition of a written book in your hands. To manually collect this masterpiece from the bookshelf is a feeling I don’t outsource to a flat and cynical tablet.” The display of a full bookshelf is for many of the respondents an important reason for holding on to the paper books, and the fear of being perceived as less schooled or to some plainly dumb is a real fear. This is also an emotion that is easily detected for those commenting on the social status of owning a book or multiple books. This option is taken from them when they read e-books. These statements support the premise that physical ownership of the book is still important and influences the adoption of e-books as found by Antón et al. (2017) and Helm et al. (2018).

Different Context—Different Format

Based on a quantification of the open-ended questions, we find differences between preference in format and reading context. In total, 76% of the respondents say that reading context has no impact on their choice of format. 24% of the respondents say they let context determine which format they choose.

The largest group of readers reporting on letting reading context be the determination for format choice is those with a preference for audiobooks. The second largest group is those with a preference for reading on tablets.

Table 6. Distribution of respondents (in percentage) reporting to let reading context be an influence on choosing format to read on (open-ended questions: answers have been coded into categories).

On paper

eReader

Tablet

PC/Mac

Mobile phone

Audiobooks

Others

Doesn’t matter

Don’t read books

No reading context

76%

77%

73%

96%

83%

68%

77%

86%

73%

Reading context

24%

23%

27%

4%

17%

32%

23%

14%

27%

Total

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

In total, reading context have been identified 778 times by 373 different respondents, and the largest number of them place their books on a bookshelf after finishing reading. This statement is made from both users of paper books and e-books. The ability to put the book on the bookshelf after its done is one of the benefits of paper books, and a limitation of e-books. The next largest context is reading in bed, and the third is reading in a comfortable chair. For those reading e-books, reading while on travel is the largest category, as stated: “It is practical when traveling to have a tablet instead of heavy paper books. I read most on travels.”

3.4 The Power of Habit

Habit seems to be prevailing when it comes to reading, and especially when ending up with a format to read on. The largest group reporting to choose a format out of habit are readers who prefer a PC or Mac for reading (19.4%). The second largest group are those with a preference for eReaders (19.3%).

Table 7. Distribution of respondents (in percentage) reporting to let habit be an influence on choosing format to read on (open-ended questions: answers have been coded into categories).

On paper

eReader

Tablet

PC/Mac

Mobile phone

Audiobooks

Others

Doesn’t matter

Don’t read books

Not reporting on habit

83%

81%

83%

81%

98%

83%

90%

94%

79%

Reporting to choose on habit

17%

19%

17%

19%

2%

17%

10%

6%

21%

Total

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

As one respondent states: “Old Habit. Like the feel of the book in my hands, the smell of the paper. Also find that it puts less strain on my eyes.” This is in line with the findings from Mangen, Olivier, & Velay (2019) and Mc Laughlin (2016), that the physicality of paper books is still important in the digital age. Another answer is: “I have a different relationship to old-fashion paper books, then a metal plate. It has something cold and impersonal over it, a tablet. Audiobooks can be ok, as long as the readers are good. That gives a different experience than to read myself.” Some respondents have no intention of trying an e-book because paper books are enough, whilst others prefer to read on paper and have the following reason for doing so: “It is out of old habit. I enjoy myself when lying in bed at night with a book in my hands. It gets close and intimate. An e-book gives some kind of distance, but I have not used e-books that much.” Another respondent confirms: “I like to get a hold of things, and books are good to feel. An e-book almost feels artificial to me, but I expect that to be a habit.”.

Discussion

The research question concerns the emotional factors that contribute to or determine the format of reading, and as seen from this study there are many. The low interest in e-books supports the fact that e-books have not yet become mainstream in Norway. This proves that there is still a way to go before e-books are “a medium among many” as suggested by Pressman (2009). This is consistent with the findings from Japan (Koeder et al., 2011), and with the theory about adoption making the social evaluations of using a new product important (Benoit & Rogers, 2006). The results from this study underline the importance of books being objects for relaxation and comfort. Another aspect of this research, is underlining the importance of habit and convenience when reading that is found in research by Wang, Chiu, Ho, & Lo (2016).

Another explanation for slow adoption can be seen by the total amount of screen activity that the Norwegian population have during an average day. As the respondents in this survey state, they use physical books as an escape from digital activities they normally do. This escape is important for those who read books, whether it is from reality, digital tools or from a busy everyday life. The escape emotion affects their adoption behaviour to a great extent, and is consistent with the group of book lovers found by Shrimplin, Revelle, Hurst, & Messner (2011), and that there still is a large group of readers who have a strong preference for physical books over digital books, as found by Antón et al. (2017), Beaudry and Pinsonneault (2010) and Wu and Chen (2011).

Furthermore, it seems that those who have a preference for e-books have changed their reading-habits from paper to e-book. With that, we see that e-books benefit from getting past the first trial and from increasing the adoption rate. Still, many of the readers do not want to try e-books as they are to them “yet another technical distraction.” The feedback loops from trial and no-trial of e-books are different, but they all have strong opinions with regard to reading and books. This study shows that most respondents are negative towards e-books, and that can explain the low spread of e-books in Norway. The results also support the possibility that some difficulties with use can be tolerated as long as the overall experience is favourable (Davis, 1989; Gibbs, 2011). For e-books, these difficulties have been overcome for some readers, but others are reluctant to even try due to social considerations. This is in line with adoption theory, cultural studies and innovation studies (Antón et al., 2017; Benoit & Rogers, 2006; Helm et al., 2018; Kellner & Durham, 2006; Miller, 2009; Shim et al., 2016).

The respondents are divided between those who have tried e-books and those who have not tried them yet, and this gives a very diverse response set. For those who have not tried e-books, they may have both performance and effort expectancies that possibly are not met by only trying e-books for a short period of time. In line with findings from Walton (2014) and Shim et al. (2016) a trial reading of e-books may have created a negative intention for use, which again can make the experience of the trial negative and lead to a refusal of adoption in the end (Antón et al., 2017; Benoit & Rogers, 2006; Venkatesh et al., 2003). Still, books give people identity and a sense of belonging to a community or to a social class. This shows that books as goods are far more than just a product, thus supporting McLuhan’s argument (Logan & McLuhan, 2016; Meyrowitz, 2003).

Also, the issue of the availability of e-books in Norwegian influences the decision for some of the readers to change format. Although Norwegian libraries offer e-book lending services, the users seem not to have tried it or know about it. This finding is in line with results from Cassidy, Martinez, & Shen (2012), and show that some equal characteristics from the academic usage of e-books and libraries could be found in public libraries and the average reader. It also shows that content availability is an issue in Norway, and in line with Koeder, Mohammed, & Sugai (2011), but further research is needed to find reasons for low awareness of library offers in Norway. The e-Reader users are more prone to read in a foreign language than those who read on tablets. It seems that for Norwegian literature the majority of readers prefer the physical paper books, as they lack knowledge about library offers or where to buy Norwegian e-books. Despite efforts made by the national library of Norway, knowledge about their offer is limited. Furthermore, the offering of e-books for purchase is increasing as more and more online bookstores offer this. Therefore, it may be that this result in 2016 may change over time and that the knowledge of e-books for purchase may increase with offerings made.

Most of the e-Readers are also locked into their own format, which has been mentioned by respondents as both a weakness and a strength for them. It is a weakness because they spend a lot of money on a device that can solely be used for reading, but a strength as they can only use them for reading and are less distracted; e-Readers also provide easy access to more literature. This contradicts the findings from Torres, Johnson, & Imhonde (2014) that a level of enjoyment or fun should be included in order to make the e-Readers more attractive. Still, the feedback loop—pointed out by Gibbs (2011)—is in this case that e-Readers are far better for actual reading than tablets are, but the real relaxation and enjoyment comes from either audiobooks or paper books.

The real affect for books comes into display when you ask the respondents to analyse why they prefer something over something else. Many of the qualitative answers have explicit use of exclamation marks, capital letters and a detailed description of the sensory feeling they get from opening, smelling, touching and reading a book. This can be interpreted as a display of emotion and affect in response to the questions asked in writing (Creswell & Poth, 2017). The experiences go beyond the normal emotions of happiness or relaxation, and they are not the top-of-mind associations with reading paper books or the first emotions that they use to explain why they choose the format they do (Cassidy et al., 2012). This supports the fact that affect is something that transcends the normal human experience of things (Malin, 2016), but also that affect is something that can be recalled once the human is being challenged and given time to consider the issue.

Conclusion

This study shows that both social and individual factors influence readers when they choose which format they want to read. As the results suggest, the social barriers to adoption are still very high, and respondents act out of habit, which indicates that the rate of adoption is low. The results have also shown that reading is highly regarded as a leisure time activity. Reading provides highly valued “off-screen”-time for a population highly engaged in on-screen activity. Still, the respondents in this survey are not directly reluctant to try e-books. They have limited knowledge about where to get e-books and are influenced by a feedback loop that provides negative or inconsistent information about e-books. This is in line with studies conducted on students and faculty in academia previously (Cassidy et al., 2012). Still, those who have tried e-books with success have changed their habits from reading on paper to reading on-screen. They are part of a small group of adopters to this date, and the results do not indicate that they will grow or diminish in size. One of the most interesting findings is that the reading context has a significant influence on format choice. Many of the respondents are willing to look at other formats as long as they fit in with their lifestyle. This is consistent with Rogers’ theory of how innovations are diffused, i.e., that the first obstacle to overcome is to get people to try the product and to get them positive towards it and, through this, increase the positive feedback loops and again increase the spread.

Moreover, this study has shown that the impact of habit and the reading context are far more important for the readers in choosing a format than previously shown. The study confirms the notion that a book goes beyond the medium itself and can create both social acceptance, a sense of belonging and an identity (Kellner & Durham, 2006; Meyrowitz, 2003; Shim et al., 2016). As many of the respondents have stated – they continue to read on paper. They are then also able to lend the book to others and display it on a bookshelf when they are finished with it. For e-book readers, this option is not available but could be solved by opening up a digital bookshelf that friends, family and acquaintances can see, thus remediating the bookshelf (Bolter & Grusin, 2000). For e-books to become a success in Norway, the issues of social influence and feedback loops must be solved. Even more, the availability of Norwegian literature becomes an issue. For those who prefer e-books the availability of foreign literature is larger than the Norwegian. If one wants the Norwegian e-book market to grow, knowledge about available Norwegian literature should be expanded, and thus create a larger audience. To sum up, the emotional factors that contribute to usage of e-books are social expectations and intrinsic and extrinsic evaluations. Among these, the feeling of “logging off” – of being completely analogue – is important to the Norwegian readers. Respondents utilise literature and books especially to relax and get away from everyday life, which to the majority of these respondents is the reason for even reading a book. This factor should be developed further and tested with regard to technology acceptance studies. As shown in the section “trouble with technology,” respondents state an emotional response to format choice. This should be tested further for its impact on technology acceptance.

Although other studies have looked at what impact leisure reading has compared to work-related reading, this study will not look at this. As the goal of this study is to explore reading in general and not for specific contexts. The open-ended questions did not provide any guidelines to respondents on what type of reading they were to compare. This should be tested in future research.

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1. As of 08.08.2019 the scale equals to less than $34.000, $34.000-56.000, $56.000-78.000, $78.000-112.000, Above $112.000 per year.return to text