"The latest Rocket eBook instrument is very good, better than sitting at your computer, but it still pales next to the 500-year-old technology of the printed book," said Nora Rawlinson, editor-in-chief of the industry magazine Publishers Weekly. "However, the industry remains in its infancy and I expect the technology to improve very soon."
The Consumer Book Buying Study 2000 was sponsored by Publishers Weekly and organizers of BookExpo America, the industry's annual national convention. All of those included were Internet users who had purchased a book online and/or at a traditional store between July 1999 and July 2000.
The publishing industry has invested millions in new technology over the past couple of years, but of 1,140 book buyers questioned, only four said e-books would replace the paper format. Despite all the attention given to Maine horror writer Stephen King's online novella Riding the Bullet, only 60 percent were even familiar with the electronic format.
Of those who knew about e-books, 70 percent said they didn't expect to buy one in the next six months.
Respondents did express strong satisfaction with buying paper books online, especially with the convenience and the availability of titles. Asked to rate their overall experience on a scale from 8 to 10, shoppers gave the Internet a rating of 8.2.
Still, one in four of those surveyed said they had no future plans to buy a book online.
"Credit card security seems to be the issue," Rawlinson said.
Nearly half of those surveyed bought a book online. Amazon.com was by far the most popular outlet, cited as the first choice by 41 percent of those who shopped on the Internet. Twenty-nine percent mentioned Barnes & Noble's site, and 8 percent Borders.com.
Only 3 percent of online purchasers used an independent store. However, the survey period ended just as the American Booksellers Association launched BookSense.com, an online network of independent sellers.
"There is a good possibility that number will go up next year," Rawlinson said. "Still, it's a tough road for independent sellers. There are so many chains online and they often offer greater discounts."
The survey's margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.