Posted for Annika Bergström

Results from the 2014 SOM survey were presented at annual SOM Seminar 21 April. E-book reading increased significantly from 11% in 2013 to 18% in 2014. Both fiction and non-fiction attract larger shares of the Swedish population, and the expansion is found among both frequent and less frequent readers. Just as we found in previous surveys (Bergström and Höglund 2014), e-book reading is more common among young persons and among those who have a frequent habit of reading printed books. Yet one significant explanatory factor is level of education: the highly educated have more frequent reading habits than lowly educated. Of course, access to tablets and smartphones contribute to the e-book reading habit in a positive way.

Interestingly enough, it appears that e-book reading is more common among men than among women, which is the opposite of what is known about reading printed books. One plausible explanation might be that men are more receptive to technology diffusion.

In the 2014 SOM survey, e-book readers were asked how they accessed their e-books. Through the public library was the most common answer, especially among women and older people. It is known from public statistics that a large share of e-book sales is distributed via public libraries, whereas selling directly to customers is rare in the Swedish context.
In the 2013 SOM Survey, we studied affective attitudes to e-books, whereas the 2014 survey focused on a more cognitive perspective in terms of functions of e-books and printed books. We took a starting point in an American study (Rainie, et al. 2012), where the respondents were asked which format is better for different purposes: reading with a child, reading books in bed, sharing books with other people, reading books while travelling or commuting, having a wide selection of books to choose from and being able to get a book quickly.

The results clearly indicate strong support for the printed book in that the respondents find the printed book most suitable in 5 situations out of 6. Only when you want to get a book quickly, are e-books perceived as better than printed books (Figure 1 – Source: The National SOM Survey 2014.).


Printed books are undoubtedly perceived better when reading for children and when reading books in bed. They are also favourable when sharing books with others and for reading while travelling or commuting. When asked about a wide selection of books, the differences between book formats are perceived somewhat smaller.
E-book attitudes to a large extent follow the patterns of e-book reading. An in-depth analysis clearly shows that e-book experience co-varies strongly with the assessments. E-book readers take a more positive standpoint towards the e-book format, even though printed books are perceived as more suitable in most situations.


Bergström, Annika and Lars Höglund (2014) ”E-boken: möjligheter och hinder”. In Annika Bergström and Henrik Oscarsson (Eds.) Mittfåra & marginal. Gothenburg: The SOM Institute, University of Gothenburg.

Rainie, Lee, Kathryn Zickuhr, Kristen Purcell, Mary Madden, and Johanna Brenner (2012) The rise of e-reading. Washington D.C: Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.