Why your e-book might not look like “yours” — ScienceDaily

Despite stereotypes that portray millennials as “all tech, all the time”, young people may still prefer to curl up with a paper book rather than their e-reader – even more so than their older counterparts – according to new research from the University of Arizona exploring consumers’ psychological perceptions of e-book ownership.

The study also found that adult consumers of all age groups view e-book ownership very differently than physical book ownership, and this could have important implications for those selling digital texts.

“We looked at what’s called psychological ownership, which isn’t necessarily related to legal possession or legal rights, but is more related to perceptions of ‘what’s mine,'” said Sabrina Helm, lead author of the study and an associate professor at UA who studies consumer perceptions. and behaviors.

People’s psychological sense of belonging is affected by three main factors: whether they feel in control of the object they own, whether they use the object to define who they are, and whether the object contributes to give them a sense of belonging to society. said Helm, who teaches at UA’s John and Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“Psychological ownership is important in people’s perception of how they value certain products, services, or objects,” she said. “In the context of digital products, we thought it would be appropriate to look at how people take ownership of something that doesn’t really exist — it’s just a file on your computer or device or in the cloud. it’s more of a concept than a real thing.”

For the study published in the journal Electronic markets, Helm and his colleagues convened four focus groups in different age groups: a group of baby boomers; a group of Gen Xers; and two groups of millennials. Generation Y groups have been divided into current students and older generations.

The researchers facilitated discussions with the groups about their feelings about ownership of physical books versus e-books.

The following major themes emerged from the discussions:

— Participants of all age groups reported feeling a restricted sense of ownership of digital books compared to physical books, due to the fact that they do not have full control over the products. For example, they expressed frustration that they often couldn’t copy a digital file across multiple devices.

— Along the same lines, many study participants lamented restrictions on sharing e-books with friends, or giving or selling books, saying it made e-books less valuable as goods than physical books.

— Participants described being more emotionally attached to physical books, and said they use physical books to establish a sense of self and belonging. Participants of all age groups frequently spoke of their nostalgia for certain childhood books. They also talked about experiencing physical books through multiple senses – describing, for example, the sound, smell and touch experience of opening a new book, and the ability to highlight or write notes. on paper pages. Participants also said they used their physical book collections to express their identity to others who might browse their shelves. E-books did not have these associations.

— Minimalists expressed a preference for digital books because they take up less physical space.

— Many participants said the e-book experience was more like renting than buying.

— While nearly everyone expressed a strong attachment to physical books and no one embraced an all-digital reading experience, older consumers, contrary to what one might expect, saw more benefits that young consumers read with an e-reader. They referenced physical benefits that might not be as relevant to younger consumers, such as the lightweight nature of e-readers and the ability to zoom in on text.

Understanding the differences in how people relate to digital versus physical products is important, especially as digital products become more ubiquitous in various areas of life, Helm said.

“One of the conclusions of our research was that digital books and physical books are entirely different products,” she said. “E-books are more like a service experience; overall they seem to provide a more functional or utilitarian experience. You have a lot more richness if you’re dealing with a physical book, where all of your senses are involved.”

“Physical books are very special products, and we know that physical books mean a lot to a lot of people,” Helm continued, noting that books are one of the first things children interact with. “E-reading is still relatively new, e-books are still a relatively new product category, and thinking about ownership in the context of these types of products is new to most people.”

Based on what the study revealed about people’s perceptions of digital property, e-book marketers should consider one of two strategies, Helm said:

  • They should strive to make the e-reading experience more like the experience of reading a physical book, which might require making physical changes to e-readers that make it easier to complete tasks like doodling notes in the margins, for example.
  • They should move e-books further away from physical books and focus on establishing e-books as a unique form of entertainment – more of a service-based experience that includes features you can’t get from a physical book, like an integrated soundscape, for example.

“Many participants pointed out that they consider digital books to be too expensive for what they offer, because they don’t offer the same richness as a physical book; you read them and there’s nothing left,” said said Helm. “If we position digital reading in a different way – as an independent service experience – consumers might be willing to pay a higher price if there is clear added value. a physical book, they won’t compare it to the physical book anymore, because it’s a whole other form of entertainment.”

Helm pointed out that both physical and digital books have their place. “There are just really different values ​​or benefits that we get out of it,” she said.

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