Friday, February 01, 2013

Artists prefer real art books (Poll result)

Two thirds of artists prefer real art books to ebooks about art.  However one third of those responding to the Making A Mark Opinion Poll in January read art instruction ebooks.  
Can we expect that this balance might change significantly in the next five years?
Making A Mark Poll: January 2013
number responding: 120; number of responses 189
The January Making A Mark Poll asked about ebooks for artists.  The aim of the poll was two-fold

  1. to try and track whether there has been any significant change in the way artists consume art books.
  2. to find out which type of ebooks artists like best

The poll revealed a number of interesting indications of how things have changed in the last couple of years.

  • 120 artists responded suggesting that this sample, although self-selecting, should be pretty reliable in terms of how art book readership is changing
  • They provided 189 responses because they could select all responses they agreed with
  • The number of responses have been divided by the number of artists to provide a percentage figure which indicates what percentage of the artists indicated a specific response.
  • the structure of the poll (multiple response) and the way the responses were phrased suggest that the types of books read and whether or not people could read ebooks are a pretty good indication of the current status quo on ebooks.

Key Findings

Reading Art Books
  • Artists gets the most satisfying experience from real art books rather than ebooks - 63% of artists prefer real art books to ebooks about art
  • many artists are following national trends and have tablets or ebook readers for reading ebooks - only 20% said they don't have an ebook reader
  • almost all artists tend to read books about art - only 5% said they didn't read any kind of art book
It's not surprising that many artists prefer real art books.  The ability to scan images across a double page spread and to flick through a book looking at images - or what people have to say - is easier with a real art book than an ebook reader.  The latter work fine for text but less well when the text comes with images - unless the layout has been very carefully thought through and uses hyperlinking for navigation.  

I've personally noticed that the performance of both publishers and ereaders are very variable at the moment in terms of formatting and readability and I think it's very likely this influences some of the responses.  What do you think?

The figures also indicate that it's very likely that more artists have tried ebooks than currently read them.  Publishers need to find out what it is that deters people from ebooks about art.

Which type of art ebook works best?

This is a problematical area as it's highly dependent on what artists have selected to read as ebooks. Pne of the interesting aspects about art is that the drive to make books more accessible has put a lot of the older art instruction textbooks online and these can be read for free.  (see The Practice and Science of Drawing and In praise of older art books - free and digital)

I was very surprised at what a high percentage of artists are using ebooks - particularly for art instruction.
  • 30% read art instruction ebooks
  • 20% read art history ebooks
  • 15% read art business ebooks
I'm guessing, from my experience of trawling through the art books on Amazon, that the percentages reading different types of art book relate in part to the fact that, for example, there are many more art instruction books than there are art business books.

It also occurred to me that those who bought early versions of ebook readers which can only cope with black and white would not bother to buy an illustrated art book until such time as they had access to a colour screen


It's been an interesting poll.  While I always expected most people to prefer real art books the nature of some of the responses were very interesting.  

I was left wondering whether the 30% who are reading the art instruction ebooks are the counterpart to the 63% who prefer real art books.  I now expect that in five years time, we will have a very different status quo.

For me, the critical issue in terms of how things change in the future is going to be the formatting of art books and people being able to access ebook readers which can cope with colour.  There's nothing publishers (or artists/authors) can do about the technology end of things except run to keep up with the changes.  Those publishers who will do well will be those that create layouts and formats which work well on a screen - no matter what the size of the screen.

The February Making A Mark Poll will be posted on Saturday 2nd February.

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  1. The portability of real books is vital if you're using them as references. It's also nice to sit on the porch in real light and peruse books -- or to read them in the tub. I find the printing of art and picture books to be going up in quality and that new cheaper printing techniques are creating a whole new world of illustrated and art books.

  2. I do wonder the age and/or generation of those responding to the poll.
    Are there fewer digital age responders to this poll?
    Are there more responders to the poll who grew up with real books?
    It seems relevant.

    I do agree that in five years there will probably be a shift in the poll.

    Although I love my iPad and love the digital medium for all it is, especially what can be done in the hands of artists who really know the medium, I still prefer real books still for the same reason I prefer traditional mediums as an artist.
    I can make a piece of art any size, digital art you are stuck with the size of the device.
    Same with art books on Ebook readers, the images are usually small.

    I do love the advantages too, I can take the iPad, loaded with multiple books and go anywhere...

    1. Good point re the age

      My stats (google analytics) tell me that the average age of people reading this blog is middle aged (ie 40s) rather than young (ie teens and 20s)


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