BookNet Canada's latest consumer survey results suggests that e-book unit sales in Canada accounted for about 15% of the market.

According to BookNet’s "The Canadian Book Consumer 2012: Annual Report," the number of e-books sold peaked in the first quarter of 2012 at 17.6% of the total number of sales and declined steadily over the rest of the year to hit 12.9% in the last quarter. The authors of the report say the 5% decline is likely the result of a first quarter sales spike after consumers received new devices over the holidays followed by declining interest or readers having banked titles in the initial post-holiday period.

“Early 2013 data backs this up,” BookNet Canada president and CEO Noah Genner said in a statement released with the report. “So far, we’re seeing the same pattern repeating itself.”

The survey also showed that paperback books (including mass markets) comprised 58% of all books purchased in 2012, while hardcovers made up 24%. Paperback sales steadily increased in market share over the course of the year. The report noted that consumers still have a preference for giving physical books as gifts. Hardcovers had strongest sales quarter in the fourth quarter. The book-buyers surveyed also reported that 16% of their book purchases were gifts in the holiday quarter.

According to the report, more Canadians still prefer to buy their books in physical stores, with 37% of books purchased in bookstores, 34% in non-book retailers and 25% online. Print book purchases made online accounted for 19% of those online sales. Consumers surveyed said the top reason they chose bricks-and-mortar bookstores were the convenience of the location, the selection available and ease of purchase. They shopped at non-book retailers, such as Costco and Wal-mart, for those same reasons, but pricing and the convenience of being able to shop for other items were also factors. “We’ve found that the dominant factor in selecting a retailer is convenience,” Pamela Millar, BookNet’s director of customer relations commented.

There was also some good news for retailers concerned about the effects of “showrooming,” when people browse in physical retailers and then buy their books online at discounted prices. “Pricing comparison isn’t as big a factor as we might have guessed,” Millar noted. In this latest survey, 55% of respondents indicated they rarely or never compared book prices between stores.

The survey also looked at the what e-readers consumers were choosing. Among Canadian readers, Kobo still has the leading market share at 25.5%. Kindle has 18.4%, and 14% of respondents said they were using an iPad.

According to BookNet, this report is based on the first four fieldings of a two-year study that began in January 2012. Each month a new group of English-speaking respondents completed surveys about their book-purchasing behavior for Bowker Market Research. Respondents qualified for the survey when they indicated they had purchased a minimum of one book, regardless of format, in the prior month. This process yielded a survey sample of 4,000 book consumers.

More information and copies of the report are available from BookNet Canada.