Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Some Validation for My Thoughts On E-Readers

I was reading an OUTSTANDING arcticle put out by NINC recently written my Kat Richardson on the supposed rise in e-publishing. I had to admit, when I saw the initial article, before I really got into it, I was ready to believe this was going to be one more article proclaiming the ultimate downfall of the print book and the supremacy of the digital age. Wow, I was not only surprised but very much relieved.

Richardson highlights several points that really put into perspective this whole argument. She reminds the readers that although "...people on the Internet are deeply in love with their electronic realm and forget that, in fact, it is not the whole world. E-books are a very nice thing, but at the moment, no matter how impressive the growth rate, they represent less than one-third of all books—fiction, non-fiction, textbook, etc.—sold in the US." (Richardson, 2011). Honestly, that one third is really a big factor. For those writers out there believing they are working with a huge population, they are clearly mistaken.

She goes on to remind readers that "74.9% of U.S. homes with a phone line have Internet access (note they don’t say anything about homes without phone lines), but of those, less than half have broadband and of those, about 10% use their Internet for e-mail and routine communication only, not for shopping or surfing the net—and certainly not for reading or buying books. So, that boils down to roughly 33.7% of U.S. homes have the capacity for e-book downloads." (Richardson, 2011). Again, this is a point that I brought up last year after a conference with the WisRWA chapter. At that time, we were asked about the rise of e-publishing and I reminded everyone that in the 80's, there was a belief that everyone would have a computer in the near future. We are now in 2011 and you can see that number hasn't even been achieved.

I wanted to bring all of this up because I do believe that Richardson really hits on a big point here. Sure the numbers are rising and sure there is technology out there, but, to use the expression, "putting all of your eggs in one basic", simply doesn't sound that realistic. In fact, I like her argument when she talks about her own writing. She is someone that sees the value of using e-publishing as just something else you would do with your publishing. As she reminds the readers of her article, you simply cannot forget the other two-thirds of the readership.

I do know that some of you will want to bring up those authors that have all supposedly gone entirely electronic to prove to everyone it  can be done. We have to remember that many of these writers already had a huge following. Several of these writers are making the move because their last several books did poorly and going the digital route is a way to keep some of those books flowing. In other words, at this point in their career, they had nothing more to lose.

I also have to believe that many of these writers who made this move will likely make a move back later on. While making this move may sound like the ideal situation right now, I am confident enough to believe these writers may feel a little lost without that other two-thirds of their readership.

My compliments to Kat Richardson on this article and certainly to the staff at NINC for making this their front page artcile. Way to go!



  1. I agree. Electronic publishing is another option for the presentation of story and connection between author and reader. The bonus is that it brings backlists to life again.

    Those with ereaders now were already voracious readers, or work in the book industry, or can afford the latest gadgets. The majority of the population on this planet is none of the above.

  2. Your blog and reference to the e-book article makes a lot of sense. E-publishing can benefit the right person, who has good work and the understands the limitations of the buying and reading method. Still, as with traditional publishing only a select few will ever see any real benefits for the big lists are filled with works of all kinds of quality. Thanks again for your interesting comments.

  3. While Kat's article makes excellent points re: authors not putting all their eggs in the e-book basket, don't forget that Amazon's "whispernet" doesn't require your own internet access, it works on mobile/cell internet, as will the many android reader tablets that are about to spill out onto shelves at prices far lower than an iPad. (I'm one of those early adopter gadget people and I've had mine for months and LOVE it.)
    The other side of the coin is my worry, though. I often hear Kat's arguments used as an excuse for print publishers not to publish an "e" edition and I'd like to point out that it's not just about the US market.
    I began my ebook collection while living in Japan in 2008, for obvious reasons. I'm currently home in Australia but I've continued the practice because import taxes on books (yes, we legislate against reading, here) make them not only expensive but many "niche-market" (read: anything but best sellers of any genre) books are simply unavailable. I'll be moving to Thailand in 3 months and, there, I'll have my pick of English books at incredibly low prices, but I won't know if they are knock-offs or not. When I buy an eBook on Amazon, I'll be sure I'm paying the right people, but if an eBook is not available, I'll be buying the potential knock-off because, well, it was the publisher's choice not to go "e."

  4. This is a great perspective to bring forward. As both a writer and a librarian, I agree that is important to think of all the different readers out there. My guess is that equality of access will become a fluid concept as we move into the future, but hopefully it will never be forgotten.