When the e-publishing world took off about 10 years ago, publishers were screaming about how amazing this was going to be and proclaimed that everyone would have e-readers eventually. I always found that interesting because I remember hearing the same thing back in the 80's when people were proclaiming that everyone would have a computer in their home. Of course, today we can see that prediction is not true. Just go into any school and you will find that in some cases, only 50% of the students have computers in their home.
But what about the digital publishing. Didn't those numbers go through the roof? Sure they did. There was a huge rise in actual e-readers (computer devices designed strictly for e-reading) AND the traditional publishers were releasing their books BOTH as print and e-pubs. It was a hot new trend and everyone got on board with it.
In recent years, however, we have seen a plateau and even a decline in e-readers. Print sales were starting to outsell those in the digital market. So what happened?
I would argue three things. The first two are easy. The fascination over the digital book was just not there anymore. It is like the toys we give to kids at Christmas. Hot toys through January, and not so hot when the novelty runs out.
The second has to do with the price. When the digital books came out, these were less expensive options for the readers. Think of it: Buy a print book for $14.99 or a digital book for $5.99? No logic needed here. But then there was the push to not short change the authors so the prices leveled out and... again, no logic needed here.
It is the third point that I want to look at that I believe is really the big issue. I was at my local Target yesterday looking for a few things and, like usual, I like to make a quick trip through the book and tech departments. As I walked through, the sales clerks were hyping up all of the latest gadgets and telling people the great characteristics. This told me everything...
First of all, the hype was on the quality of the screen. This allowed the user better quality as they streamed Netflix and Hulu to binge watch the last season of their favorite shows. The hype was on the sound so they could better listen to their Spotify and Pandora. Nothing about the e-reader capability. In other words, we are not using this technology like we did with the e-readers.
The second thing they hyped was really the nail in the coffin for the e-reader industry. These phones were not as large or as "clunky" as their predecessors. We are living in a world where we want things compact. Not good for reading.
This, my friends, will be the death of the digital e-reader market. Look at the iPads and other tablets. These too are shrinking in size because people don't want to carry around large clunky devices. And for the e-reading population, this means that those novels will now be harder to read.
I don't know if you have ever tried to read a novel on your phone, but it is pretty damn difficult. No, this is not an issue of my eyesight going downhill in my old age. It is the simple truth that reading a story in really tiny font is hard on the eyes. Why do you think we hype up using a 12 point font when we type documents? It is the ease on the eyes.
(I re-typed this for you to show you what I mean) I don't know if you have ever tried to read a novel on your phone, but it is pretty damn difficult. No, this is not an issue of my eyesight going downhill in my old age. It is the simple truth that reading a story in really tiny font is hard on the eyes. Why do you think we hype up using a 12 point font when we type documents? It is the ease on the eyes.
Look, don't get me wrong. I love tech, but it will be the tech that is going to destroy the digital world. Until we decide to create a product that will work for reading books in a relaxed setting, to really enjoy that summer read by the pool, then I am sorry, but that market is just not going to last. We also have to get away from using these as nothing more than portable televisions.