Keep in Mind: 59% of Readers Don’t Care About eBooks

ebookreaderEbook sales have slowed down. Flattened. Softened. Whatever word you want to call it. Worldwide sales for the first quarter this year? They declined.

Over at Rough Type, Nicholas Carr speculated a little bit about why eBook sales have so abruptly become steady, rather than revolutionary.

Specifically, he brought up the iPad. I’ve thought about the indirect effect of tablet computers on eBooks, too. Especially when I saw that e-readers are dying.

Take a look at this graph and tell me what you see.

To me, it looks like a complement-to-print-books-future, not a eBooks-are-killing-print-totally future.

A hill of Calvin & Hobbes proportion.

Basically, as people replace their boring-old-Kindles with bright, fancy, totally distracting iPads (or Nexuses or whatever), it’s going to get harder to read. Once again, you’re reading type on a screen. It’s bright and overwhelming. Worse, your tablet computer is almost always going to be connected to the Internet.

“Losing yourself” in a book on a tablet computer is going to be hard.

A certain type of book for a certain type of medium

Carr speculates that genre fiction will be a popular eBook format, but literary and nonfiction will stay popular within print. He also adds that the early adopters of e-readers have now officially Adopted e-readers, leaving the big question: will other Americans come to the e-side or will they stay with print?

That’s where my favorite finding (also cited by Carr) from a year-old Bowker report comes in handy: 59% of Americans said they have “no interest” in eBooks.

Let’s get media-agnostic

I don’t care how I read. Computer screen, smartphone, e-reader, tablet, it’s all the same to me. The content is the important part to readers, not the medium.

That said, the Americans with no interest in eBooks see no compelling reason to try eBooks out. And if e-readers and their marvelous “e-ink” technology fades away, then there will be little to NO difference when it comes to reading on a computer screen, save the mobility part.

So, book purchasing will come down to convenience. The only way the majority-half of Americans will take the eBook route will be if they simply can’t wait for a print book to get to them – via Amazon. If they do get converted, keep in mind that eBook readers still read print books, too. They just read both.

The main problem here is that bookstores won’t be able to handle media-agnostic habits. Sure, you may  read print in addition to electronic formats, but that still hurts bookstore sales.

And if bookstores do go, then the only way to get books will be through impulse shopping at Walmart or the grocery store or online.

Either way, discovery will go digital… and will that mean all books will inevitably turn digital, too? Or will the majority-half, and media agnostic habits, sustain bookstores and publishers during this plateau of e-readership?

Photo Credit: Mike Licht, via Compfight cc

4 thoughts on “Keep in Mind: 59% of Readers Don’t Care About eBooks

  1. I just wrote about Carr’s piece the other day. (Great minds…) Very disturbing, and not just because I released an ebook today — no plug intended — but because it has a huge effect on independent publishing. I just hope the genre theory doesn’t play out as predicted and more readers interested in literary fiction hop aboard in time.

    1. I think part of the whole literary fiction paradigm, though, is the Validation by the Right Magazines and Awards. Those are the guiding stars for literary readers right now, and most tend to turn their noses up at the idea of eBook literary fiction.

      That said, I’m tempted to say that the ultimate trend is toward all eBooks, all the time. The commercial class of readers, the ones who take chances on new literature and buy lots of books, have already turned to eBooks. I think literary readers will go, too, but not until there’s no other choice.

      I just signed up for your newsletter, so I look forward to reading the shorts!


  2. Many years ago, I was given a first generation Kindle. My aunt saw Oprah talking about it and as my aunt automatically buys anything Oprah recommends, I got it for Christmas. I love to read and go through several books a year. I used my Kindle about ten times.

    My boyfriend is not a reader, but loves technology. He gave me a Kindle Fire (which is much better than the original Kindle) and I primarily used it to watch television and go on facebook. So far, there are only a few cases where I prefer a ereader to a real book.

    1. Vacation. I still pack a real book, but it’s nice to have so many books on the Kindle and pack light.

    2. When I am trying to read and eat. It’s easier than holding a book.

    3. The rare case when I want to buy and have a book immediately. This has happened a few times and it’s nice to have it automatically download on to the device.

    Still though, my reading habits are about 90% real books to 10% Kindle purchases. I do read books with the Kindle app on my Ipad more than the Kindle. The lack of “e-ink” doesn’t bother me, but probably because I don’t it for reading that much.

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