Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Charge of the E Brigade

According to a Harris Interactive poll surveying around 2200 people and released this week, the number of Americans using e-readers has nearly doubled over the past 12 months. A year ago, eight percent of respondents said they used some sort of e-reader. This year, that number is 15 percent, and that’s in spite of the limping national economy. The Harris poll indicates this e-reader trend will continue through next year, with another 15 percent of respondents stating they’re likely to get an e-reader over the next 12 months. That figure reflects a 25 percent increase since the same question was asked of poll respondents last year.

That’s good news for us authors. E-reader owners are fairly voracious readers, especially when contrasted against the non-e-reading public. One third of American adults didn’t buy even one book in the past year. (WARNING – PARENTHETICAL DIGRESSION AHEAD – So, wow… I guess the way to look at that and feel better as an author is to flip it – two-thirds of American adults bought at least one book last year! Cool! Of course, “one book” would include fulfilling that yearly single-book purchase quota with a mindlessly spontaneous airport grab of “The Last Stand of Chuck Norris: 400 All New Facts About the Most Terrifying Man in the Universe” instead of a literarily meatier selection, but a book’s a book, right? And personally, I love those Chuck Norris fact books, and own them all. The one about Chuck versus Mr. T is mandatory reading in my house, and quotes from it are often all one of my family members needs to win an argument, especially if that family member is me. Thank God I’m a book buyer. THIS CONCLUDES THE PARENTHETICAL DIGRESSION. THANKS FOR YOUR PATIENCE.) That’s only true for six percent of e-reader aficionados. Instead, nearly 60 percent of e-reader owners buy more than 11 books annually, and over a quarter of them buy more than 21 books a year.

The same Harris poll throws light on what American genres book buyers of all stripes, whether digital or analog, bought most over the past year. Nearly half of fiction readers go for mystery, thriller and crime books, and a quarter prefer sci-fi. The most popular nonfiction book buys were biographies at about 30 percent, trailed very slightly by history and spirituality books.

What does this poll tell us? Well, there aren’t 15 percent more Barnes & Nobles or Books-A-Millions or independent bookstores on the ground this year than last. All the Borders around a year ago are gone. The facts speak for themselves. Any author or publisher or retailer who doesn’t focus intently on learning to love the stampeding charge of the e-book brigade is a dead man reading. As e-reader devices and platforms grow increasingly sophisticated, the reading public will come to expect ever more sophisticated e-books. That bodes ill for Luddite authors and publishers, in that they’ll have to learn to incorporate multi-media components into their e-books to take advantage of the electronic devices on which those e-books are read. On the other hand, that bodes well for authors and publishers appropriately excited about exploiting e-reader technologies, since a more media-robust e-book reading experience justifies a more dollar-robust pricing point.

That reminds me -- did I mention I’m selling my new short story e-book anthology, Trust and Other Nightmares, for a mere 99 cents? I’ll be more multi-media robust next time, I promise.

“What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?
Only Chuck Norris and Mr. T will ever know.”
~~ Ian Spector ~~

1 comment:

  1. I am reading 4 times as many books as I read before I got an e-reader. That's a good feeling! I buy from Smashwords and Amazon and read and read -- it's a great life. My novella, Shoes on the Wire, went up on Smashwords earlier this week.