Archive for April, 2012|Monthly archive page
Latest surveys from Pew in the US. As well as an increase in the number of adults who have read an e-book (from 17% to 21% from December to February), this nugget:
Those who read e-books read more books than those who don’t have the devices: The average reader of e-books says she has read 24 books (the mean number) in the past 12 months, compared with an average of 15 books by a non-e-book consumer.
Of course, p is still bigger than e, but the number of e-book readers is growing fast – and we read more
Tim Waterstone in the Guardian on how Amazon is killing (his) bookstores:
No trader has ever been so successful in its concentration on consumer pricing – all this impervious, of course, to the broader considerations of the overall welfare of the industries in which it is operating. It’s all so simple. Make and build your brand on a reputation for absolutely rock-bottom pricing. Do this single-mindedly and ruthlessly. Even say it upfront, insultingly and aggressively, in your advertising – go, Mr Consumer, go to Harrods or wherever it is, inspect and admire the goods, then come home and buy them from us. Online. At a deep, deep discount. And fuck Harrods or whoever it is for their trouble. More fool them. And more fool Waterstones.
Of course, just like similar debates in the music business, there are those who think that the existing industry needs a whole lot of shaking up, and that “the welfare of the industries in which it is operating” is less important than the welfare of customers – and authors – for whom there may be different ways of doing things…
I’ve often said that we remember the past through rose coloured glasses; that there never were golden ages of literature where everybody read widely before they were distracted by television, and then the internet. Here’s some more data (from a piece in The Atlantic) that confirms that view:
Check out these stats from Gallup surveys. In 1957, not even a quarter of Americans were reading a book or novel. By 2005, that number had shot up to 47 percent. I couldn’t find a more recent number, but I think it’s fair to say that reading probably hasn’t declined to the horrific levels of the 1950s.
All this to say: our collective memory of past is astoundingly inaccurate. Not only has the number of people reading not declined precipitously, it’s actually gone up since the perceived golden age of American letters.
The Association of American Publishers has released its January 2012 data and whilst ebook sales are clearly climbing dramatically overall (+49.4% year on year), the biggest growth is in Children’s and Young Adult titles:
While Children’s/Young Adult physical format Hardcover and Paperback both saw strong double-digit growth (68.9% and 61.9% respectively), AAP’s first monthly data on Children’s/YA eBooks showed a massive +475.1% increase from 2011 to 2012. Some publishers have attributed this to the availability of more options for devices aimed at those demographics as well as a number of popular new releases.
I’ve always maintained that what makes books special is how they allow us a particular engagement with time. They force us to slow things down. Now, Maura Kelly in the Atlantic is calling for a slow books movement, mirroring the slow food manifesto:
In our leisure moments, whenever we have down time, we should turn to literature—to works that took some time to write and will take some time to read, but will also stay with us longer than anything else. They’ll help us unwind better than any electronic device—and they’ll pleasurably sharpen our minds and identities, too.
And we’ve moved beyond thinking that we need ink on paper for this… (yay!)
The Slow Books movement won’t stand opposed to technology on purely nostalgic or aesthetic grounds. (Kindles et al make books likeWar and Peace less heavy, not less substantive, and also ensure you’ll never lose your place.)