“To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations - such is a pleasure beyond compare.” -Kenko Yoshida-
The UK Publisher’s Association released its statistics in early May: consumer e-book sales increased by 366% in 2011. Overall digital sales grew by 54%.
The Pew Research Center found that 21% of Americans have read an e-book, and the average digital reader has read more books than non-e-book consumers.
At such an expansion rate, what hope is left for regular books?
Electronic books have been around for a while, but recently they’ve been gaining momentum. Typically, an e-book is a digital version of a physical book, but now some texts are published exclusively online.
When the Oxford English Dictionary announced that it would cease print editions, something died within book-lovers. How could this have happened to such a crucial information resource?
Although print sales still reign, reading habits are quickly finding a new place online. If the e-book is the future, then publishers have to embark on a new mission.
Harlequin’s Mills&Boon has been thriving online. Their Digital and Marketing Director, Tim Cooper, attributes this to the fact that publishers and consumers can directly communicate through technology. He also notes that part of the appeal of digital reading is that nobody can see what you are reading. In other words, there aren’t any embarrassing front covers that reveal the erotic fiction within.
The Pottermore store’s sales of Harry Potter e-books stacked up to over £1 million in the first three days of publication. Now all seven HP e-books will be available through the Amazon Kindle Lending Library in mid-June.
No wonder publishers have to incorporate online strategies in their financial planning and marketing tactics.
Bye-bye bookmarks. Bye-bye bookstores. Gone are the days of the library – now it’s the ebrary!
What’s up with the obsession of electronic reading? Printed books can survive for decades, whereas electronic devices wear out pretty fast. E-books, as with most technological mechanisms, are non-biodegradable. While books are fairly accessible, only specific populations can afford e-readers.
And which would you choose: screen glare and eyestrain, or the comfort of flipping through normal pages? Also, there’s the issue of digital rights management, and e-books can be hacked. Finally, a real book will never run out of power.
Obviously, e-books have advantages:
- No paper or ink is used.
- The e-reader is expensive, but electronic texts are much cheaper than books.
- Carrying a single reader around is like having a bookstore in your bag, sans the heavy burden.
- No more dog-ears or page tears.
- Some e-book readers allow can change fonts and translate into different languages.
- An e-book will never go out of print.
Digital literature inspires innovative digital devices; consumers are spoilt for choice with e-book readers: Nook, Kindle, iPad are just a few.
Soon there will be no more paper cuts and sore limbs from lugging hardcovers around. But this also means that the legacy of literature has changed.
What many don’t realise is that the bliss of reading isn’t just from the story itself; it also comes from the physical presence of a book, the weight of it in your hand.
“Lord! When you sell a man a book you don't sell just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue - you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night - there's all heaven and earth in a book, a real book.” -Christopher Morley-
It looks like there is no way to stop the era of the e-book. For more info about online reading, listen to the podcast below. It includes commentary by author Dan Poynter about the future of books and publishing online:E-book podcast by izzyabraham