Are E-Books A Publishing Letdown?

KindleAs someone who just recently made the full leap into digital reading, I am taken aback by some of the figures around e-book growth I see reported from the Digital Book World conference this week. Apparently publishers were expecting something more.

According to paidContent, and reporter Laura Owen, Bowker and the Book Industry Study Group, their research shows there was only a 17% increase last year in the number of book buyers who also purchased an e-book, up from 9% the previous year. Double-digit anything usually is welcome, but that rate of transition to e-books seems pale compared to the hype surrounding the market and higher expectations.

Apparently there is a difference among print and e-book buyers at the all-important high end. “Power buyers” comprise 22% of the real book buyers, since they account for 53% of all book buying. But on the e-book side, the power buyers make up an even larger share of that market (35%) and they are responsible for an even larger share of all e-books bought (60%). The bottom line is that there is now a deep and lucrative casual reading market, Bowker executive Kelly Gallagher said.

Well, that is to be expected. Anyone can buy a print book easily and cheaply enough. An e-book generally works best on a dedicated device -- the kind of thing that a dedicated book reader would buy.

The key seems to be getting the power reader acquainted with the device and the use of e-books. The study also showed that within a year of trying their first ebook, power print buyers actually switch over to ebooks primarily.

That certainly has been my own experience. I had been reticent about reading at length on any form of display. Although I had worked with all of the e-ink and tablet readers, I had never successfully read through an entire book. Forcing myself several months ago to reread an old favorite entirely on both iPad and Nook Color, I became a quick convert.

Seven or eight novels later, e-reading has become my platform of choice for books. I can dance across several titles, easily sample new ones, and find free or 99-cent versions of most classics. Long gone is the prejudice that reading from an LCD is not as involving or comfortable. A year ago, I still savored the feel and smell of print. Today, I am in the tank for the convenience and sheer variety that a digital approach gives me.

While the transition may be less accelerated than many had imagined, power readers like me will be the ones who see best how the digital reading experience is not nearly as bad as they expected -- and that the platform plays right into their addiction. 

Tags: books, e-books, mobile
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