Pub Rants

eBooks For The Young’un’s

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STATUS: I had two things I wanted to accomplish before I left the office today. Yeah, didn’t do either. But other great things are going on.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? GOIN’ THROUGH YOUR PURSE by Material Issue

And I need to compile the stats from Tuesday’s poll but that will take a little time. In the meantime, here’s a cool article that fits right in to what we’ve been talking about this week. How interesting.

Survey Confirms Younger Generation Less Interested in Traditional Reading Habits
The Bookseller’s Reading the Future Survey, presented at a conference last week, reports only half of young people aged 18-24 years old think people will still be using bookshops in 20 years’ time. Looking deeper into 18-24 year olds’ reading habits, the survey found that 28% were favourable towards the idea of e-readers, compared to 9% of 65+ year olds, and 40% liked the idea of downloadable chapters of books, compared to 7% of 65+ year olds. Transworld publisher Bill Scott-Kerr said at the conference that the statistics point to where publishers are headed in the future. We all know the book is a great piece of technology – you can’t drop e-books in the bath. But we as an industry are in a lot of trouble; we don’t know where we are going.”

Here’s the full article at the Bookseller.

27 Responses

  1. karen wester newton said:

    I’m very interested in e-books and often blog about them. I see it as the classic conundrum: People won’t buy e-books until LOTS of them are available. Publishers, on the other hand won’t publish e-books until lots of people have readers. The key is the availability of a really good, cheap book reader, which the Kindle has come closest too, but $400 ain’t cheap.

    The day of the e-book is coming. It’s just a matter of when.

  2. Anonymous said:


    Could we get your opinion on the market, or more specifically these three questions? (In terms of eBooks, technology in publishing.)

    1. Where do you soundly believe the market is trending?

    2. Where do you think it ‘might’ be trending?

    3 You be surprised if it trended _________.

  3. JES said:

    The survey results have a whiff of “Dog bites man!” about them.

    I love to read books, Lord how i love to read ’em. For a recent birthday, The Missus gave me probably half-a-Kindle’s worth of hardbacks, which I will devour at all due speed.

    Still, everything I’ve read about the Kindle — especially the (hypothetical) version 2 wishlists from other people, many of whom have actually tried version 1 — makes me tres eager to have one…

    I know it’s not meant to be taken literally, but the “drop e-books in the bath” sorts of worries sound, umm, positively Edwardian. My understanding was that taking baths is going the way of, well, of books: the young’uns are taking showers, and would never dream of reading while doing so.

  4. Marva said:

    Good to hear that my queries to ebook publishers are not wasted.

    It does seem that romance, erotica, and subgenres are acceptable to ebook formats.

    As an older reader, I still prefer printed books, but as a writer I’m perfectly happy with publication in ebook format. Of course, this is a much larger market at small publishers who accept queries from writers. Agents will need to find a way to make that a viable market to their benefit. In the meantime, writers are forced to bypass the agent route.

    Interesting times, eh?

  5. Rock and Roll Mama said:

    Interesting indeed. As the mother of an 11 year old, I can say that although he loves books, he’s extremely comfortable doing things electronically. He doesn’t remember a time without gameboys, Iphones and laptops. Things that were far-fetched to my generation are everyday to this demographic. I think if I gave him a Kindle, he wouldn’t look back. Look at Itunes and record stores…but I would miss books dearly.:)

  6. Anonymous said:

    Hey Kristin,
    Thanks for the article. My husband and I were just talking about this. What if publishers, at least of genre fiction, released e-books as serials? The e-book chapters would beginning coming out earlier than the print copies. So, you’re not just paying for the chapters; you’re paying to get them earlier. The print copy would come as a full further along. I would think people would pay more to get chapters of certain books earlier. Publishers might be able to make more money that way. I’ve found that I’ll pay $1.99 for a single episode of a show I love if it means I get it faster. Why not a book? Does this make sense or is there something in the industry I’m missing?

    Sienna Condy

  7. AJ said:

    ‘Kay, I’d like to see the results of the rest of the survey, because comparing the technology opinions people who didn’t have to learn typing on a typewriter in school to people who’ve been Googling almost as long as they’ve been able to read just doesn’t really work. Of course young adults are going to be more receptive towards e-books and downloading texts. I know I’d love that. But I also love my paperbacks and don’t see that changing any time soon.

  8. Kathleen Dante said:

    Consider the inverse of the statistic: 72% of 18-24 year olds prefer hard copy. That puts a different spin to it, doesn’t it?

    I also have to wonder about the number of people surveyed, how they were selected and how representative the survey respondents of the larger population. Unless they reveal that, there’s no judging how significant those statistics are.

    My courses in communications research taught me that there are all sorts of ways to skew responses to get the desired results — just take that recent MSNBC “poll” that referred to romances as “bodice rippers” as a particularly blatant example.

  9. Anonymous said:

    Interesting. I’m fourteen, but I prefer the traditional means of reading. I guess I’m just an oddball, then.

  10. chris bates said:

    “…you can’t drop e-books in the bath”

    As opposed to the fantastic water-resistant qualities of a p-book.

  11. chris bates said:

    The continued article… “The Book People c.e.o. Seni Glaister was more positive about the future of the book. “Content is king – always.”

    I agree.

    We have four different versions of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ for our 2 year old. If the publisher ever releases it etched on a jumping castle – holes and all – I’m probably going to have to purchase that as well.

    Look at the recent success – although it wasn’t on my buy list – of ‘The Secret’. Multiple revenue streams: print, DVD, web video download. People will always gravitate towards the content… not the format.

  12. Anonymous said:

    I find these statistics very interesting. I’ve worked with young children 6-12 who appear to prefer books to e-readers. They appear to expect games and movies from the computer, stating that they like the pictures better in books.
    I prefer books because the computer screen strains my eyes, which are already weary from a lot of computer use. I also don’t like the high pitch sound of electronics at night, when I like to read.
    I’m sure I will eventually adjust to the e-readers, but for now, I’m comfortable with the traditional books. I don’t want to be adjusting the screen or hitting buttons to turn the pages. I just want to be totally immersed in my reading. No distractions. That includes beeping due to a low battery or a cord that forces me to lie in the same position as I read.


  13. JDuncan said:

    For all of the recent blogging I’ve seen on some agent sights recently around this issue, it’s no real surprise to me that the young reader is more accepting of the new formats. They’re the ones that drive the new technology in general, so for all us older folk (ok, I’m only 41, but still) who decry the troubled publishing industry and the potential demise of paper formats (I am still of the opinion that it’s changing but in no danger of going away), we need to realize that if the younger generation will latch on to electronic formats to read, then we better be ready to go with flow.

    One stat there, which I find most interesting is that 40% like the idea of downloadable chapters. It’s the short attention span theatre mentality of reading. I can see young people with ereaders of the future, not with 100 books crammed onto the hard drive, but a dozen different chapters from their latest books, a few more installments of the latest graphic novel or manga, and spending internet time on myspace or wherever discussing the latest release of storybits much like the week’s episode of ‘insert name of latest teen soap/reality show here.’

    You throw in ‘extras’ like author interviews/discussions, artwork, or better yet (for the reader at least) interaction discussion blogs about the latest story bit with said author, and you get a far different reading experience, and at a rate of a dollar or two per ‘chapter’ release (I’m guessing of course) you get a format that may actually make publishers and authors more money. And if there is more money to be made in these every evolving formats, you will definitely see a decline in paper formats.

    I just see at conferences of the future, where author’s little knick-knack items will consist of little decorated versions of whatever the latest memory sticks are which will have the first chapter, cover art, interview, and such for people to pop into their ereader, which 90% of attendees will be walking around with.

    All in all, successful authors of the future I think, are likely going to have to get savvy with electronic reading.


  14. shariwrites said:

    Interesting, and it doesn’t surprise me. I’m not really bothered by the idea of ebooks, I just hope the ability to go buy an actual paper copy doesn’t disappear.

    On another side, I keep wondering, because ebooks are so much cheaper to produce, if publishers would be more willing to take risks with new authors. That could be good for those of us trying so hard to get published.

  15. Anonymous said:

    I’ve never commented before, but just had to say as a mother of two teens and one tween (girls), this doesn’t surprise me in the least.

    Teens also view ebooks as environmentally responsible, something that will be very difficult for the industry to argue.

    This is such an important discussion to be having.

  16. Jana Lubina said:

    “A statistician is a person who draws a mathematically precise line from an unwarranted assumption to a foregone conclusion.”

    I don’t know who said that.

  17. The Writers Canvas said:


    Love your blog! Interesting article you posted yesterday. Thanks!

    Another thought for a future blog, if I may ask: With the huge “Sex and the City” success at the box office, and they’re already talking about a sequel, do you think any of the chick lit/women’s fiction genres will revive a bit?

    You had once posted on a blog that you were leaning away from ‘4 friends’ stories. However, seeing as how the #1 box office surprised even the studios, I think more people will respond to that genre.

    I would love to see a post on this topic, when you get the time. Thanks for all the useful info you provide, and have a great weekend!


  18. Kristin said:

    And thus the reason why I believe traditional paper books are on their way out. It might be 30 or 40 years from now, but when those 24 and unders are the ones with the money to spend and in charge, it’s going to be e-readers everywhere.

    Those with paper books will be like those who still buy records. They exist, but they are for a quirky few.

  19. Lehcarjt said:

    I could be wrong on this, but aren’t the 18-24 year olds also the demographic that don’t read very much anyway?

    Will e-books change that? I’m thinking that to capture this group, e-books don’t have to compete with hardcopy, but rather with the internet, TV, and game stations.

  20. Just_Me said:

    18-24 is young?

    Well, let me just go put my hair in pigtails and pull out my gingham frock….

    28% of my age group are favorable towards e-books. That isn’t a majority vote by a long shot. Granted it’s more than the 9% of seniors but it still takes a mathamatical stretch to say that the up-and-coming generation is interested in e-books to the exclusion of all else.

  21. Natalie Hatch said:

    fifteen years ago I attended a seminar that said there would be no paper records needed in the health industry within five years. They had a vision that everyone would be walking around with little laptops or scribble boards and all information would be electronic… hasn’t happened yet.
    So here’s the thing, as much as people rant and rave about what the future will hold, they keep forgetting that humans cling to what they already know and they take change very badly. Yes ebooks are doing well and I think it’s great because I don’t have to wait for books to be released in my home country to read them. But I still love holding a paperback in my hand as I lounge in a hot bubble bath. You can put a paperback/hardback down somewhere and then come back to it.

  22. Kathleen Dante said:

    Sienna Condy wrote:

    What if publishers, at least of genre fiction, released e-books as serials? The e-book chapters would beginning coming out earlier than the print copies. So, you’re not just paying for the chapters; you’re paying to get them earlier. The print copy would come as a full further along. I would think people would pay more to get chapters of certain books earlier. Publishers might be able to make more money that way. I’ve found that I’ll pay $1.99 for a single episode of a show I love if it means I get it faster. Why not a book? Does this make sense or is there something in the industry I’m missing?

    Baen Books began doing what you described when its publisher along with Webwrights started Webscriptions in 1999. One thing they discovered was that offering the books in electronic version actually drove up sales of the print version of the titles (even hardcover).

  23. Natalie Damschroder said:

    I’m surprised no one has pointed out that the poll indicated they are favorable toward the IDEA of e-books. It didn’t say if a single one of them actually READS e-books.

    The one-chapter-at-a-time thing sounds good in theory, but how many people want to have to wait between chapters? I don’t think very many.

    As for young people using e-readers, well, if you are giving a two-year-old or four-year-old a $400 e-reader, you’re crazy, I don’t care how rich you are. And if they are getting started on regular books, most of them are going to prefer that. Not all, of course, but it will take a lot to make a switch.

    Chris Bates said “As opposed to the fantastic water-resistant qualities of a p-book.”

    A paperback book dries out and can still be read, and even if it can’t, you’re out $6 or 7, not $400. 🙂

  24. Kristin said:

    Who are all these people who want to read while in the bath? Strange. I’ve never done that. I don’t need a book that dries out. I’m a read-while-lying-in-bed type of person, and for me, a paperback book has its limitations as far as comfort goes.

    I think the point is not that kids will be learning how to read from e-readers or only reading electronic copy, but that they will be MORE open to it than people of a different, older age group. So that small percentage of e-book sales you see today, could surprise you in 20 years. I think it will be a huge part of the market.