I read blogs from people in traditional publishing and those who champion self-publishing. Most of the back and forth has to do with money: royalties, how much editors/cover art costs, marketing…
I’m not saying the money doesn’t have me thinking. I would certainly like to get paid for my writing, however, I wonder if the reader is getting lost in this discussion. Some people love the smell of the book. Others love the convenience of the eReader. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m worried about access to books.
According to an article on TechCrunch, in January of this year 19% of American adults had an eReader*. So, if you go with self-publishing (when people talk self-publishing, a vast majority are talking epublishing), you are limiting your audience. At the most, you’ll reach that 19% of US adults.
You may argue that the eReader market will only grow…I agree. More people will get one, but not everyone. Of course, not everyone will purchase a traditionally published book, but I’d argue that books, but nature of being low tech, are more accessible across ages and income levels.
A majority of those with eReaders are Gen Xers and Baby Boomers (stats from Publishing Perspectives). GfK MRI, a media/consumer research company, speculates that it is because those demographics have the money to spend.
The young, the poor, the person who may love to read but doesn’t know it until they pick up the right book…those people aren’t necessarily going to get the eReader and won’t have access to your book. Even if someone reads your books, loves it and thinks their non-eReader friend would love it too, they probably aren’t going to loan out their eReader so their friend can read it. That’s not a sale, so so-what? Well, that’s one less person who might get hooked on your writing. One less person to purchase a future book. Yes, this person is a hypothetical, but the eReader has cut them off as a possibility.
You may say that it doesn’t matter because your readers have eReaders and you’re making enough with them. I have a problem with that.
Technology leaves people behind; that’s the price of progressing as a society. At some point indoor plumbing was new-fangled and not a necessity. Today, if you’re apartment or house-hunting, your wish list doesn’t include indoor plumbing because it’s expected. eReaders may become that basic one day but, right now, it feels like we may be cutting people off from access to information and that worries me.
I’m not all “Down with eReaders” by any means. I just haven’t heard this conversation and think it’s worth talking about. If you have heard it elsewhere, please point me to it!
*The study also says that 19% have a tablet. I’m not talking tablets because people get those for a myriad of reasons but eReaders are bought for a specific purpose: reading.