eBooks v Books v Readers

White wall with graffiti on it. In thick black lettering there is an open and closed parentheses with space, and an arrow that points to the word Me! In what looks like pen, someone filled in the parentheses with "no-one reads graffiti."

(No-one Reads Graffiti) >> Me by bixentro CC 3.0 flickr.com/photos/bixentro/2215171512

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.


6 thoughts on “eBooks v Books v Readers

  1. Kim

    I’m so glad you wrote this! All are valid points. While I DO own a Kindle (a gift from my “techie” hubby), I still find myself wandering through the stacks at the local library and my favorite (independent) bookstore. Nothing beats trading book recommendations with a total stranger. The sight, smell, and feel of all those printed pages, waiting for discovery, is my idea of heaven. The only time my Kindle comes in handy is during travel. Now I don’t have to pack six to ten books that I want to read during downtime.

    My local Library was instrumental in helping me survive an abusive childhood. Books provided my mind an escape. Plus the biographies/autobiographies/memoirs helped me realize that, eventually, I’d be able to overcome, survive, and thrive. I have. All my thanks for free public education, great teachers, and my local FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY. Now, I donate most of my used books to the local library. You never know which book will be the one that gives a teen hope that her situation can be overcome, and a happy future might be attainable in spite of overwhelming circumstances. Yay for “real” books and many thanks for this post! Kim Holly

  2. I wonder what percentage of readers own a device that allows them to e-read. I’d be curious….

    Just about every adult who is a reader that i know own something or another, be it an e-reader or an ipad, or even an iphone.

    From what I know of self publishing, in the US, amazon has a print on demand service that is extermely easy to use. I know a few self-pub authors who have gone that route and are very happy–a book takes 24 hours to be printed! Here, in Canada, the print on demand is much much slower.

  3. bethfinke

    I haven’t heard this conversation yet, either. Thanks for bringing it up, and i especially appreciate your links to where you found the stats.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s