Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Do ebooks increase readership ?

In a topic on Kindleboard's Writer's Cafe, people wonder (and I do with them), about the "are ebook sales forever ?" question. One element for answering this question if whether "readership" will augment or fall down with ebooks advent. For the purpose of the discussion, I'll consider "readership" as a combination of "reading time per reader", with "number of readers". A simple equation Readership = Time * Number can easily show that if both Time and Number augment, so will readership (and for you math lovers at a quadratic rate !).
I postulate that ebooks will lead to increase of both parts of that equation.

Reading time per reader will increase :
Ebooks make reading easier and more comfortable, hence more incentive to read, hence more time read. I remark that most people who read ebooks have increased their reading time.
One new device family can increase reading time : ereaders. How do they do ? First by doing at least as well for general comfort : ereaders have (when done right) the same general reading properties as paper. By beeing non light emissive, it doesn't induce eyestrain the way LCDs do, page turning attains at least the same rate as with paper, ereaders are in the same "encumbrance/weight" class as their fellow Dead Tree Books.
While sharing this, they have a few discerning points : some people are uneasy to take their ereaders with them in some places (the beach, transports etc...) while they may be happy to take paper books. However this is counterbalanced by ereaders features : text size that can be varied (hence people with reading difficulties who can read the same books as others, without having to wait for a special edition. Ereaders also  caters for impulse, and online buying. An other feature is "No Cover" : While when buying or choosing a book to read, you can look at it's cover, people don't see it when you're reading. Hence readers don't need to fear to show what they're reading. While that may seem to be only to impact "erotic fiction" readers, I know that some people may be less than thrilled to be seen reading "romance", "science-fiction", or other "lesser genres" books.
But ereaders are not the only device that can be used to read ebooks : there are also tablets, smartphones, PCs ... So people can easily extend their reading time by taking their ebooks with them wherever they have their phone. More portability --> more read.

Number of readers will increase :
Just the same way reading time will increase, people will find out that reading is becoming more "accessible" and easy. Since the gatekeeping barrier is way openned, some otherwise neglected categories will be better "served", and people will be able to sample, and buy "specialty" books without having to go to a bookstore (which may have incomplete shelves...). Of course, you all will think that the "category" above relates to "erotica", and it's partly true, but you can easily replace it with your/your SO's Hobby, which he/she most probably considers neglected ...
So would-be readers who can't find DTB they like but don't find will become readers of ebooks they like and find... hence an increase of readers.

So if number of readers increases, and reading time increases, readership increases, and everyone is happy, right ? Well, depending on how it translates in author's revenue is an other question, that I'll try and address in an other post ...


  1. I've sold quite a lot of copies of my book on Kindle because apart from it being more convenient, quick and easy to access the book, it's also a lot cheaper. I think as time goes on, eReaders such as the Kindle, will go from strength to strength.

    Came here from Kindle Boards,
    Crysta Jigsaw

  2. I recently read an interesting statistic: Owners of eReaders on average read 40% more than others, even others who consider themselves readers. I suspect it's because of the convenience of carrying around a eReader over hauling books with you.

    And then there's Crystal's observation above: The books are cheaper as well.

  3. Yes, Crystal's obviously right ...

  4. When I was a kid I read more than I do now, but since more and more books have become available for my handheld device, I am now going back to old reading habits and reading a lot again.

    One thing -- those who say "ebooks are forever" don't meant the readership is steady. What they mean is that, unlike paper books, the book is AVAILABLE forever. So if you're an unknown author and publish something right now and never promote it and you don't get any customers, it doesn't matter. You won't have to relaunch that book later when you write another book and know what you're doing. The first book is still right there, always available, always ready for any opportunity that comes along.

    This is very much unlike the brick and mortar publishing world, where they will spend a ton of money to launch the last book in a trilogy, and the booksellers will still frickin' refuse to carry Book 2, because it's no skin off their nose.

    Pardon my pseudo-bad language, but a lot of our "common wisdom" about the need for book promotion comes from that old paradigm.

  5. Daring Novelist, you're right, "Ebooks are forever" mostly means "Ebooks can be kept on the sale as long as you want"...