Today I'll be speaking with conviction. Consider yourself warned.
Every time I read writer blogs announcing the death of the print book, it kind of makes me want to bust a cap in someone's nether-regions.
The print book is not dead. It is not even dying. Bear with me:
As writers are are, necessarily, surrounded by people in the publishing industry. Particularly online we are drawn to like-minded folks. We read blogs by agents, editors, writers who work in the publishing industry professionally. We join writer groups (online or real-life) with other writers. We network with authors on Twitter and Facebook and yadda, yadda, yadda. You get the picture.
But these are the very people who are most likely to purchase e-readers, to use them on a daily basis, and to recommend them to friends.
Sitting in a room full of writers, reading an agent's blog, or chatting with your writer group is a great way to survey a slice of the publishing-population pie.
But your results are not indicative of the actual population.
As writers we live in a publishing bubble and we need to stop thinking our contact with e-readers and e-books reflects the average Joe Citizen.
Our perceptions of market saturation are skewed because we come in contact with a variety of people whose personal and professional interests make them early-adopters of the digital technology.
If you don't believe me, go to a park. Sit on a plane. Walk through a library - or a school! Count the e-readers on the bus in the morning.
There's no doubt e-readers and digital books have a presence. But there's also no doubt they are in no danger of taking over.
Check out this blog post from Chip MacGregor - Publisher's Marketplace 2009 Top Agent (by sales) - from this year's BEA. Among other things, he states:
"Amazon just announced that they’re selling 105 e-books for every 100 printed books. So yes, digital titles are outselling printed titles. But… that’s a bit of a tricky fact. Amazon will sell anything you choose to stick into a digital file (your company’s annual report, your seminar files, your class notes), so not every e-book they’re selling is really a “book.”" (From the Author: I'd also like to add that as an online retailer, Amazon has a much greater digital focus than most bookstores, which is important because of the next quote)
"...A study here revealed only 6% of people who buy a book were satisfied by their online browsing experience… so 94% of readers want another way to view books. Which means the bookstore still matters. Now everybody is trying to figure out how to make money turning bookstores into showrooms."
Need more? How about our desire to see the digital world the way we want to:
A couple days back I read a story from one writer who'd purchased an e-reader for his elder father for Christmas. Aforementioned Elderly-Dad recently told Writer-Son how surprised he was to enjoy reading on his e-reader - particularly the functionality which made the font larger and easier to read.
Writer-Son's conclusion? (Paraphrased): "If the old folks are getting into it, then you know it's taking over."
Um... sorry, but if you purchased the e-reader for him, he isn't actually the consumer. I have no doubt he'll read more digital books now, but I don't think it logically follows that the elderly about to stage a market takeover.
And that's my point: Writers and those connected to the publishing industry are advocates for this product. They're buying them, using them, giving them as gifts, etc, etc. If we only look through the filter of the people around us, we aren't being realistic about these products.
Remember that post where I said I have a background in branding and marketing? My short-but-eye-opening time working with a branding visionary taught me many things... but the single most important fact was this:
Branding / Marketing / Advertising is all about perception. When it comes to purchasing decisions fact and truth are moot. What matters is what the purchaser believes to be true about the product and their need for it.
So if you want to believe E-Readers are taking over the world, you're going to look at the world that way. You're going to notice the e-books and e-readers around you because you're hyper-sensitive. You're going to find room in your budget for a product that to you seems very important.
But there's a massive portion of the population who don't know or care about e-readers or e-books. Yet they're still buying books.
The print book is not dying.
It is not.
It is not.
It is not.
Your Turn: Do you believe the print book is dying? Why?