When I first published Silent Lies, it seemed sensible to make it an e-book. After all, according to reports, e-book readers were among the top selling electronics and the publishing world seemed to be talking non-stop about how e-books were the future, bemoaning that soon nobody would want print.
But where did this idea come from? From the guys who were developing e-readers and e-books? Or from those who love technology so much they have to have the latest new gadget, whatever it might be? Because, unless the circle of readers I know just happens to be unusual, it seems to me that, regardless of all the raving about e-books, many people want to stick to the traditional printed book. Certainly while promoting my e-book I had more people tell me they would love to read it but didn’t have an e-reader and would never read on a screen than those who leapt at the idea of being able to get hold of a digital download in seconds. One couple told me that when the husband bought a Kindle for his wife for Christmas, she made him send it back.
I like nothing better than to sit back with a book in hand and, to be honest, I only got a Kindle because it seemed the right thing to do given I had published an e-book, but I can see it has benefits. The biggest has to be how light it is. As someone who virtually never goes anywhere without some reading material, I often had to settle for a magazine rather than whatever heavy hard-back or large paperback I was reading, especially if I was travelling on public transport. An e-reader not only slips easily into a small bag but, if you happen to forget your spectacles, you can adjust the font size so you can still read on the go. For longer trips you can load as many novels as you think you will need without having to worry about excess baggage.
Despite all the continual hype about e-books, however, the growth in sales has slowed considerably – down from 100% year-on-year growth last September to 37% in April 2012 (Publishers Lunch, Charting the Slowdown in eBook Growth, 9/8/12.) The fairly dramatic drop is not that surprising. Consumers who switch to an e-reader will likely want to top it up with several novels at first - possibly even buying the e-book version of books they already own in print - but after a while one would expect their buying habits to return to normal so that as the market for new e-readers slows as it matures, this initial short-term sales advantage will gradually disappear.
The report also states that ‘e-book sales as a percentage of all trade sales are pretty much the same in April 2012 as they were in April 2011’, which suggests that while books in print may be a declining market due to the advent of e-books, it does not sound like one that is about to disappear any time soon.
I like to think that publishing will settle into a happy medium – e-books for those who want them and print for those who don’t. So where do you fit in? Are you a converted e-book reader, a die-hard print owner or happy to use whichever is most convenient?