From Good Ereader:
There are many mainstream online media outlets that proclaim that the e-reader has lost its shine and that the hardware is in a state of decline. The Barnes and Noble Nook is cited as the leading example of an e-reader that was once relevant, but not anymore. Are people no longer buying new e-readers anymore and reading on their smartphones and tablets? Is it simply the case of e-readers not being trendy or hip anymore?
Tom’s Hardware believes that e-readers are catering to a diminishing audience. “More than one-quarter of U.S. adults read no books in 2016; of the 74% who did, some read a single book “in part.” The average U.S. reader finishes from four to 12 books per year, depending on whether you want to go with the median or the mean. The number of people who read, and the amount that they read, have both been steadily decreasingsince the early ’80s.”
Only 19% of U.S. adults owned an e-reader in 2015, and the numbers didn’t vary much by sex, location or age. Twenty-seven percent of affluent individuals surveyed owned an e-reader, and they were the most enthusiastic buyers by far. Compare and contrast: 68% of U.S. adults owned a smartphone in the same year, and 87% of affluent individuals did, according to data from the Pew Research Center.
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The Barnes and Noble Nook has garnered the most negative sentiment about their e-reader unit. Fortune said “As for its once large Nook e-reader business, Barnes & Noble at least stopped losing money on it, but sales fell 28% as device prices fell. Nook, launched in 2009, held its own against Amazon’s Kindle for a while. And Barnes & Noble, which has lost about $1.3 billion in the last six years on the Nook business, says Nook is essential to feeding its e-book and online business. But given the performance of Nook, and the resources it siphons away, one analyst wondered whether it was time to pull the plug on what was once a $933 million a year business. Nook had sales of $146.5 million last fiscal year. ”
“The fact the business is shrinking by so much demonstrates it is a very ineffective platform,” Neil Saunders, Managing Director of GlobalData Retail. “B&N would be better to scrap NOOK entirely and focus its efforts in developing a better online platform and apps to support its business.”
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Arnaud Nourry, chief executive of Hachette Livre, made the comment to the Indian news site Scroll.in in a wide-ranging interview about Hachette’s future in India, which also touched on digital publishing. According to Nourry, the “plateau, or rather slight decline”, that ebook sales have seen in the US and the UK in recent years is “not going to reverse. It’s the limit of the ebook format. The ebook is a stupid product. It is exactly the same as print, except it’s electronic. There is no creativity, no enhancement, no real digital experience,” said Nourry.
This lack of creativity is partly publishers’ lack of digital know-how, according to Nourry. “We, as publishers, have not done a great job going digital. We’ve tried. We’ve tried enhanced or enriched ebooks – didn’t work. We’ve tried apps, websites with our content – we have one or two successes among a hundred failures. I’m talking about the entire industry. We’ve not done very well. “I’m convinced there is something we can invent using our content and digital properties beyond ebooks, but I reached the conclusion that we don’t really have the skills and talents in our companies, because publishers and editors are accustomed to picking a manuscript and creating a design on a flat page. They don’t really know the full potential of 3-D and digital,” he said.
“Part of the positive pressure that digital has exerted on the industry is that publishers have rediscovered their love of the physical,” says James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones.”
“It was new and exciting,” says Cathryn Summerhayes, a literary agent at Curtis Brown. “But now they look so clunky and unhip, don’t they? I guess everyone wants a piece of trendy tech and, unfortunately, there aren’t trendy tech reading devices and I don’t think people are reading long-form fiction on their phones. I think your average reader would say that one of the great pleasures of reading is the physical turning of the page. It slows you down and makes you think.”
Link to the rest at Good Ereader
PG suggests that sales of ereaders by themselves don’t matter to both traditional and indie publishing nearly as much as sales of devices capable of functioning as ereaders. Of course this includes smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers. He realizes that small and portable is preferable, but the more devices that can be used to read an ebook, the better is is for people trying to sell ebooks.
PG further suggests that growth in Amazon Fire and Kindle Ereader sales are a better single-company proxy for future ebook sales than Nook is. Barnes & Noble is circling the drain and people who pay the slightest attention to the book world and know even a little bit about tech markets understand that the Nook is a classic example of a device that’s going to be orphaned in the near future.
Any day now, Leonard Riggio is going to tell whoever the president of Barnes & Noble is this week that the Nook business has to be wound down because there’s not enough cash to support continued purchases of Nook devices. To the extent the Nook store is not already running on autopilot, Leonard will tell the CEO to try to sell it to somebody in China or put it on autopilot.
PG enjoyed the quote from a Curtis Brown agent trying to launch an unhip ereader meme suggesting everybody knows it’s way cooler to lug a hardcover book around because “think”.