Are You Ready For The Next eBook Boom?

From The Digital Reader:

The legacy book publishing industry is fond of telling itself comforting myths.

For example, one myth that just crossed my desk was the idea that younger readers preferred print books over ebooks. This is comforting to the legacy industry because it reassures them that their bad business decisions (high ebook prices, to be exact) will not continue to haunt them.

Alas, like many myths, there is little to back it up.

I was reading that Vox retrospective on the ebook revolution (the one that Teleread commented on, and Good e-Reader plagiarized) when I came to this quote from Andrew Albanese of Publishers Weekly.

And in part, Albanese tells Vox in a phone interview, that’s because the digital natives of Gen Z and the millennial generation have very little interest in buying ebooks. “They’re glued to their phones, they love social media, but when it comes to reading a book, they want John Green in print,” he says. The people who are actually buying ebooks? Mostly boomers. “Older readers are glued to their e-readers,” says Albanese. “They don’t have to go to the bookstore. They can make the font bigger. It’s convenient.”

Yeah, that claim is not true at all.

. . . .

Younger age cohorts are not only more likely to have read an ebook, they are also buying more ebooks – and I have the data to back that up.

For starters, the most recent reading survey from Pew Research Center showed that the 18-29 age cohort, which includes the tail end of the millennial generation, was the most likely to have read an ebook in the past 12 months.

. . . .

eBooks.com has revealed that their best customers are still in college. and that “62% of ebook purchases are made by people aged between 18 and 45”.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader and thanks to Nate for pointing it out to me

Somehow, PG missed the Vox article that Nate mentions. Or perhaps he dismissed it like he does with almost anything Vox publishes. There’s a sense of born yesterday that often makes him think that nobody needs to know anything in order to write for Vox.

At any rate, assuming that Vox got the quote correctly from the Publishers Weekly writer, it makes absolutely no sense at all:

And in part, Albanese tells Vox in a phone interview, that’s because the digital natives of Gen Z and the millennial generation have very little interest in buying ebooks. “They’re glued to their phones, they love social media, but when it comes to reading a book, they want John Green in print,” he says. The people who are actually buying ebooks? Mostly boomers. “Older readers are glued to their e-readers,” says Albanese. “They don’t have to go to the bookstore. They can make the font bigger. It’s convenient.”

Let’s unpack this one component at a time:

  • Gen Z and the Millenials are packed with digital natives.
  • The natives are glued to their phones 24/7 to check on Instagram, TikTok, text messages from friends, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.
  • The natives are typing on their phones 24/7 to create Instagram, TikTok, text messages, etc., etc., etc. for their friends.
  • These sorts of behaviors occur everywhere, including at school, watching TV, at the movies (despite announcements telling them not to use their phones – the ushers in the theater never do anything about it because they’re texting all the time, too), on the street, at fast food restaurants, in the bathroom, at the prom, etc., etc.
  • The worst thing someone can do to a digital native is to take away their smartphone, limit their hours or otherwise interfere with 24/7.

However, when digital natives desire to read something longer than a text message, they want a physical book, a lump of dead wood that won’t fit into any pocket, something that is unlike anything else they encounter in their 24/7 lives (including the ebooks they use for their classes at school)

This is breaking news, a previously undiscovered trend for a Vox writer because s/he hasn’t touched a physical book in years. “People will be so excited to discover that books on paper are a new thing.”

And, of course, it’s a well-known fact that Gen Z has lots of extra cash sitting around with which to purchase hard-copy books (instead of new apps for their phones).

Plus, Barnes & Noble must be where Gen Z trend-setters have decided to congregate now. You’ll probably have trouble getting in without a reservation.

7 thoughts on “Are You Ready For The Next eBook Boom?”

  1. ” bad business decisions (high ebook prices, to be exact) ”

    Oh my, yes. Look at this report from the front lines…

    https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/82238-wi15-aba-town-hall-addresses-perennial-concerns.html

    Nancy Bass Wyden, owner of The Strand Bookstore in New York City, reiterated a point that comes up time and time again at Town Halls: the idea of eliminating prices on books and letting booksellers set their own prices. “The number one problem here is book margins,” she said. “I am suggesting that we all band together and tell the publishers we no longer want them to dictate the retail price.”

    So, margins will be better if book sellers can set a book’s price as high as they want. I can’t wait to see how that works out for them.

  2. Disgusting Dude had a comment worth repeating:

    That Vox piece is so full of propaganda and misinformation that it ever hits a fan, the entire island of Manhattan will be splattered.

    Look, it is a recognized fact that corporate media is so incestuously tied to the parochial corporate publishers that they don’t bother to look outside their doors to pay attention to what their own media neighbors are reporting.

    Let’s see:

    Rolling Stone: “CD sales have declined 80% from $450M to $89M over the last ten years. are people listening to less music? No. They’re listening to more music. They’re just listening to music digitally, getting it on the fly, direct to their listening device, without getting off their seat.

    CNBC: Disc-based video sales have declined 86% over 13 years. Also, Cable subscriptions are dropping by the hundreds of thousand each month. Smaller cable operators are ditching cable TV and retrenching to internet only. Are people giving up on movies and TV? No. They’re getting their content on the fly, digitally, from a half dozen massive archives or free ad-supported apps.

    ArsTechnica: US video game market has in six years gone from two-thirds physical to three quarters digital. Microsoft is selling a diskless console and its moving well. Gaming subscriptions on the three major console platforms are increasing rapidly. Game streaming in on the launch pad. (Even if, predictably, Google crashed and burned.) And the PC digital gaming distribution business is getting serious competition for Steam. Gamers are increasingly getting their games on the fly, straight to the devices, without leaving their seats.

    So, riddle me this: in what universe will people used to getting their music, video, games, (and gossip) all digitally, on the fly, direct to their Phone, tablet, PC, TV, sound system, or console, refuse to get their entertainment reading on the fly, direct to their gadgets, without leaving their seat, and instead choose to drive out a half hour or more to wander the aisles of a bookstore in the hope to find something they like out of a few tens of thousands of volumes instead of a millions-deep digital catalog?
    Because books are special?
    Because they like the smell of rotting dead tree pulp?
    Because they meekly follow the curators of literature?

    All markets have inertia. People will stick with a given platform for years even after massive failure or obsolescence. There’s still people using video tape out there. You can still buy players. But eventually the market moves on, each their own pace.

    And the real digital revolution isn’t even happening downstream, at the consumer level, but upstream, at the creator level. Indie musicians, bypassing the studios; top rank producers, directors, and actors moving to the video streaming world to avoid the straitjackets of movie and broadcast formats and gatekeepers. Indie coders targetting mobile gamers direct instead of working for big gaming publishers and even those publishers going digital themselves.n

    Publishing still has the comfort of the big names propping up their sales.
    If tbey are getting less “quality” manuscripts as they claim and failing to establish the careers of most of their chosen debut authors, they still have their legacy authors. Their Kings, Roberts, Patterson, et al, with faithful fan bases that will keep them going…for now.

    Times change, markets change.
    Consumers are going digital and no amount of handwaving can hide that; not by reporting dollar sales instead of units or by lumping textbooks in with voluntary purchases, and not by ignoring Indie sales.
    They can hide, for a time, the creators bypassing the establishment but only for a while. Because establish creators retire and move on and if they don’t have replacements…

    That’s still a decade away, more or less.
    But except for Patterson, the other legacy authors will stop producing content eventually.
    (Patterson, of course, has a secret database of story ideas and outlines that can be ghosted to his formula by partner writers for decades and centuries to come.)

    Vox and Publishers Weekly can spin zombie memes all they want but as somebody or other said, THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE. In plain sight.
    No need to dig for hidden conspiracies.
    Just open your eyes and see how people are voting their wallets.

    New decade coming up.
    In a new century.
    New audience, new rules.

    They can’t keep pretending forever

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