Sunday, September 25, 2011

More News on the E-book Revolution

Every few months, I like to report on the latest studies on e-books. While many writers have been publishing e-books for four or five years, the industry is still in its infancy and suffering inevitable growing pains. Having said that, according to a recent Harris poll mentioned in, the number of Americans using e-book readers has almost doubled over the past twelve months, up to 15% from 8% this time last year. Furthermore, one in six Americans intends to buy an e-reader within six months.

As I’ve mentioned from earlier studies, people who read e-books, also read more books than print readers. Not surprisingly, they also buy more books as well. In this study, about 17% of book buyers purchased between 11 and 20 books a year, while another 17% purchased 21 or more books a year.

Genre fiction still sells best: crime and thrillers (47%), science fiction (25%), literature (23%), and romance (23%). In non-fiction, the most popular category is biography at 29%, then history (27%) and religion and spirituality (24%). You can find more info at

The latest issue of BC BookWorld Magazine (Vol. 25, No. 3, Autumn 2011) published an interview with Paul Whitney, who is the former chief librarian for the Burnaby Public Library and the Vancouver Public Library. Whitney was hired by the Public Lending Right Commission to investigate the impact of e-books for PLR’s program. Whitney found that trade print sales were down by 19% in the U.S. and that their decline is increasing; however, this decrease isn’t nearly as dramatic in Canada, right now anyway. Whitney does envision that things will become much tougher for bookstores down the road and he foresees many more store closures.

As far as libraries are concerned, print still rules. Only 2% of books borrowed from libraries are e-books, but again this figure will change. One of the problems libraries face, according to Whitney, is that there are simply too many books in the world, and that the tidal wave of new books every year is overwhelming, so the problem is which e-books to purchase?

Many other points were raised in the article (this is one of several articles about e-books and libraries in the autumn issue), but the bottom line is that writers, publishers, and others involved in the publishing industry are worried about the loss of control in a digital future. It’s interesting because if you read blogs by people like Joe Konrath, Dean Wesley Smith, and others, the digital world is all about regaining control. Clearly, it depends on your viewpoint and your strategy. If you read last week’s blog about one writer’s clash between traditional and self-publishing, you’ll see another glaring example of control issues. If you’d like to know more about the interview with Whitney, visit the website at I would encourage any Canadian writer to subscribe to this incredibly informative magazine.

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Julie H. Ferguson said...

Excellent info. Thx muchly!!

Anonymous said...

great summary... interesting to see sci-fi still selling so well.

Arlee Bird said...

Interesting stats. E-books definitely will solve a lot of problems of storage, especially in smaller libraries where space is an issue. Still, I'm going to resist giving up real books.

Tossing It Out

Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure about losing control in a digital world. I think I'll still have control over content and dust cover art as long as I'm self published. ANd I'll always be a sucker for soft bound books. I like sitting down, holding a book, and turning the pages.

Debra Purdy Kong said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone. They're always much appreciated! And yes, Stephen, a large part of me will always love the feel of a brand new book, and turning that very first page...

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