Paperless Books

Today’s title might have been seen as an oxymoron just a few years ago.  I mean, the notion of a “book” without paper was as unrealistic as book publishers graciously declining to publish an author’s work and doing so promptly.

Then came e-readers which some said would hurt the book industry.  As with the music business, book publishers did whatever they could to prevent digital downloads of books by charging exorbitant prices (the same prices as if the book had to be printed on paper) and refusing to allow certain titles to go digital.  With the Kindle and other reading devices reaching scale (roughly 15% of American readers have one), the industry has come to recognize that porting content to another platform may be disruptive in the short-term but potentially a great thing over time.  Want more proof?

The Harris Poll folks surveyed folk on this topic and found out some interesting things:

While some lament the introduction of the e-Reader as a death knell for books, the opposite is true, says the report. First, those who have e-Readers do, in fact, read more. Overall, 16% of Americans read between 11 and 20 books a year with one in five reading 21 or more books in a year. But, among those who have an eReader, 32% read 11-20 books a year and over one-quarter read 21 or more books in an average year.

That summary is from a Media Post report on the survey.  The point today is that how consumers relate to the content you’re putting out there is far less important than that they relate at all.  Passing the savings on to consumers when you lose the cost of paper, ink, and distribution makes that content more accessible.  The NY Times did a cogent analysis on why digital versions of books cost so much if that topic is of interest to you.  As someone who is often reading a few books at once, having them available in a light, transportable form lets me get through them more quickly if I choose to do so.  That’s a consumer-focused point of view all content providers need to have.

The Times piece ends with a quote that’s useful:

“For all I know, a million books at $9.99 might be great for an author,” Ms. Rice said. “The only thing I think is a mistake is people trying to hold back e-books or Kindle and trying to head off this revolution by building a dam. It’s not going to work.”

Amen, and anyone who produces content needs to take that to heart.

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