Saturday, November 26, 2011
Literary Trends on Both Sides of the Pond
Guest blog by Isabella Woods
With Christmas fast approaching and consumers feeling the pinch of recent budget cuts, the battle is on the High St to entice Christmas shoppers inside their tinsle laden interiors to spend their precious pennies.
In the last decade, technology has dramatically affected the way that consumers read. With updated versions of e-readers and i-pad’s hitting the shelves over the next few weeks, where does that leave the likes of WHSmith’s and Waterstones when it comes to buying literature?
Slaughter of the innocents
More than 800 bookshops have shut in the past five years, including almost 400 independent outlets, according to new figures from the Booksellers Association of UK and Ireland. Major book retailers are being forced to cut their prices and it’s not an uncommon site to see ‘buy one get one free’ deals on immaculate hardcovers to encourage that all important Christmas consumer, full of mulled wine and on his way to compare broadband deals at the pub.
In our modern world, there has been an increased interest for e-readers such as Amazon.com's Kindle, Barnes & Noble's Nook and Sony's Reader. Rather than trying to wedge our dog-eared paperbacks into our bags, we are now convenienced with downloadble novels in their hundreds within the slimline gadgets.
Sales of e-books increased by 318% in 2010 and many predict that at least 50% of all books sold within 10 years will be digital downloads. Does it really share the same sentiment to receive a gift certificate for Amazon in order to download your fiction, or is it really better to receive an old-fashioned book?
There seems to be a similar electronic landslide in the US, where Net e-book sales in January were reported to have accumulated $69.9 million in revenue for their publishers, which amounts to a 116 percent jump from last year's total for the month. During the same period, adult hardcovers were down 11.3 percent to $49.1 million and paperbacks faced a similar reduction in demand and fell to $83.6 million, a steep drop of 19.7 percent year-on-year.
However, back in the UK, there seems to be an unlikely profiteer in the form of the supermarket. Publishers and Literary agents are more likely to keep a keen eye on what’s making Tesco’s Top 10 fiction, as sales at supermarkets and “mixed multiples”, such as high street shops like Mothercare, rose by 7% in 2010, an increase of around £14.9m in value terms.
Retailer Analyst, Kate Clavert, said: “I think there is a general trend of supermarkets taking an increasing share of the non-food spend. They can also pitch their pricing lower than the high street, which is something they can do economically. Amazon.com is now selling more e-books than paperback books, so their business has shifted too."
Public libraries - now available in pocket size
Since the spending cuts have been introduced, libraries are facing a bleak future. Are they an easy target for government cuts or are we as a society not using the services of this institution as we once did? I regularly visit the library with my young children, but other than children, students and the elderly, are the books really being borrowed as much as they once were? The libraries are pulling out all the stops to bring back local support it seems, with more in-house events such as film clubs, book clubs and craft fairs being held. There has also been an increase of computers for internet use installed within the library itself. It does seem ironic while a few people scour the shelves for a book to read, a queue is forming for people to log on to the available computers in order to check their e-mail accounts.
According to Public Libraries News, “More than 360 libraries and nearly 30 mobile services in England are under threat of closure this year as councils respond to the recession and government funding cuts.”
I hope that the libraries stay open. I take full advantage of borrowing books that would ordinarily cost me £10 from a book shop. I haven’t yet dipped my toe into the future of e-reading, I am hoping that the likes of Waterstone’s shop windows continue to burst with eye-catching books to entice me inside. But, on a recent train journey, I couldn’t help but notice a plethora of commuters sat tapping on their Smartphones or engrossed in their Kindles, a random few with a paperback or newspaper. Will the book become obsolete, down the same path as vinyl or VHS, is the future really Kindle?
Isabella Woods is a professional writer for numerous websites and publications.