Saturday, August 4, 2012

Ebook uptake - an author's personal perspective

In 2010, my first novel Sleep Before Evening was published. At the time, I sold only a small number of ebooks and most of the relatively limited action took place around print copies. What a difference two years has made. According to ZNet,  in June 2012, adult ebook sales overtook adult hardcopy books. According to a study by Pew Research,the average reader of eBooks has read 24 books in the past 12 months, compared with an average of 15 books by a non-eBook consumer. There's now even a NYT ebook bestseller list. Those are, of course, just statistics, and we all know how suss stats are, besides, there have also been studies indicating that readers still love their hardcopies (me included), and that ebooks don't make as good gifts (hard to wrap them for one thing), that files can be deleted, are harder to share (never mind the DRM can of worms) and that ebooks are less tangible than print, etc.

All of those things are true, but as an author I have to say that the growth of ebooks has been a boon for me.  For one thing, it's far easier (and cheaper) for people to buy an ebook. We all know where to go to get them. We don't have to leave the house or source a copy or wait even 2 minutes from the point when the desire hits. So when I meet someone, and we get to talking about my book, they can call up their favourite online bookshop (ahem), and buy a copy on the spot, before the desire cools.

On my recent visit to the US, it was surprisingly easy to promote my current novel Black Cow (subtly, of course - maybe too subtly sometimes).  I didn't need to lug heavy copies around in my bag, or send follow-on reminders to anyone who expressed interest (though I did have a handful of pre-printed cards with me).  I only had to mention the book and make use of my little elevator speech, and the book could be had almost instantly. After all, the ebook version is under $6.00.  It's not much of an investment, unlike $16.99 for the paperback.  Combine the ease of purchase with instant gratification and a very low cost, and it's no wonder the rise of ebooks have meant more readers.  Much as I love printed books (and I really do - my bookshelves are groaning with them 3 deep), I have to say that I'm jumping for joy at the ease at which I've been able to reach readers through the electronic version of my book. 

Of course both the electronic and print copy are exactly the same in content. The story is the same, and with a good ebook reader, the reading experience shouldn't differ much either.  I suspect, though I've yet to prove this definitively statistically (there are hints of it in the above studies), that the ease of procuring new books has equated to more people reading overall.  As far as I'm concerned, and speaking as both reader and writer, that's got to be something to celebrate.

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