Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Next Generation of E-Readers

Yesterday, I directed you to an article that reported on e-books. Today, we look at the generation that may bring about a blazing explosion of e-books. Kids.

It seems to me that it’s those of us who grew up with paper books who are most adamant about the need to keep printing books. But it is the new generation of readers who may bring about the sharp decline in those books. They read online. Online and e-books are what they’re growing up with.

The Los Angeles Times reports on this bright future for the E-book.
He doesn't have a dog-eared copy of the children's classic, though. Skye, who lives in Agoura Hills, Calif., often reads on his computer, pressing the arrow button when he wants to turn a page. Sometimes the characters move around on the screen like animated cartoons on TV. If he wants, Skye can have the computer read a book to him while he's curled up in bed.
Listen to these statistics:
Electronic-book sales increased 73 percent in October compared with the same month last year, according to the Association of American Publishers, while sales of adult paperbacks decreased 23 percent and children's paperbacks decreased 14.8 percent.
Publishers and business are now focusing on the kid lit market via the digital world. They’re not totally abandoning the print world, mind you, but they recognize that today’s kids have grown up with technology and are comfortable using it. They also know there is money to be made in this form.
In any case, with the publishing industry weak, digital books are unlikely to go away because they are generating revenue. With digital books, there are no shipping, printing or return costs -- which eat into profits. The sector is Random House's fastest growing, and the publishing behemoth recently announced that it was nearly doubling the number of digital books available.
We’ll have to wait and see how print and e-books survive in the future. Surely, they both will. As more and more of the youngest generation today grow up, there very well could be a major shift in reading habits, though.


  1. Great post Ginger. Some of us old dinosaurs will eventually have to understand that our nostalgia for the weight of a book in our hands, the odor of ink and paper that floats out of an open book, the feel of the print on the paper as we turn the page is not shared by young people who are growing up without old-fashioned books. Kids love reading on the computer. They love seeing their favorite stories come to life in the form of animation, they love interacting with the book and they really love receiving kudos from the electronic voice in the box. I'm afraid the writing is on the wall (or the computer screen). I'm just hoping real books don't disappear in my lifetime. I think of them as dear friends.

  2. I own a Kindle and have converted many print books to Kindle format for clients. We even did a couple of illustrated kids' books for one client. The Kindle is great, I love mine...but it will never really replace print books.

    For example, I cannot flip through the pages easily, either to scan for something or to get a flavor for what's in the book and what portions I want to read (this is, of course, primarily related to nonfiction).

    There have also been studies that indicate kids don't learn or retain as well when reading e-books. And animated e-books may decrease the engaging aspects of creating a mental picture of the book and its characters and events. And once those young minds are rewired, that kind of mental imaging and creativity is lost forever.

    There have also been studies that show many kids, particularly the under-12s, prefer the printed book to e-books because they're "more fun."

    However, I have been beating the drum for a long time now that publishers need to stop thinking of themselves as being in the book business. We are actually in the information business, and our goal should be to provide that information (fiction or nonfiction) in whatever form, and even aggregation, that our customers want. Which means being willing to offer a variety of e-book formats as well as print formats.

    Walt Shiel
    Publisher, Slipdown Mountain Publications LLC

  3. For those of us who've grown up with print books, it's hard to imagine a world without them, Charlotte. But times change. I remember a time without computers and now I don't think I can see a future without them. But, really, no more print books? I think it could happen, but certainly not in my lifetime.

  4. Thank you so much for stopping by, Walt.

    I don't have an e-reader. I think I would like one, but just haven't decided to spend the money on one. My husband travels a lot and I think he'd make more use of it than I would. My guess is that those who make the e-readers will keep making advances. If they're not already, the e-readers will become searchable, like documents on your computer.

    And I so agree with you about kids losing creativity when the "imagining" that used to be part of reading is taken away from them.

    But e-readers are here to stay. We as authors and publishers had better keep up with this change or we'll be left out.

  5. My Dad would've never read his news online. His daily ritual of sitting down after dinner with a cup of coffee and holding the newspaper in his hands was a sacred time. But I've made that transition. I now read the news online - took me a while, I was hooked on the feel and smell of the paper, but I realized that printed news is OLD nowadays. The latest is online. So yeah, I imagine the printed book, while it may never go away, will probably be a quaint relic of the past for future generations. These techno-whiz kids are completely different animals then my generation. Heck - my 5 year old granddaughter can pick up a new cell phone, even a new brand she's never seen before, and within 30 seconds she's figured out how to take pics with it and is running around the room snapping photos, saving them, storing them and sending them to her mother in a TM. Took me an hour with the manual in hand how to figure all that out with my new phone.

    It's a brash new techno-world a'coming.

  6. I think the following statement says it all: "There are no shipping, printing or return costs -- which eat into profits."

    Combine that with ebooks on ipods and iphones and you have the wave of not only the future, but the present.

  7. I honestly hadn't considered this until recently, when a girlfriend asked me about my eReader and eBooks (she's not very tech-savvy) because she was interested in buying one for her son. If I remember correctly, he's about 12.

    It seems he reads so much she can't keep him in books (we live quite a ways from a bookstore) so she bought him an eReader for Christmas and was excited she'd be able to download books for him right at home.

    Until she'd mentioned it, I hadn't considered kids getting into and reading eBooks. But it does make sense. And I think it will be the wave of the future. Especially since this new generation is used to instant gratification (for the most part).

    Excellent article.

  8. My idea with kidlit is to have illustrations they can download for coloring -sort of on-demand coloring books. This will make a children's ebook even more appealing. If the artwork is good, the colored works can even be frameable. There are ways if the imagination goes to work. I think ebooks for kids is a fine idea.

    Yappy Hew Near!


  9. Now if they could just come out with AFFORDABLE ebook readers with decent sized screens... I HATE reading on my computer screen, but what's a roance reviewer to do?

  10. Yes! I second the "affordable" part. They need to come down in price. I haven't even held one in my hand, so I can't say much about the size of the screen.

    I do a lot of edit work on the computer. But I also know that I "see" different things when I read on paper, so a lot of times, I'll print out what I'm editing and do a run-through that way.

    If the e-reader made the work searchable, that would be a good thing. Sometimes when I'm reading, I'll come across something, like maybe a character whose name is familiar but I can't remember him or his connection to the plot. Being able to search his name and re-read an earlier section where he appears would be really nice for me.

  11. Thank you everyone for commenting. This has been wonderful to read all your ideas and your takes on this issue!

    And, Dani, Yappy Hew Near to you too.

  12. The more readers, the better, whichever method they use to read, especially since my mystery and my romantic comedy are both in print and ebook.

    Morgan Mandel

  13. Okay, y'all are convincing me. I need to ask for an e-Reader. I'm meeting so many new, interesting authors online. It would be nice to be able to download their books and have them lined up and handy to read.

  14. I have a seventy-year-old friend who has a kindle. She travels a lot and loves the convenience, plus not having to pack all that weight. I suspect that e-books will be like cell phones soon. And I applaud the new technology. Different, new forms of reading means different new readers.

  15. Now, though, instead of checking out the cover of the book being read by the guy across the plane aisle, we'll have to try to peek over his shoulder and read his Kindle.

  16. Helen,

    Sorry I'm late to the discussion. Somehow my feed reader has failed to refresh your blog's feed for several days so I'm playing catch-up.

    Kids are great candidates for e-book readers, but so are us "old folks." Without my e-book readers (I use both a Kindle and an eBookWise), I'd be restricted to the limited selection of books available in large print. Also my arthritic hands find it easier to hold a reader than a print book (especially a hardcover book). E-books mean I can continue to read in spite of the limitations of poor vision and arthritis.

    And both of my e-book readers have a search function. It seems much easier to me to search for a word or phrase than to flip through the pages of a print book looking for something.

  17. Thanks Lillie. I was wondering about a search function. It's great to hear from someone who has an e-reader (2, in fact) and who likes using one.


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