Monday, August 12, 2013

Will E-books take over the world?

When my new book, Heirs and Graces, came out last week I was surprised to find that it topped the historical mystery bestseller list in its Audible format. More people were listening to it than reading it. This also coincided with my reading an article that claimed e-books were not growing nearly as rapidly as predicted. It seemed that the techies of the world had bought their Kindles, Nooks and Kobos but the general reading public was not following suit. Real books were not about to lie down and play dead.

So I decided to run a poll on my Facebook page. What surprised me was that 20,000 people came to visit. I have never seen numbers like that before, especially in the space of two days. And as I read the comments one thing became clear  People are passionate about their reading habits. Many people finished their post with one or more exclamation points. "Only real books!!!!"

So having read and digested 1000 comments I can tell you, with scientific accuracy :) , that real books beat out electronic versions by more than two to one. And something interesting emerged from this study: reading from a real book was a sensory experience, involving all five senses.
There was the tactile stimulation of turning pages, feeling a book in one's hand. As one commenter put it, "If it's a mystery I can prolong the suspense by holding the tip of the page in my hand and waiting in delicious anticipation before I turn it."
Another commenter said that seeing them on a shelf evoked pleasurable memories of past reading.Then there is smell of books, particularly old ones. The book was perceived as part of a  pleasurable experience. As one commenter said, "Nothing like a hard cover on an afternoon with a nice breeze."
Someone else said, "How would you press flowers in an e-book?"

Those who chose e-books liked the convenience, especially for travel, plus the fact that downloads were cheaper. Some commented they had run out of shelf space. Others that they could download out of print books. One commenter admitted she was naturally lazy and it was so easy to have a book delivered to her Kindle with one click.

In the case of audio it also seemed to be convenience and the only way to fit books into a busy lifestyle. One commenter said "If it weren't for audio I wouldn't have a chance to experience books." Audio has the added advantage that one can do something else at the same time. Audiophiles listened during long commutes, during workouts, housework or dog walking.  One of my fans told me last week that her dog walks have stretched to three hours while she listened to my new book.

Two surprising comments came out of my survey. A teacher mentioned that children tired of looking at screens all day and liked real books in their free time, (who knew?) and someone who worked in a college bookstore stated that most college students preferred real books, but that downloads of textbooks were so much cheaper and easier to carry around.

About ten percent of the respondents said that they loved all forms of reading. "E-books, audio, cornflake packets" one woman said. But it is reassuringly clear that real paper books are not going away any time soon! Bookstores--you may breathe a sigh of relief.

(You can read the original post and the comments on


  1. I couldn't get to the facebook page, so I'm glad that you wrote about this here as well. I'm glad other people enjoy ebooks, but I find them very frustrating (just a simple thing like turning back to re-read something takes forever). I'll take the printed book every time.

  2. I wish you could get a code when you buy a real book to download the e-book version too. Some DVDs have the option to download a copy of the movie now. It would be handy to have one to page through, and one to travel with!

  3. Interesting suggestion and one that I will pass along to publishers. Thank you

  4. I am one who does all forms of reading. I own thousands of "real" books, hundreds of audiobooks in cassette, CD and downloadable digital, and a number of eBooks. All have their place. And some titles I own in several formats and multiple copies. I do like the idea of buying a new hardback and getting a code for the eBook. And Amazon/Audible are doing a deal that for at least some of the books that have been made available in "wispersync for voice", if you have purchased the Kindle format you can buy the Audible audio for a reduced price, sometimes very reduced. I have taken advantage of that a number of times, when I want to be able to read and listen to the same title, sometimes at the same time, sometimes at different times.

    By the way, I loved Heirs and Graces, which I bought in eBook format the day it came out. When the library gets it in hardback (the order was delayed) I will read the real book, and at some time I plan to buy the audible version.

  5. What is helping with the Audible numbers is the wonderful performance by Katherine Kellgren. I love reading the Royal Spyness series, but I also just have to listen to Katherine reading and brilliantly acting out all the parts.