How Do You Prefer to Read?

How Do You Prefer to Read?

In 2007, when Kindle, the e-book reader was first announced by Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, he faced myriads of questions from all directions--readers, authors, publishers and market analysts. The most common one was whether this new electronic device would replace the print version of books. His answer was that Kindle would not change the writing and publishing of books rather the content would be presented to readers in a new medium instead of printed pages. Since that debut, Kindle has evolved a lot. In the current version, this device enables readers to shop for, download, browse, and read e-books, newspapers, magazines, blogs, and other digital media via wireless networks.

Has this new technology won the heart of readers? According to a report published by the Association of American Publishers and Book Industry Study Group, in 2012 sales of e-books had reached an all time high. The survey data came from approximately 1,500 publishers. According to one publisher, she is witnessing “an evolution in terms of the way that people are accessing content.” The explosive growth in sales and number of titles has invited newcomers to this publication world. Currently on the market there are e-book readers from Kobo, Sony and Nook competing directly with Kindle. In contrast, sales of paper backs have been flat and are expected to recede in coming years.

Practically every title is available in e-book format. In the above survey, during one year the romance genre thrived the most. “Fifty Shades” erotic novels and their various knockoffs saw a 42 percent increase in e-book sales. Electronic book versions are less expensive than the paper version, and are easy to produce with a personal computer and the right software. This new technology has given authors tremendous power. Once content is publication ready, distributing through some of the top world outlets is easy. All it takes is creating an account with Kindle, Kobo, Nook or other e-book sellers--which might take anywhere from one hour to few days--and upload the content in minutes. It reminds me of how mp3 and YouTube have unleashed the power of musicians and transformed the music industry. Perhaps the most beneficial outcome of all with this new medium is that electronic books leave no ecological foot print.

With every update to a current e-reader, new functions are added to make the reader experience richer. It is easy to check the dictionary for words, make notes and highlight sections of the text. Besides it has eliminated the need to visit a “brick and mortar book store.” Instead, one can buy a book from various distribution channels from anywhere in the world—on a bus, beach or in a living room. Having the availability of this technology at your fingertips allows for instant gratification.

Some traditional readers still are attached to the tactile lour of turning pages. However, the numbers in this group are dwindling. For example, my wife is an avid reader of thrillers and in our home books are everywhere. In April 2013, after considering the many benefits of e-readers, she bought a Kobo. On our last vacation I saw holding this device in airport waiting area, on the plane, by the pool and in the hotel room. It was a fantastic investment—now she does not need to lug dozen of books around with her when travelling.

In 2013, only 6 six years after the first Kindle appeared on the market, there is talk of e-book devices disappearing the way of music on vinyl—still sought after but only by die-hard fans. "It's not that the Nook failed," said James McQuivey, a digital analyst at Forrester Research. "It's that the world of tablets exploded, going faster than anyone expected, putting us in a place where tablets are now a fundamental part of our computing and lifestyle entourage, not just a handy device to consume a bit of media."

There are many tables on the market from Apple and Samsung, to Sony, and Acer. These devices come with computing power to challenge a laptop in many ways. Just look at iPad: it can be used for Internet browsing, email, and has all the functions of an e-book reader. In fact, you can read a book with any format. There are Apps for Kindle, Kobo and Nook which allow a user to buy their books directly from these outlets and download them into iPad. The trend to displace e-book devices is very real. Not only do they add to reader functionality, but the price points have been coming down enough that investing in a Kindle no longer make sense. This phenomenon is so serious that to maintain its market shares Barnes and Noble has been slashing the price for the Nook Simple Touch e-reader just to stay competitive.

The pressure on printed books comes from many sides— the price of a hard copy is more expensive than its electronic counterpart, paper leaves an ecological footprint, and the enhanced reader experience of electronic devices is hard to beat. As in many industries, I believe publishers will be forced to go paperless. However, the more important question is whether e-book readers will survive? With Apple being an aggressive promoter of its iBook Store, it is sign that tablets will eventually displace e-book devices, just as they are gaining a competitive edge against laptop computers. The IT reader revolution is here. Are you ready for it?