According to this article from Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge newsletter, “less than half of all American adults ever read a book after leaving school. Most of the remainder read, at most, only one or two books a year. Industry estimates indicate that somewhere between 15 and 25 percent of the population purchase books on a somewhat regular basis.”
I consider myself to be in that 15-25 percent and based on my book buying experience and the context of the rest of that article, it seems that book publishers are the last people to know anything about what book readers actually want. People who don’t read are not likely to start picking up paperbacks and judging from a uniform worldwide decline in literacy, book sales are not going up anytime in the near future – not if they’re going to stick to the kind of pricing and marketing strategies they’re using right now.
What’s to do? My solution : give i-Pads away for RM1 and wean us off physical books. – Think about how every book no longer needs to be sent to the printers, packaged, shipped, delivered, etc. just to get to our hands. Opportunity to reduce carbon footprints! Just think about how much speedier our evolution as a species would go if we can upload our annotations and notes the way gamers upload their games and rankings and share the book-reading experience? Rate, comment, review organically,collaboratively, instantly. Just think about the carbon footprints we save with every book we can review, purchase and download and display on our Shelfari. We can get involved with discussions by saving a few steps having to fill up details of books we have both in our library and anti-library.
I’m thinking also about the various exciting marketing layering possible if we embraced an e-book culture, the sooner the better ……………and I’m getting an adrenaline rush from it.
I wonder too if book publishers in the West realize the potential for English books outside the US, UK, Australia and Canada. It would make more sense to sell 100 times more books for 20% of the price than to try and keep prices high. It might not be a lot for people in those 4 countries if a book is USD$7.99 or $24.99. But over here, I’m paying anything between RM34.90 to RM89.90 for an average book. OK, you’re going to think, the Ringgit is banana money but still, an average teacher makes about $2,000 banana dollars a month. So spending a few hundred banana dollars on books is still a lot of banana dollars and I can only get less than half a dozen books before I have to get my food rations from Meals on Wheels.
Why do books have to cost so much anyway? Are writers really being paid that much or is most of the cost caused by typesetting, printing, packing, delivery, distribution, shelf-space,commissions…….???
I hope that established authors who already know how to leverage on social media stand-up for the little guys like us and choose to sell only through e-book vendors, DIRECTLY TO US and CUT OUT THE MIDDLE MAN. We, the book readers, deserve to have choices, to have access to the works of writers throughout the last 5,000 years, to not be strangled by the the limitations of distribution. I realized how silly it was when I depended on a bookstore in KL to order through Amazon, come back to Penang and then go back down to KL to pick it up! Sure, there are 1 in 10 books I’d love to hold but the other 9 books are for reference and to stay current. (Well, as current as is possible). Why couldn’t I just have downloaded a book that took me 1 day to read instead of wasting 4 weeks and a second trip to another city to get it?
Me thinks Apple should just give away their i-Pad for $1 and make us commit to a minimum $20USD contract over 24 months purchasing content (music, books, apps) over their channel. Amazon can buy in bulk too and give us an i-pad (hate the name) for next to nothing if we commit to a plan to pre-load $30, and continue to top up our loads every month for a fixed amount of time before we can choose to voluntarily purchase on our own time. By then, we’d have developed such a habit for purchasing consistently and taking quick delivery of high quality content for granted. And not to mention the endless marketing opportunities with information Amazon can get from our consumption habits.
I’m going to stop buying paper books – except those that I need to connect to on some personal level by owning physical copies of them. I’m going to save up a year’s worth of reading and then just wait to get them cheaper digitally. There is no reason why we should not get them cheaper, MUCH cheaper – all you need is produce ONE copy of the book and downloads come with some kind of digital encryption or whatever they have available these days – where only the purchaser has a right to get another copy of it.