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Are Publishers Underestimating the Desirability of Print?


By Edward Nawotka

In today’s lead story, research by Forrester revealed that more than half of publishing executives in the USA anticipate e-books will be the dominant format by 2014. While the exact meaning of the word “dominant” can be debated, it nevertheless suggests a radical shift in consumer habits away from print to digital. It also anticipates widespread use of digital reading devices by at least half of all readers.

Demographics may delay mass e-book adoption longer than publishers think.

Will this indeed be the case? Women buy far more books than men, but men tend to buy more gadgets. Will women convert wholeheartedly to e-readers? Perhaps . . . and it will be interesting to see if device manufacturers can make the industrial chic slate gray and aluminum devices more appealing to females. At the same time, we have a vast population of baby boomers who are reaching retirement age who are also likely to buy more books, particularly as they have more leisure time. Will this demographic — one that certainly likes to be thought of as younger than it is, but also one that has lived with print for most of its life — transition to e-reader? Again…perhaps, but there’s no guarantee.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

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  1. Posted January 26, 2011 at 4:17 am | Permalink

    Several months ago I was surprised by the apparent affection (I can’t think of any other word to describe it) which a woman in her forties expressed towards her Kindle. She seemed reluctant to put it down.

  2. Posted January 26, 2011 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Anecdotal evidence here but as a pretty constant rider of NYC subways and buses, I see an ever growing number of people reading Kindles and Nooks. I use a Sony e-reader myself. But the numbers keep growing and that means of all ages but the most dominant group in my limited empirical way has been young women with the Kindle and Nook. When I ask them why they all have responded that they were gifts and then they got hooked.

    I do enjoy the instant gratification of having with me more books than I can read and then the opportunity to buy more.

    As an e-book only publisher, I think I find all this good news and hope that we keep a level head about what this new data means. Making wild predictions never did any industry any good, e.g., the SUV has caused too much environmental sorrow for all the hype and tax credits it engendered.

  3. Posted January 26, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    As a publisher of both types of books I have seen a decline in sales of the print books as more and more ereaders are bought. However, since the actual number of ereaders sold is a small percentage of the world market I must keep printed materials on hand. Nevertheless,I have embraced the digital market wholeheartedly as when I was a young girl in middle school I balanced as many as 7 2 inch thick books on my hip. And when backpacks became popular, my back received quite a workout in college. The acquisition of knowledge should not be hard work in the first place. I don’t own a reader myself, but the ability to keep a library of books on hand at all times is the best way to educate people and give them more reading choices bar none.

  4. Posted January 26, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Print may need to return to its roots by promoting lasting value and collectable quality as their selling point. If a person chooses to buy a book, it’s usually because she or he wants to add it to an ever more select and elite group of “keepables.” Just seeing it sitting on a shelf gives a warm and fuzzy feeling. But as a small publisher, I also see eBooks publishers as needing to keep some foothold on text quality so they can maintain their tenuous high ground in pricing. Right now, everyone and their nephew has an eBook idea, and junk is being fed to the market in waves. Combine this with rising tide of slap-shot, off-shore models in eBook production and owning print products may one day have a comeback by becoming a fashionable symbol of intelligence and refined taste!

  5. Posted August 4, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Permalink


    I have been writing for Demand Media Studios for nearly four years. My work appears exclusively on the Internet. My research over the past few years for DMS indicates that digital publishing will eclipse print publishing. This makes sense for many reasons. Many readers who grew up using computers feel that printed material is a waste of natural resources. Printed material takes up valuable space, is heavy, and can be increasingly cumbersome to haul around if you move a lot.

    Thinking ahead, as the future of mankind involves the creation of many space-stations that become increasingly populated as decades wear-on, it makes sense that for the sake of space economy, e-books and mobile readers will become the standard. It is my belief, as a digital journalist, that the question is not “if” the digital transition will occur, it is “how fast.” I think the truly competitive and visionary publishers have already made this transition. “He who hesitates is lost.” I’m sure everyone was suspicious of the first car because they had so much invested in their horse-and-buggy. As a writer, I think the publishing spoils will go to the digital victors.

    Tracy R. Stefan, journalist

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