It’s hard to believe that it’s nearly a hundred years since the German press Albatross hit the bookselling jackpot by inventing the mass-market paperback. Yet today, in our interconnected world, even the humble pocket-sized softcover sometimes feels ungainly to the e-book aficionado.
And size certainly counts for the tech-savvy reader: the average e-reader holds about 1500 books, but weighs considerably less than that tattered old copy of Anna Karenina you’ve had knocking about unread since college. With wifi and 3G downloads, battery-life to make the Duracell bunny droop, apps to let you read on your phone, and a growing library of available titles, there’s never been a better time in history to be a book lover.
1. We’re buying and reading more
Well, for a start, more and more people are buying and reading e-books. The Association of American Publishers reckons that e-book sales rocketed by 117% between 2010 and 2011, and Pew Research claims that 21% of American adults read an e-book in 2011. Not only that, but their surveys also indicate that people who own e-readers do actually read and own more books, both electronic and print, than their strictly-paper-and-ink contemporaries.
2. Self publishing has boomed
While self-publishing has long been an option for aspiring JK Rowlings, the advent of e-book technology has turned this particular unpaved track into a six-lane Autobahn. Free publishing utilities like Smashwords or Amazon’s Digital Text Platform allow you to format and upload your own e-book, and then, bam! It’s in the world, and you (a little bit of promo work aside) can sit back and watch the money roll in. Hey, it’s worked for the likes of Amanda Hocking.
3. Short stories are making a comeback
In the analogue era, everybody said there was no market for short stories, but that’s all changed, now; these days, apps give us access to hundreds of miniature tales, right there on our the screens of our mobile phones. Many of the stories are free to download and the brevity of the stories makes them ideal to read on the move. Get in!
4. Book are becoming multimedia
But there’s more to it than accessibility and portability: digital technology lets publishers include added extras with e-books, just like the bonus material on a BluRay disc. George R. R. Martin’s phenomenally successful Game of Thrones has been re-released as a new enhanced e-book, featuring interactive maps, a hyperlinked character glossary and audio-clips. Can’t do that with your paperbacks, can you?
5. Niche genres are getting more love
Traditional publishers aren’t letting the ball drop either. In March 2012 HarperCollins UK announced the launch of their new exclusively digital erotica imprint, Mischief Books. ‘It used to be a long walk to the counter with an erotica selection, but now that’s a thing of the past,’ says Adam Nevill, their editorial director. They’re not the only ones to see the left-field potential of the digital technology. In the USA, F+W Media have launched, Prologue Books, an e-book-only imprint to reissue out-of-print pulp novels. Hard-boiled vintage crime? Plug me in!
Have you become a high tech book worm in the last few years or are you still an old school reader? As ever, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.