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Old 05-20-2006, 08:09 PM   #1
Bob Russell
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Long term forecast for book reading is not good

If we want to see a strong e-book industry, one of the things that is required is an actual interest by books. In other words, we need book readers! But there are so many types of entertainment these days. And the electronic reading thing hasn't really caught on (yet) with the kids. They don't see it much at school either. So how about expectations for general reading in the future?

The Washington Times <free registration required> is reporting that "The publishing industry enjoyed a strong year in 2005, with increases in both revenue and the number of books sold. But projections for long-term growth remain limited because people increasingly don't read, according to a study released yesterday."

There is a three-day booksellers conference going on now in Washington, D.C. and "[t]his year, publishers are putting greater emphasis on how to use the Internet and mobile electronic devices to deliver book content."

The good news is that when booksellers become more focused on new areas of revenue, it will be harder and harder to ignore e-book sales and a customer-friendly approach will become more and more important. At least that's what we are hoping for!
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Old 05-21-2006, 01:38 AM   #2
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It all regulates itself. The movies have for years been getting worse and worse: the number of movies I abandom within the first 15 minutes is increasing.
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Old 05-21-2006, 05:27 AM   #3
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When high quality screens get cheap they will automatically be used for e-books. I would not worry.

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Old 05-21-2006, 05:29 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Russell
The Washington Times is reporting that "The publishing industry enjoyed a strong year in 2005, with increases in both revenue and the number of books sold. But projections for long-term growth remain limited because people increasingly don't read, according to a study released yesterday."
Unfortunately, this has little to do with eBooks.

The reason that people increasingly don't read is (as Jorgen implied) is because the amount of junk on the bookshelves is increasing. It only takes buying a few duds (after listening to the unrealistic hype about the book) to make someone avoid the bookstore.

The publishing industry, as a whole, is falling into the same trap as the RIAA and MPAA - they think that they can tell the public what it like. They've stopped listening to what the public says and they publish what THEY (not everyone else) likes.

This is compounded by the exorbitant length of copyrights. Even if someone does come up with something interesting, it may not be published for fear of someone suing over a perceived copyright violation.

However, I do see eBooks as something that will help increase people's interests in books - mainly though places like Project Gutenberg of Blackmask - that produce electronic versions of books that have (finally) fallen in to the Public Domain.

I can't tell you the pleasure that I have had reading "classics" that I didn't read (or wouldn't read) as a kid. Thinks like most of Jack London, Tarzan and more.
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Old 05-21-2006, 05:36 AM   #5
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90% of everything is junk, books included.
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Old 05-21-2006, 07:03 PM   #6
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I've heard this before somewhere...

People don't listen to the radio like the did in the 20s, people don't go to the movies like they did in the 40s, and people don't watch TV like they did in the 60s. We've also heard that people don't play video games like they used to. People don't play role-playing games like they used to. Yet somehow, all these industries have survived.

The problem is not that the publishers think they can dictate what we will read to us, the problem is that they have no idea what we will read and are unwilling to take risks. Especially in the fiction market, the worst traits of the film industry have been adopted: everyone is chasing after the big score, want to establish brand-name franchises, and nobody is willing to take any risk to accomplish that. Thus we have hundreds of cookie-cutter books that are almost exactly the same.

I also don't think extended copyright terms have anything to do with this. It is simply a lemming mentality among book publishers, nothing more.

One other thing I think is going on is that books are increasingly being sold to a smaller, more hardcore market and is freezing out casual readers. A casual reader is not going to dive into a 700 page monstrosity that is book one of a series with 6 volumes and hasn't ended yet. But walk through the fiction section and you'll see more and more of that.
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Old 05-21-2006, 07:56 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rmeister0
People don't listen to the radio like the did in the 20s, people don't go to the movies like they did in the 40s, and people don't watch TV like they did in the 60s. We've also heard that people don't play video games like they used to. People don't play role-playing games like they used to. Yet somehow, all these industries have survived.
We aren't talking about the industries surviving, but I have to laugh when they do a poor job and then cry because sales fall off.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rmeister0
The problem is not that the publishers think they can dictate what we will read to us, the problem is that they have no idea what we will read and are unwilling to take risks.
Then they aren't doing their jobs. All companies know that they need to find out what their customers want. Except for the entertainment industries, it seems.

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Originally Posted by rmeister0
I also don't think extended copyright terms have anything to do with this. It is simply a lemming mentality among book publishers, nothing more.
I disagree. The long copyright terms have reduced competition and have contributed to the entertainment industry's complacency.

I believe that if copyright terms were a reasonable length, there would be more competition, which means that the entertainment industries would work harder to produce something that people want to see, and take more risks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rmeister0
One other thing I think is going on is that books are increasingly being sold to a smaller, more hardcore market and is freezing out casual readers.
I can't disagree with that. I am encountering more and more people who haven't read what I consider to be "classics".

Quote:
Originally Posted by rmeister0
A casual reader is not going to dive into a 700 page monstrosity that is book one of a series with 6 volumes and hasn't ended yet. But walk through the fiction section and you'll see more and more of that.
I can't help but think that is the reason that Manga is getting more and more popular.
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Old 05-22-2006, 01:42 AM   #8
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I am encountering more and more people who haven't read what I consider to be "classics".

I know what you mean: Hyperion, Dune, William Gibson's and Len Deighton's books ...

Last edited by Jorgen; 05-22-2006 at 01:43 AM. Reason: italics wrong
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Old 05-22-2006, 02:21 AM   #9
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One of the problems lies in the targeting of the devices.

For example the PSP would be a very nice ebook reader, but Sony earns the money from the games so implementing an ebook reader would make the customers buy less games.

Another problem are the book publishers which seem to think only in terms of stealing eh being robbed by their customers.
They try to achieve a pay-per-read model through DRM and forget that they thrived for centuries with books available in libraries.
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Old 05-22-2006, 03:17 AM   #10
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In all fairness, the publishing industry survives only on profits from bestsellers like Harry Potter and Da Vinci Code.

Finding out what customers want in entertainment is pretty much impossible, since styles, trends and tastes differ wildly over time, between cultures and age groups. If someone would ask me what kind of movie I wanted to see, I wouldn't know where to start. It's simply hit-and-miss, as it has always been.
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Old 05-22-2006, 10:36 AM   #11
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The decline in reading is totally unsurprising. Reading decreases as consumption of newer media increases. Over the last half century, consumers have had more media placed before them to compete with their discretionary time. Given 8 non-working, non-sleeping hours, at least half of that for the average American get devoted to television (whose content has expanded from a few networks to hundreds of channels). Add relative newcomers like the internet, game consoles, MP3 players and cell phones, and its amazing that people still read as much as they do.
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Old 05-22-2006, 05:43 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jorgen
I am encountering more and more people who haven't read what I consider to be "classics".

I know what you mean: Hyperion, Dune, William Gibson's and Len Deighton's books ...
Depending on the group that I am talking to, yes, those are classics.

But I'm talking about books like Animal Farm, 1984, Three Musketeers, and more.

I recently made a (really bad) joke at work with the punch line of "Double-plus good" and only 1/4 of the people "got it". The rest had never heard of the book 1984.
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Old 05-22-2006, 05:47 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurens
In all fairness, the publishing industry survives only on profits from bestsellers like Harry Potter and Da Vinci Code.

Finding out what customers want in entertainment is pretty much impossible, since styles, trends and tastes differ wildly over time, between cultures and age groups. If someone would ask me what kind of movie I wanted to see, I wouldn't know where to start. It's simply hit-and-miss, as it has always been.
Actually, it's just like any other product - cars, food, MP3 players, etc.

You do some research, talk to your customers, you take a risk and make a product, talk to your customers again, adjust your product, talk to your customers some more, make another product, talk to your customers, .... You get the idea.

It's never easy and unless you get really lucky, you are always slightly behind the curve, but many companies have thrived for a very long time by doing this. And many more have gone out of business because they didn't.
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Old 05-23-2006, 02:29 AM   #14
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But I'm talking about books like Animal Farm, 1984, Three Musketeers, and more.

I know. I am turning 60 next year so the books you mention are the ones I grew up with. Though I read lots of modern stuff, I am a heavy user of Project Gutenberg: ebooks give these otherwise dead classics a second life.
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