Sunday, July 17, 2011
Part 2 of Boston Globe Series on Reading: "How We Read Now"
"How We Read Now". (The Boston Globe, 7/17/2011)
Excerpt: We’ve been sailing toward this country for some time, but in 2011, we arrived. Last year, the publishers surveyed by the Association of American Publishers saw 8.3 percent of domestic net sales from e-books. Three months into this year, Simon and Schuster’s e-book sales had climbed to 17 percent of revenue; at Hachette, parent company of Little, Brown, the figure was 22 percent. From November to May, according to a Pew Internet Project study, the percentage of American adults with a dedicated e-reader (like a Nook or Kindle) leaped from 6 percent to 12 percent. Another 8 percent now have tablets. To add a little context, fewer than half of Americans even buy a book in a typical year. So for 12 percent of all Americans to have an e-reader is not trivial.
Meanwhile, print sales are down about 25 percent. Physical bookstores, including the Borders chain, which is in bankruptcy reorganization, are on the rocks, rapidly adding stationery sections and ticketed author events to make up for plummeting book sales. And Amazon, which offers books in every possible format but is heavily promoting its proprietary Kindle device, announced in January that it is now selling more copies digitally than in paperback.
Faced with this sea change, the publishers, bookstore owners, and cultural critics who have built lives and livelihoods around printed books are very publicly scrambling to adapt. With less fanfare, regular readers are too.