Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director of Digital Book World, asks in “Will More People Read Books Because of E-Books? Publishers Not So Optimistic,”
As more people buy e-readers and tablet computer sales continue to grow, will more people read books than did before? Will people who read books already read more of them?
Seems publishers are less optimistic about increased sales than they were a year ago. They believe the proliferation of e-readers and tablets means more people will read more books in the short run, but there won’t be a steady growth in the number of books being consumed.
One reason for this is, as David Weinberger, a senior researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society notes, that while these devices offer users access to millions of books and an easier way to get them and have them available in this nifty, light, portable format, the devices also offer users lots of other things to do–play games, email, use Facebook, surf the web, and a whole host of other possibilities.
So people who don’t read a lot now won’t likely read more if they have such a device. But certainly those of us who already read lots and lots of books will read even more, right? Weinberger for one disagrees. He argues that instead that “[w]hat we’re reading frequently is shorter – and on the Web.”
I was prepared to refute Weinberger, but when I reflected on my own reading habits over the last year I could see he’s partially right. I read on my iPad everyday and much of what I read is on the web, and it’s fairly short: blog posts, newspaper and magazine articles, and the like. Since finding Zite, I know I’ve been reading even more on the web. But I’ve also been reading more books simply because they’re with me almost all the time. I read for long periods and in short bursts when I have a free moment or three. My iPad is light enough to carry in my purse, so now tend to read books faster. Also, because I mostly read on my iPad for entertainment and like to read books in series, I’m likely to finish one book and buy the next within moments.
What I find most interesting, however, is Weinberger’s assertion that as more people use e-readers, smart phones, and tablets to do their reading, shorter “bite-sized media” may eclipse longer prose. He writes
Reading the Web does not lead you along a logical path, it leads you along a path of interest. I’m not saying that the Web chases long-form out, but if you write long-form now and it goes unnoticed on the Web, then, very likely, it has failed. The Web is where knowledge is developed and where it lives.
I’m not sure I’m ready for this.