Guest Column: What Readers Want From E-books
With the explosive growth in e-book sales and the entrance of multiple new devices and players, it seems like we are at the tipping point for e-books. But have any of us who are deeply involved in e-books—publishers, retailers, technology developers, standards organizations and writers—asked the question: What do e-book readers want?
The early e-book adopter was not a tech geek. Yes, some technology-loving nerds did buy e-readers, but the biggest audience has been the older, female romance reader. Certainly, the big retailers have done an amazing job luring the New York Times best-seller list audience, but avid female readers are even more important. They have been the early embracers of e-books and will continue to be crucial in e-books’ future growth.
According to the Romance Writers of America, romance fiction generated $1.37 billion in sales in 2008—the largest share of the consumer market (at 13.5 percent). And 74.8 million people read at least one romance novel in 2008.
I am most familiar with the Harlequin reader. Our reader is female. She buys significantly more books than the average paperback fiction reader. In fact, the Harlequin reader buys 25 books during a year compared to 10 for the average paperback fiction reader, according to research conducted for Harlequin by an independent research firm. If you include all formats and nonfiction, then the Harlequin reader reads 21.4 titles versus 12.4 for the average reader over a three-month time period.
In addition to reading Harlequin books and romance, these women read across all genres. Generally, for every one of our books our fans read, they also read a competitive title.
Some of these women have been early adopters of e-books. You want the rest of them because once engaged, these consumers can become avid ambassadors for the digital format.