SPECIAL REPORT: Embracing the ‘Kindle Effect’
2007 might well be remembered as the year when, a few months after the final installment of “Harry Potter” hit the shelves to blockbuster acclaim, the “To Read or Not to Read” report was issued by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The report raised serious concerns about the future of reading in this country: Amount and proficiency are on the decline, the report found, especially among young adults and older teens.
Then, there are new U.S. Census numbers, released in December 2007, that show that the number of hours per person spent reading consumer books has been basically flat over the last six years. The same report—“The 2008 Statistical Abstract”—records that per-person spending on books is rising modestly, though time with and money spent on books is dwarfed by the continuing rise in those numbers for television. Adjusted for inflation, American households’ spending on books, according to the NEA report, is near a 20-year low.
Given such sobering news, it can seem as if the book industry is at the mercy of larger social trends. Not so, according to industry executives and analysts, most of whom agree that the challenge for publishers today is essentially one of helping consumers discover the right book at the right time.
The situation is summed up well by Albert M. Greco, a professor of marketing at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Business Administration and a principal contributor to the Book Industry Study Group’s (BISG) “Trends 2007” report. “The industry has tried to come up with a lot of books that hopefully will appeal to a large segment of the population, but has never done serious consumer marketing research,” he says. Combine this with the fact that, of the nearly 300,000 books published in 2006, only a few thousand were reviewed, and a situation results where releases with a lot of potential appeal do not get on people’s radar screens, according to Greco.