New York Times: E-books gaining in popularity

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There’s really nothing surprising about this article from today’s NYT. It mentions what I, and others, have been discussing for a while now – that ebooks are becoming more popular and are on the cusp of becoming mainstream.

That’s not to say that the article was totally void of some interesting points. Here’s one bit about the Amazon Kindle that took me by surprise:

Many Kindle buyers appear to be outside the usual gadget-hound demographic. Almost as many women as men are buying it, Mr. Hildick-Smith said, and the device is most popular among 55- to 64-year-olds.

That the Kindle is about divided equally between women and men is about what I expected. However, I didn’t expect the popular age demographic to be…well…so old (please, no offense is meant here). My vision of Kindle users involves young, technologically savvy, hip professionals who enjoy carrying around several novels at once – not to mention the younger generation appears to have more environmental concerns over the amount of trees killed to produce all the books we consume.

Another surprise: More mainstream popular fiction authors (you know, the ones who sell mountains of books and have their own sections in bookstores), are starting to embrace ebooks as a viable means of selling their novels to the reading public:

Even authors who were once wary of selling their work in bits and bytes are coming around. After some initial hesitation, authors like Danielle Steel and John Grisham are soon expected to add their titles to the e-book catalog, their agents say.

Danielle Steel? Haven’t read any of her stuff, but she does have legions of fans out there. Anyway, I imagine we’re going to see a lot more big-name authors jump on board the ebook bandwagon within the next year or two.

What does all this mean?

I think that the most important point to take away from this post is that ebooks are gaining in popularity (duh!) and that they are here to stay! Ebooks and the devices we read them on are not just appealing to one generation of readers, or one sex, or even one genre of fiction/non-fiction. Ebooks really are gaining mass appeal.

Let’s not start celebrating yet!

Ebooks still have a lot of hurdles before truly becoming accepted by the reading public. First and foremost, we have to figure out (and that, I mean get rid of) this DRM thing. DRM can and will kill the ebook. If every ebook publisher out there decides to use their own protected format, and we end up with hundreds of formats that only work on certain devices, then we can kiss the ebook goodbye.

The second ebooks "killer" as I see it is pricing. There is no real standard for pricing right now and prices are all over the board. One publisher recently tried to raise prices to a point higher than hardcovers! Ebooks don’t need to be dirt cheap or only pennies, but they should reflect that there is no shipping, printing and storage costs associated with them. Like I’ve said before, I won’t buy an ebook priced over $10, and I know I’m not alone with this sentiment.

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