I started selling books through different types of craft fairs six years ago, and I’ve noticed an interesting change in book buying and reading habits. Three and four years ago, a small percentage of customers were asking if my books were available as ebooks, which they were at that time. (Not all of them are at the moment, but that’s another story). Happily, I handed out a bookmark or business card with my website or my publishers’ website with ordering information. I don’t know how many sales this generated, but I imagine there were a few.
Since last Christmas, (always a big sales time for me) I’ve noticed a distinct drop in the number of people asking about ebooks. My print sales are as strong as ever, and I’ve also had people ask if my books were available in audio format (not at this time, no.)
A number of folks have told me that they used to read ebooks, but now prefer print again. There’s something about the smell of a new book, the act of turning a page, and of course there’s been lots of media coverage about lousy sleeps if you read a backlit screen before bed.
Ebooks have not only changed book buying habits and the way we read but, in some ways, I think they’ve also had an impact on our commitment to reading. One thing I’ve also noticed in myself, friends, and colleagues, not to mention numerous blogs on the topic, is that the books we download aren’t necessarily read.
One reason might be the sheer volume of inexpensive books we’re downloading. The other reason is that the vast majority of books I download, for example, are by unknown authors. If I don’t like the opening chapter, I’m far less likely to continue reading with a free or inexpensive book than I would have if I’d invested ten bucks or more on a print book.
A recent blog in Digital Book World discusses eight reasons why people by books. And while it doesn’t compare buying habits from earlier years, it does offer several insights. One of these is that there are books that sell well but are not read. Sometimes, the buyer feels social pressure to read, other times they simply want the book around to show that they are well-read people.
These days, I prefer a mix of print and ebooks. I love reading print books before bed, but as someone who also reads a lot away from home, an ebook is simply easier to carry around in my purse. I read many more unknown authors than I used to, thanks to my ebooks, but I also spend less money buying books.
A sign of the times, perhaps? Or just practicality as I approach retirement age and realize that I’ll be downsizing my home sooner rather than later. Habits change. Preferences change. Technology changes, and one’s own needs change. Book buying and reading habits certainly reflect this.