All the Ebook News that's Fit to Print: Digital Book World, Pew, and A Memory of Light

Jan 22, 2013

The Digital Book World Conference

The Digital Book World Conference and Expo was last week and some of the major topics covered were choosing which content to digitize; piracy; apps; industry consolidation and the digital response. There were the usual sound bites but also some interesting numbers being bandied about. Several respected industry experts were tweeting that Amazon sales apparently now make up 25% of ALL book sales. I'm assuming that's for the US market but keep an eye out.

2012 Pew Ereading Report

The Pew Internet Project released a new report on e-reading in the US. The findings show a jump of 16% over last year when it comes to people who read an ebook in 2012. They also showed a 5% decline in people who said they read a print book in 2012, from 72% to 67%.

Interestingly, the Pew people lowered the age minimum for their survey this year from 18 to 16 years old, possibly to take into account the popular YA market. Does that two-year difference skew the numbers? I wouldn't think it should make a huge difference but it is something to consider. Younger people, for whom ebooks have already existed for most of their reading lives, have been a large market segment. Ebooks aren't new technology for them, it's just another book format. I can't help but wonder if the revised age minimum wasn't the reason for both this decline in print book reading and the decline in total 2012 book (any format) readers, from 78% to 75% which the Pew report describes as "a small and statistically insignificant decline."

Predictably, ereader and tablet ownership increased again this year. And among those who had read at least one ebook, there was across the board percentage-point growth in all demographic segments. The highest growth, at 16%, was among those ages 30-45.

A Memory of Light

In this month's "I want my ebook and I want it now!" news we have the eager fans of the long-awaited release of the last installment in the late Robert Jordan's NYT bestselling Wheel of Time fantasy series, A Memory of Light. The hardcover was released last week, however the ebook is not scheduled to go on sale until April. On Amazon, the book's fans...well...they did not take it well. Out of over 600 Amazon reviews, almost half are people giving one-star reviews for the book solely because the ebook isn't available yet. The general consensus among them is that not having an ebook released at the same time is tantamount to a slap in the face, and is an attempt to force them to purchase both editions. It's a bit surprising that Tor, a publisher known for being ahead of the curve when it comes to digital publishing (they went DRM-free last year) would hold off on the ebook, or not offer some deal like a free download code with the purchase of the hardcover.

But as it turns out, the decision was not Tor's but that of Jordan's widow, who along with co-author Brandon Sanderson, finished the book. She wanted to preserve her husband's legacy and give the book the strongest release it could have. She felt that releasing the hardcover and ebook at the same time would split the sales numbers and not allow either edition to hit the NYT Bestseller list. Her fears aren't without merit. Unfortunately there are already pirated ebook copies flooding the seamy underbelly of the internet.

Weighing in at a hefty 2.4 pounds and 912 pages, the hardcover is definitely a backbreaker and the (legitimate) ebook will be welcomed by sore backs everywhere.