While his sample size is hardly representative, Brad Stone's recent article in the New York Times suggests that e-book fans are reading more because of the device. There a few notable points made, but this one I particularly like:
Ms. Howard now buys books any time she wants. She recently downloaded a fantasy novel at 2:30 a.m., immediately after finishing the previous book in a series. She reads during her snippets of daily downtime, like during the wait to pick up her 9-year-old son from school. Her new reading pace is one novel a week.
This, friends and neighbours, is what digital fiction is all about: making it easier for people to find stories, to buy them, and to read.
Sure the people Stone interviews are gadget geeks—one of them works for Microsoft—but that's beside the point. These are people who would otherwise not be reading much at all. There may be an element of 'I've just spent three hundred dollars on this hunk of plastic so I'd better get some use out of it', but even if that's the case, so what? Potential audiences reading more? Who could be opposed to that?
'Given the fact that people now have the Internet, almost 24-hour football entertainment in the fall, tennis matches from around the world, TV shows out the wazoo, and movies, do you really believe that people are going to be reading more because they can get it on a screen?' said John Sargent, chief executive of Macmillan, owner of imprints like Farrar, Straus and Giroux and St. Martin’s Press. 'I don’t see the scenario.'
So there you have it. A major US publisher is not interested in bringing stories to readers. Sure, e-books is small bikkies next to paper, but—holy crap!—there are readers out there! Do such people really want to shoot themselves in the foot like that because they don't like the idea of a screen? Well, actually they don't. Macmillan run their own e-books site. Although it's hardly full of household names, it does show that such dismissive statements from the top are at least partly disingenuous.
Reluctantly dragging their feet to e-books seems the order of the day. And don't expect them to like it. Extraordinary.
And, for the record, there's no TV shows coming out of my wazoo.