Something very big is happening that could have a profound impact on world culture, and it’s all due to e-books! I’m not exaggerating (at least, not a lot) but the proliferation of websites dedicated to books, particularly e-books, and the number of visitors they attract is quite phenomenal. And it says something very exciting about peoples’ reading habits.
It’s not just that e-book sales are now nearly 20% of the market, and rising. It’s that ownership of an e-book reader is almost certainly encouraging people to read more. The low cost and instant availability of e-books, the boom in online resources dedicated to them and the convenience of carrying a library in your pocket or handbag; these are all factors that boost the popularity of reading.
OK, I haven’t got a bunch of figures to prove my point. I do know that Kindle Nation Daily boasts 14,000 opt-in email subscribers, that Kindleboards has nearly 52,000 members, that Goodreads has more members than the population of Denmark and that there are more book blogs on the internet than the combined sovereign debt of Southern Europe. I also know that these numbers don’t mean much unless there’s something to compare them with, and I have no idea how fast these sites are growing. If anybody does have hard figures to prove my point, I’d love to hear from you.
But I do know that Kindle sales this Black Friday were four times as much as last, and I’m pretty sure that even if only a small percentage of Kindle owners actually use them, that’ll be an awful lot more people reading books than a few years ago when we had to go into book shops and libraries to get one.
It must be good for the world, mustn’t it, to have more people reading? Not to be able to complain quite so much about the dumbing down of popular culture? We’re not suddenly going to see a world full of bookworms, but there is no reason why books cannot start to be as popular a medium as any other, rather than something which many people avoid because reading requires slightly more concentration.
Of course, the quality of what is read is important, there’ll be little cultural benefit if people use their Kindles just to download copies of the UK tabloid press. But a boom in readers means a boom in writers- and most people who write take pride in their work and want to produce something of value. Of course Kindles aren’t the last word, any more than iPods were. But iPod sales have only declined because something better has replaced them, it’ll be the same with Kindles. E-books are the latest example of how digital is changing our lives, and I think its great!