This comment left on Joe Konrath’s weblog is worth surfacing:
Last night at dinner, I left my wife and her family in the restaurant having dessert while I went outside to smoke my pipe. There was an elderly guy sitting out there reading a Kindle 3.
I struck up a conversation with him, and he told me that he and his wife were both formerly very heavy readers, but both needed large-print books now. They’d read their way through most of the large-print books in our library system years before, so they’d had to cut their reading way back, substituting television.
He’d bought his Kindle 3 about six months ago, and within a week he’d ordered another one for his wife. He said they were both excited because they could now read everything in large print. They were also excited by the number of good books available for $0.99 to $2.99, and said they were buying three or four times as many ebooks as they used to buy print books. I mentioned your name in passing, and he said he’d bought one of your books, but it was still in his TBR pile. I suggested he might want to move that one to the top.
What I thought was really significant was that he mentioned that he was the first of their social group to buy a Kindle, but now nearly all of his friends had bought one, and that they’re all reading a lot more and watching a lot less television. This has been mentioned before, but ereaders are the first technology gadget for which elderly people are the early adopters.
I was also surprised to learn that a young couple who bought a house in our neighborhood are Kindle owners. He’s an auto mechanic. She’s a waitress pursuing a nursing degree. They’re very nice people, but neither are in the demographic that I’d expect to be serious readers, let alone ereader owners.
I talked to her about it, and she said she’d seen one of her friends with a Kindle, who told her about the range of inexpensive books available. She ended up buying one for herself, and mentioned that several of her friends who were not formerly serious readers have also done so.
We need to be cautious when speculating how ebooks and e-readers will or won’t change reading habits. Most of the recent changes are unprecedented, all of them are interconnected, and there is just no way to guess accurately what shape the landscape will eventually settle into.
And why speculate? Right now it’s enough to simply watch with an open mind, something that very few people with vested interests in old-fashioned publishing are doing. Do that and you’ll have a huge head start, just because you’ll see what they refuse to see.