Obviously no-one can fully predict the future of the ebook or reading trends but we can consider various aspects which may influence them.
Availability and price: When a product is mass produced, made readily available and cost effective, it becomes easy to sell. Car production in the 60s and 70s is an example of this. Cars were obtained easily and cheaply – available to any household. However, these rust buckets only lasted a few years and, in that industry as with many others, the purchasing public saw that low cost and availability do not equate with quality. Now, with mass production of cheap electronic books which are poorly written, badly edited and proofread, we predict that a discerning readership will arise who seek better quality.
Reading habits have changed: Will anyone read or will they watch films and listen to audio books? The little girl who said, “I prefer radio because the pictures are better”, enjoyed the wonder of her own imagination. There must be many people who prefer to create their own imagery and written or audio books will always supply that.
Another aspect which influences reading trends is the perception of what constitutes good quality literature. Is it to do with current fashion or does it have an eternal quality? We like to think the classics maintain their quality for all time but how many people read Charles Dickens or Mark Twain these days? Yet how many, who have never read the novels, have viewed plays, films or television series depicting “A Christmas Carol” or “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”? Perhaps we are to conclude with the assumption that the style of writing reflects the era and is, therefore, less attractive to future readers but the quality of the plot is everlasting.
How can purchasers find their way through the mass book shops like Amazon/Kindle? As a reader, I am often overwhelmed by the enormous quantity and appalled by the low quality. Could we not have some form of censorship and what criteria would we use to judge? It could never be the present category classification. For example, romantic novels range from sweet, touching stories to mild porn. The same reader would not be interested in both! To be honest, Amazon does try to distinguish between the two but a more in depth classification is needed.
In 1977, Ken Olsen, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp. said, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home”. Obviously, his vision of what the computer could achieve was limited. When we consider the future of electronic books, we must keep an open mind. The possibilities are enormous!
However, I do believe that reading a good novel will never be obsolete, the electronic age will develop new and useful gadgets for reading and writers will still be inspired to share their imagery and fantasy with a readership who wish to be entertained. Finally, I believe there is a universal awareness of what constitutes good quality literature – often we cannot define it but we know it when we see it. One of our authors, E E Marshall, says he hopes that every tale he writes brings a moment of hope and healing to each reader’s life. Something to aim for!