Nick Earls on the fluctuating sales of ebooks

The Books and Arts program on Radio National recently explored reports that ebook sales are declining. Michael Cathcart interviewed Australian novelist Nick Earls, who says we shouldn’t discount ebooks yet.

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Earls has also written an article for The Conversation this month, titled ‘Has the print book trumped digital? Beware of glib conclusions’ in which he argues:

“From the practical perspective of writers wishing to connect their work with readers, it is prudent to see both paper and eBooks as significant for any book-publishing project in the present and near future, and to develop strategies to meet both of them. It is also prudent to look beyond both platforms to another, one that had long been regarded as a peripheral player: audiobooks.”

A nose for books

Reading books for pleasure has little appeal for smart phone fixated American teenagers, according to an article published in The New Yorker earlier this year. It’s not just the idea of reading that seems like a chore to millennials, according to David Denby, it’s that paper books have little appeal as objects. He quotes a school student from New Haven saying, ‘books smell like old people’. In contrast to this, a number of participants in the 2016 Australian Teen Reading survey discussed the sensory pleasure of holding a book in their hands and turning the pages. Unlike the New Haven youth who turned their nose up at the printed page, one of our participants said, ‘new books smell nice’. One of the foci of our research on teen reading in the digital era is reading as an embodied experience, so we will be analysing the survey responses over the next few months for insights into how touch, sight, sound and smell shape teenagers’ reading practices.