Australia Council & Macquarie Survey results

The survey results from the Australia Council and Macquarie University three-year study of Australians’ reading habits are now available on the Australia Council website. It found that word of mouth was the most frequent physical source of information about reading material, and online book retailers and publishers the most common online source. Most readers mix digital and conventional means of reading, and that they read much more than book sales would suggest.

The study also found that 71% of Australians (over the age of 14) believe it’s important for Australian children to read books set in Australia and by Australian authors. See more on the Australia Council website.

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.”

Unpacking the Statistics

I recently came across Nick Earls’ article on The Conversation, ‘Has the print book trumped digital? Beware of glib conclusions.’ This article raises some important points about the data behind the statistics on ebook and paper book sales. Traditional sources of these statistics often fail to take into account works published by smaller publishers, or those that are self-published. These are becoming increasingly popular. Whilst it is easy to interpret statistics to find that ebook reading has peaked, Earls reminds us to look beyond the numbers to consider trends such as the recent popularity of adult colouring books which sell almost exclusively in paper form.

This article shows that there is much more research to be done in the area of digital reading. This research needs to go beyond figures to unpack the trends and rationales beneath it.