Escaping into the romance and fiction of E-Books
The majority of consumers were most likely introduced to the genres of romance, science fiction and blockbuster fiction from an early age when their parents used to read them fairytales before bed or when they were plagued with the science fictional world of “Star Wars” on television screens everywhere. Even when playing and interacting with their peers in playgrounds, children have long been encouraged to tap into an imaginary world, be it little girls playing “house” or “dress up” after school or little boys “sword fighting” or building “space ships” during their free time. There is something that has always been appealing about escaping from reality and it is therefore not surprising that when children become adults, they find it entertaining and comforting to escape into a fictional world filled with romance, vampires and variations of “happily-ever-after”. This helps to explain why certain genres within the e-book market, such as romance, science fiction and blockbuster fiction have been more successful than other genres. This paper will discuss why these specific genres are more appealing to e-book consumers as well as investigate and discuss the findings and opinions of other researchers that have also sought to explain the popularity of these specific genres within the e-book market. Lastly, based on the findings of fellow researchers, this paper will also forecast the likelihood that these genres will continue to be the most popular within the e-book market for a long time to come.
The e-book market has clearly grown in popularity as more consumers prefer them over paperbacks for a number of reasons. However, just because consumers are choosing to switch from paperbacks to e-books it does not mean they will automatically also abandon a certain genre, or author that they have been enjoying for years for some unfamiliar genre that is of no interest to them. They will likely stick with what they have always enjoyed but they will now just enjoy it in the more convenient and technologically savvy form of an e-book. Therefore, keeping this in mind, it becomes clear that the genres that have always found the most success and popularity in the paperback market are the same genres that are most likely to find success and popularity in the e-book market. The success of certain genres, for example romance, is deeply rooted and it is evident in the success that has been enjoyed by the romance genre of paperback books for decades, or perhaps even centuries. According to Meg’s “Genre-specific aspects of E-book markets: Why romance?”
There has been a willing audience for romance novels in America for many years, and this audience has staying power. They are a loyal group whose literary interest usually depends solely on this genre. They are easy consumers to provide a market for, because their interest is entertainment.
As Meg explains, the fan base for romance tends to be loyal and has been around for many years. So, people who have been fans of this genre, probably since they were children are likely to follow this genre even into the age of the e-book. Meg also points out that the primary interest of these consumers is entertainment and that too helps to clarify why romance, sci-fi and blockbuster fiction would find the most success with such consumers. Sure, one can always argue that autobiographies and documentaries are just as entertaining as the more popular genres on the e-book market but this can be fiercely contested for a plethora of reasons. One of the main reasons that comes to mind is that the point of entertainment is to provide an escape, an intriguing distraction from the daily nuisances of many consumers’ lives. With this in mind it is easy to see why an e-book about an epic romance or about an alien-like creature would provide a consumer with a more welcome distraction than an e-book about all the dying children on earth or about some complicated intellectual or historical matter. Moreover, technologically savvy consumers are getting younger every day meaning that in addition to the adult consumers who enjoy romance, sci-fi and blockbuster fiction, there is also a market of child consumers that is growing steadily. In “The Shatzkin Files: Four years into the ebook revolution: things we know and things we don’t know”, Mike Shatzkin points out that “we know that parents will hand their iPad, iPhone, or Nook Color device to a kid so that they can enjoy children’s books on the device.” This ever-growing market of child e-book readers can only serve to increase the success of the romance, scf-fi and blockbuster fiction genres over other E-book genres since those are not only naturally preferred by children but in comparison to competitor genres, they are among the very limited number of genres that are even suitable for children to read.
In an 00ebooks.com excerpt from his book “Your Guide to Ebook Publishing Success”, James Dillehey echoes the notion that certain successful e-book genres, for example romance and sci-fi, were already successful before the e-book and their success has simply been transferred from paperback to e0book.
As mentioned, romance is one of the hottest selling ebook genres. Since romance accounts for almost half the mass market paperback sales in the U.S., demand is well established. SciFi, like romance also has a proven market in paperbacks .
Although many researchers concur that the reason certain genres are more successful in the e-book market than others is because their market was already established in paperback and then simply transferred to the e-book, other researchers have a completely different opinion on why e-book readers favour certain genres. In Sean McLachlan’s “Ebooks from the Publisher’s Point of View”, he explains that one needs only to examine specifically what variations of the most successful e-book genres lead the pack in order to gain a perspective on the reason for their success.
Epublishing’s main forte is erotic romance, what Ellora’s Cave refers to as “Romantica”. These books offer a romantic plot spiced up with explicit and frequent sex scenes. Many brick-and-mortar stores refuse to carry this sort of material, and many of the genre’s predominantly female readers are too shy to go buy them in person, so the ebook format is a perfect way to get around these twin obstacles. They’re also easier to hide from the hubby, who’s probably deleting his Internet history every time he’s turns off the computer anyway.
Gary Price also addresses privacy concerns in his “eBooks, Privacy, and the Library”. Although fear of embarrassment is a plausible explanation for the success of “Romantica” and other genres that may be considered as pushing the envelope on the e-book market, it does not account for the success of sci-fi and blockbuster fiction. Moreover, the success of paperback “Romantica” novels, for example the practically pornographic “Mills and Boon” collection is quite notable and this indicates that although some people are too embarrassed to purchase “Romantica” at the store, most readers have no problem in doing so. Susan Gibbons offers a completely different opinion on why some e-book genres are more popular than others in her Project Muse article “Ebooks: Some Concerns and Surprises”. She makes the implication that the majority of e-books that are even made available to the public are fiction or non-fiction genre and that those which are not of those genres are not that easy to come by.
Another difficulty arose from the very limited selection of ebook titles. The majority of ebooks can be classified as adult popular fiction or nonfiction, which are very appropriate for public libraries. With very few exceptions, there were no titles that were of interest and age appropriate for middle school students, particularly since there are no pictures or color integrated into the text.
Assuming that Gibbons’ statement regarding the scarcity of a variety of e-book genres is true the authors of other e-book genres simply need to publish more of their texts in e-book form in order to enjoy an increase of sales. However, if Gibbons is correct then perhaps the reason that certain genres are published in e-book form more than others is because e-book publishers are aware that there is a larger market and more demand for certain genres than there is for others, a market that has already long been established.
Throughout the course of this paper, the differing opinions of e-book market researchers have been discussed. Based on these opinions and that of my own, it has become evident that the most popular genres within the e-book market are the same genres that have always been popular among readers and will likely always be the most popular among readers, regardless of whether they are presented in paperback or in e-book form. True, some researchers offer differing and intriguing opinions on the success of certain e-book genres over others, however, they fail to argue their findings as convincingly as some of their peers. Ultimately, it is evident that the markets for romance, science, fiction and blockbuster fiction were established decades ago, long before the idea of the e-book was conceived. The success of these genres has simply been transferred from hardcover books to paperback books and now to the e-book. Regardless of how these favourites are presented to their readers – paperback or e-book, their fan-base is likely to be transferred from one generation to another, one decade after the other, and as a result, the success of these old time favourite genres can only to stand to find continued favour among e-book consumers for ages to come.
Dillehey James. “Which Ebook Topics Sell”. 00Ebooks.com (blog). Your Guide to Ebooks Publishing Success. James Dillerhey. http://www.00ebooks.com/topics.htm Accessed October 2, 2011.
Gibbons, Susan. “Ebooks: Some Concerns and Surprises”. Project Muse Portal: Libraries and the Academy, Volume 1, Number 1. January 2001, pp. 71-75 (Article).
Harlequin Enterprises. “Mills and Boon”. 1971 – Present.
McLachlan, Sean. “Ebooks from the Publisher’s Point of View”. WritingWorld.com. 2008. http://www.writing-world.com/publish/ebooks.shtml. Accessed 30 September 2011.
Meg. 2010. “Genre-specific aspects of E-book markets: Why romance?” Genre Specific aspects of E-book markets. http://tkbr.ccsp.sfu.ca/401/research-papers/genre-specific-aspects-of-e-book-markets-meg/ Accessed October 2, 2011.
Price, Gary D. September 27, 2011. “eBooks, Privacy, and the Library”. Infodocket. (blog). Gary Price and Shirl Kennedy. http://infodocket.com/2011/09/27/8350/. Accessed 3 October, 2011.
Shatzkin Mike. September 25, 2011. “Four years into the ebook revolution: things we know and things we don’t know”. The Shatzkin Files. (blog) Mike Shatzkin. http://www.idealog.com/blog/four-years-into-the-ebook-revolution-things-we-know-and-things-we-dont-know. Accessed October 2, 2011.