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Why eBook Hardware Manufacturers Are Missing the Mark (and the Market)


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Back in the nineties auto manufacturers began to realize that it was missing an important segment of the auto buying market: women. Today, women purchase over 50% of all cars (new and used) and influence 95% of all auto purchases.

Video gaming is also on the rise due, in part, to the increase of females playing video games. Women represent 38-40 percent of all gamers and average approximately 7.4 hours per week. (I have some thoughts about whether the increase of female gamers might be proportionate to the decline in reading).

One of the most popular console today is Nintendo Wii. It has been making money where other console manufacturers have not. 55% of new console sales were Nintendo Wiis. Wii Fit sold over 10 million units. In nearly every Wii commercial I’ve seen, a woman is in it. In almost every Wii Fit ad I’ve seen, it features a woman. Nintendo specifically targeted women with its Wii Fit marketing. EA Inc. hasn’t made a profit in 7 quarters and it’s pinning it’s hopes on a hit with women. To that end, EA Inc. has hired Oprah’s fitness coach and a marketing director for L’Oreal Paris.

After two years of research, Office Max has decided that women control the office supply buying decisions. Over $44.5 billion is spent by women in office supplies per year. I walked into Office Max last week and was immediately attracted to the new look of its products. The tagline for the new marketing campaign is “Life is beautiful. Work can be too.” The products are more fashionable but so also is the advertisements. The Sunday circular is more female friendly looking more like a fashion catalog than an auto-parts catalog which is the term the VP of marketing used to describe the old Office Max look.

I think you understand the point I’m getting at. The fact is that women initiate more than 75% of consumer electronic purchases yet one in three women believe that advertising for these products is not relevant to them:

Almost one in three women do not consider technology advertising relevant to them and the majority of women feel disillusioned that brand owners and retailers don’t understand what they care about and don’t view them as a relevant group of customers.

I can hear the chorus of amens from the readership here. Very little of ebook and ebook reading device advertising (outside of Harlequin) is targeted at women despite the fact the women make 70-80% of book purchases. I think many of us say that ebook manufacturers don’t really understand what women readers care about and it’s not just stylish products (although that’s certainly something that is important).

1. Recognize the female as a valid part of your intended market.
First ebook device manufacturers and ebook retailers need to recognize that women are a valid and important part of the market. We comprise at least 50% of the ebook buying market and could grow bigger than that with the right marketing. Therefore, at least 50% of any ad campaign and site design should consider the female and the female aesthetic. We like form and function, lads.

2. Never insult the target of the marketing.
Second, any ad should not imply that the gadget is sexier than the consumer but rather that the consumer is made sexier because of the gadget. The big mistake with Sony’s “Sexier Than a Librarian” ad campaign was that it insulted women and placed them lower in the food chain that a first generation electronic device. The message must be that the gadget enhances our life or even our innate sexuality.

3. Show how the device fits into our lives.
One of the primary principles of writing is the show v. tell. I.e., don’t tell the reader that someone is witty, show us. Don’t tell the reader that someone is alpha and protective, show us. Similarly, marketers need to show women that an ebook reader is an important part of her life.

In recent auto ads, women are featured in various day to day activities with their vehicles. The idea is to get women thinking that the vehicle fits into their lives, rather than the woman fitting her life around the vehicle. The most recent Kindle 2.0 ad shows a business man leaning up against the post reading a Kindle and a woman on the beach reading her Kindle, all alone. Seriously? What woman has frequent escapes to the beach where she is alone! The reason that 31% of Stanza readers read at night and 25% read during a commute is because that’s about the only time a woman is ever “alone.”

Ads need to show women reading on the bus, train, subway. Ads should show a woman leaning against a post waiting for a ride or in her SUV waiting to pick up the kids from practice or in the lunch line or grocery store line or waiting at the post office or in the doctor’s waiting room. The point of the ads should be that the device is there whereever a woman is, whenever a woman wants it. It should not point out that the only time you can read an ebook is when you are alone and in the park.

4. Playing up the environmental aspect

Even if eReading does not have a smaller carbon imprint, the fact that it seems like it does and manufacturers should play up on that. Being “green” is important to female purchasers these days. It makes us feel good to be “green” and in ebook reading, it’s an almost unconscious way to be green.

5. Community aspect of reading

So DRM sucks and it prevents readers from sharing their books, but you can pretend that there is a sharing/community aspect by showing women sharing their readers with each other, perhaps at the baseball game. Show women interacting with each other on the eBook Reader as if somehow ebook reading can help you connect with your friends.

6. Put Kids in the Ads.

Another way to appeal to women is to create the idea that this device will promote reading. Why not show kids of all ages reading on the device or a mom and her kid looking at it together. Show a mom reading a Dr. Seuss book to her child, snuggled under a blanket. Again, it’s a way to show the woman how the device fits into every aspect of her life. She does not need to carve out special moments to read. Instead, the device makes it easier for her to enjoy herself at all times during the day, from the moment she gets up and reads the news of the day to her novel reading at lunch to her storytime with her kid to her right-before-bedtime moment to herself.

7. Sell it to the women.
eBook Reading manufacturers should be developing ad campaigns that appeal to women. (Disclaimer: I am terrible at catchy Tag Lines unlike Wendy, Super_Librarian). Ad campaigns for eBook Readers should be “Your pleasure. Your time.” or perhaps “For every moment you have to yourself and those you don’t.”

The ads should show how the eBook reader fits into the life of a woman, not how a woman adapts her life to fit the eBook reader. Mass adoption of the ebook will come when there is mass adoption by women. We buy most of the books sold in paper. Soon, we’ll buy most of the books sold digitally. Who wants us?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Emmy
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 05:22:35

    What woman has frequent escapes to the beach where she is alone!

    Uh…me. I live on an island and am a few feet from a beach, so I frequently take my reader to the beach and read while my son is in school during the week. Maybe you’re taking that pic too literal, when it could be meant as evocative of getting away in your mind with a good book, rather than actually being away for reals? More of a fantasy. Although if that’s the message, it obviously didn’t get through to you, so either which way it’s a fail.

  2. Tae
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 05:57:32

    Okay, I too also have a lot of time to go sit on the beach with my books or ebook reader. I’m lucky that my job gives me huge chunks of time off every day (but I don’t make that much). However, I do agree with what you’ve said Jane. I don’t have my ebook reader to take to the beach. What I love about it is I can lay it flat on the table and use one hand to push the buttons while I’m eating lunch by myself. I also can drag it out of my purse and read it for five minutes when I’m waiting for my husband to show up when we have lunch together. When I am waiting at immigration or the bank for my number to be called, I pull out the ebook reader. If I didn’t have motion sickness, I’d be reading my Sony PRS on the bus or in the car. I use audio books during those times. Waiting in line is no longer a miserable experience for me.

    I think you’re spot on about the advertising. The ads need to show how busy women can still read during those 15 minutes you have waiting to pick up your kids from karate, or sitting in the doctor’s office, or the daily commute to work on the train.

    I have an ebook reader because I’m a bibliophile and the Sony allows me to carry 200 books with me at all times. I can finish one book and start another and not have to carry around a huge purse everywhere I go. I purchased an ebook reader initially for my international trips, so that I would have enough reading material to last me 3 weeks without carrying an extra suitcase full of books.

  3. Steph
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 06:00:52

    Although this doesn’t apply to me per se (I live abroad and Kindle/not sure about other devices don’t sell here) but I just wanted to say that was an excellent post.


  4. Jessica G.
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 07:10:18

    I completely agree with you Jane. Although I’ll toss in that I liked the one banner Sony had (saw it in the Port Authority in NYC) that said, “Read hundreds of Romance Novels…and No one will see the cover.” I thought that was pretty clever (and made me think more about buying one).

  5. BevBB
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 07:15:07

    Personally, your ideas and suggestions are great and right on targe, Jane, but I tend to believe that the true mass adoption of ebooks will come when we can resell them like every other possessions.

  6. Kimber An
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 07:32:49

    The Sunday articles on eBook technology are always good, but this is particularly excellent! Keep up the good work. Now, I must go tell all my Blog Buddies, just as I do every Sunday.

  7. ‘Why e-book hardware manufactures are missing the mark (and market)’ | TeleRead: Bring the E-Books Home
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 07:38:32

    […] should consider the female and the female aesthetic. We like form and function, lads." – Jane at Digg us! Slashdot us! Share the […]

  8. joanne
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 07:48:08

    Great points as usual Jane and may I add the forgotten woman? The retired woman like myself who not only (finally) has more free time to read but possibly (finally) more expendable funds to use for just buying books?

    I may not live or look in the ‘right’ places but other then online I haven’t seen any advertising for ebook readers and/or ebooks.

    And what happened in a jury selection room last week when I pulled out my ebook reader? Instant curiousity. Only one person who asked about it knew what it was…. (not including the court officer who wanted to remind me not to record anything *sigh*).

    A woman next to me asked if I could read newspapers on it……. why doesn’t she know that already? Maybe because she doesn’t go online to book review sites or travel the NY subway system or see it advertised on her favorite tv shows or in the newspapers she reads daily.

    And my friend’s teenaged daughter who is buying music history books by the ton… doesn’t know about ebooks. Advertisers are missing many, many marks.

  9. Laura Vivanco
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 07:52:24

    Even if eReading does not have a smaller carbon imprint, the fact that it seems like it does and manufacturers should play up on that.

    This sounds like you’re encouraging manufacturers to lie to consumers about the environmental credentials of their products. Is that what you meant to say?

    It makes us feel good to be “green” and in ebook reading, it's an almost unconscious way to be green.

    But you seem to be saying that it may not, in fact, be greener, “if eReading does not have a smaller carbon imprint.” It wouldn’t make me feel good if I discovered I’d been duped into spending money on something that was marketed as “greener” only to discover that it isn’t. In fact, that would make me very, very unhappy and angry.

    I’ve read that:

    A 2003 study by the University of Michigan concluded that “electricity generation for an e-reader had less of an environmental impact than paper production for the conventional book system”.

    The heaviest burden, though, will be in making the reader itself. If one were to buy an ebook reader, then keep it for 30 years, the impact would be small. But many electronic devices don’t last that long, and with the constant advances in processing power and functionality it’s unlikely that we would want to keep a single ebook reader as long as we might keep a book.

    Disposal of electronic items is extremely problematic. More than 6m electronic items are thrown away in the UK every year, and the cadmium from one discarded mobile phone is enough to pollute 600,000 litres of water. Even recycling electronic equipment – or processing them into constituent parts – isn’t without environmental damage.

    I don’t think manufacturers should pay for feel-good advertising campaigns to mislead consumers; I’d rather companies invested in some research and found ways to make sure that

    (a) ebook readers will not break after a short time. They do take quite a bit of energy to produce, and to compare well to paper books, I assume they’d need to last for some time.

    (b) ebook readers will not become obsolete/unsupported before the end of the e-reader’s life. If users keep switching to a new ebook reader, leaving the old one(s) unused, that’s going to make ebook reading much less environmentally friendly.

    (c) ebook readers can be safely and easily recycled once they reach the end of their lives. Paper books can be pulped, but, as mentioned above, it can be difficult to dispose of electronic equipment safely and in a way that doesn’t harm the environment.

  10. Angela James
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 07:57:35

    @ Laura

    A 2003 study by the University of Michigan concluded that “electricity generation for an e-reader had less of an environmental impact than paper production for the conventional book system

    Do you think it’s possible that’s changed in the 6 years since the study was published? There’s been a lot of changes since then. I would love to do a new study done now that eink, bistable technology is in play.

    Disposal of the product is a good point.

  11. Lynne
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 08:48:37

    I’ve read ebooks for close to a decade, and for me, the biggest advantage of all is that I can take an entire library of books with me everywhere I go. If the fantasy romance I buy to read at lunch or on vacation turns out to be a dud, no biggie — I have dozens more to choose from.

    I think emphasizing the convenience of being able to read virtually anything anywhere would go a long way toward convincing more people to give ereaders a try. That said, I’m not sure I’d ever buy a dedicated ereader, because I’ve always been able to use my PDA or smartphone for that.

  12. MichelleR
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 09:18:01

    No kids, surrounded by lots of bodies of water, loves to find a quiet place to read, married to a guy that encourages me to have all the alone time I need — the ad works for me as is, in fact it appeals to me greatly, because I can relate to beach lady. Eh, okay, toss in a dog in place of a child, and it would be perfect.

    Beach lady is part of a video explaining the features and the video features soft music and a voiceover. I think a chaotic setting takes away from where they want your focus to be, and part of the pitch is how you can read in sunshine.

  13. Jane
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 09:29:40

    @Laura Vivanco This was me being inarticulate. I’ve read one report that suggested that ebook reading, because of the carbon footprint of manufacturing the ebook device, is not more environmentally conscious.

    However, I don’t necessarily believe the one article I read because it didn’t take into consideration the transport of the books and manufacturing of the books and the over time reduced costs. So I was saying that it appears that the “greenness” of print books v. ebooks is in dispute. I personally think that without the constant use of paper in the publishing industry that there would be a reduced carbon imprint for reading even with the production and disposal of ebook reading devices.

  14. Deb Kinnard
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 10:44:36

    This reminds me, incongruously, of the Beta tape issue, years ago. Corporations got busy screaming, “You WANT this!” and didn’t listen to consumers telling them we didn’t. VHS won the tape-war. Which platform will win the e-book war? It’s not clear as yet.

    Unless the manufacturers/designers of these devices begin listening to the consumer, and create one that will fit into my life (and yes, that means no DRM), I won’t be a customer for one. I’m one of those who’s lurking, waiting for the market to shake one device out of the toychest. Solve the lifespan problems next, give me a reader that lasts 5-10 years, and I may jump into the market.

    Sign me, an e-book author, who wishes they’d get it right pretty soon. We’ve been talking about this now since 2000.

  15. ilona andrews
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 10:57:42

    I read my Sony on the treadmill in the gym. I’d love to see an advertisement like that. Minus my red-faced, sweaty self, of course.

  16. Susan Kelley
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 10:58:48

    Great discussion. I wonder when marketers will get it right about reaching women consumers. Walk into an appliance store with your husband to buy something. The salesmen or women always talk to your husband first. And at my house like most of yours, we get what I think we should get and that includes cars.
    There are a lot of things about the ebook readers that are slowing down its growth. Not least of all is price. Like DVD players, computers, cell phones and all those other new gadgets when they first were introduced, the price turns a lot of people away. There’s also the fear your reader will become obsolete a year after you buy it.
    For right now, I always carry a book in my bag, but I would love to be able to carry a hundred books in my bag. And I will as soon as the price moderates.

  17. Edith
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 11:16:25

    This was a great post, and I agree with you on all your points except 4 and 5. I’m with Laura. Don’t encourage people to lie in advertising. If you’re not sure it’s true, don’t even mention it.

    Same with this.

    So DRM sucks and it prevents readers from sharing their books, but you can pretend that there is a sharing/community aspect

    “Pretend”?? There’s enough pretend in advertising. Don’t encourage the bastards.

  18. Shelley
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 12:00:42

    I agree about ads being targeted to women. The car commercial where the woman driving the very sporty vehicle, talking about cup holders is a perfect example of how car manufacturers have had to rethink their view of women. Great ad, too.

    But I think you’re missing the point of selling a product to a woman. Women don’t necessarily only want to see their every day lives portrayed, they also want to see a life they would life to which they can escape. That’s why women in bubble baths are such a frequent component of ads.

    Seriously what woman doesn’t find the idea of sitting on a sandy beach by the ocean, warm sun on our bare feet, cuddled up with with a good book while the world falls by the wayside around us? Other than the somewhat New Yorkish intellectual look of the clothing, I loved the ad.

  19. Jessica
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 12:01:22

    It’s always interesting to look at whether and how companies market to women, so thanks for this post. I agree that women with disposable income are likely a huge ebook reader segment and that there may be ways to market to this demographic that have not been explored.

    I’m a bit puzzled, though, b/c guess don’t see how a concern for “form and function” is feminine. This post makes me wonder what is the “female aesthetic”? Something other than a pink reader, please.

    I wanted to point out that Jeff Bezos did appear on Oprah in the fall. If that’s not marketing to women, I don’t know what is.

  20. kirsten saell
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 12:29:29

    This sounds like you're encouraging manufacturers to lie to consumers about the environmental credentials of their products. Is that what you meant to say?

    Hope you don’t own a hybrid car, then, because at this point the environmental benefits are iffy–yeah, there’s less gas consumed per mile by the vehicle, but the temptation to drive more, and the hideously polluting battery manufacture more than make up for that. Same with compact fluorescent bulbs, which, when you consider their manufacture (in China, so who cares, right?) and disposal issues are also a trade-off at best. But those industries are happy to let us believe they’re a sound choice for the environment.

    When you look at the whole environmental cost–water/energy consumption in manufacture and waste (especially with mmps) and transportation costs, heck, even the light and heat used in bookstores, I honestly believe ebooks have a much smaller impact. Even if you buy a dedicated reader that might only last 5-8 years.

    I love my Sony. But I haven’t seen it advertised anywhere that I would stumble across it if I didn’t spend much time online…

  21. Lisa Hendrix
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 13:31:27

    Know what? Reading everyone’s responses has made ME want an e-reader. NOW!

    Let’s see: community, how it fits into my life, kids…

    Yep, the comments hit those points, and it worked. Jane for Secretary of Digital State!

  22. Jusy
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 13:32:58

    I hope advertisers pay you Jane for your ideas. It’s true what you say. I pull my PDA out when I have time to myself whether I’m waiting for someone, a plane, a line and even the water closet.

  23. kirsten saell
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 13:56:07

    Heck, I even read on my Sony in the bathtub–just seal it in a ziploc bag. Can’t do that with a print book, and I’ve ruined more than one by dropping it in the water…

  24. Laura Vivanco
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 14:21:02

    Thanks for the clarification, Jane.

    I’m sorry it took me so long to get back to this thread. Ironically, I had a reply ready to post when my computer lost access to the internet. So I read a paper book ;-)

    Do you think it’s possible that’s changed in the 6 years since the study was published? There’s been a lot of changes since then.

    I’m sure you’re right, Angela. I didn’t look at the original report, but I’ve looked in some detail at a lifecycle analysis of a completely different product, and there were a huge number of variables to take into account. Just thinking about this kind of thing always makes me feel a bit dizzy because there seem to be so many different factors to consider. For example, as far as energy use is concerned, it’s not just the amount of energy used that’s important. The source of the energy is important too, e.g. if you had a (hypothetical) ebook reader that had a photo-voltaic panel which provided its energy, then using that energy, even if that reader used a lot of it, would be less damaging to the environment than using a reader which used less energy but got it from the burning of fossil fuels. Of course, then you have to take into account the amount of energy used in producing the various different readers…

    A lot also depends on how the product is used. For example, if someone frequently re-reads their copy of a paper book, if a paper book is loaned out frequently by a library, then the energy-use per read will decrease because the “overhead” environmental costs of producing the book are split between more “reads”. For a book re-read on an ebook reader, the “overhead” costs in terms of production would also decrease each time an ebook’s re-read (since it would be split over more “reads”), but the actual energy used during each re-read would remain the same.

    Then you’d have to factor in the fact that some people read more than others, so the environmental cost per read of using a reader will be higher for those people who don’t read as many books on it. If one ebook reader isn’t being used intensively, perhaps because the owner has bought a second reader, that would also affect the comparisons.

    And of course the “carbon footprint” isn’t the only issue, there’s how the raw materials are sourced and whether that damages the environment, whether there’s damage caused to the environment as a result of the manufacturing process, and there’s also the question of how the product is disposed of at the end of its life.

    All of this makes me think that it’s probably more environmentally friendly to read ebooks on something other than a dedicated ebook reader, because the overhead cost of making the electronic object is spread among all the different uses that you’d make of it. However, depending on which multi-use electronic object you use, it may be more or less convenient due to factors such as the size of the screen, portability, which ebook formats are available, which type of screen hurts people’s eyes more and so on.

    Hope you don't own a hybrid car, […] Same with compact fluorescent bulbs

    Kirsten, we don’t own any kind of car. And in the EU conventional lightbulbs are being phased out. From what DEFRA says, the fluorescent bulbs do need to be disposed of carefully, but

    Over the life time of both lamp types, energy efficient bulbs produce less mercury. This is due to the fact that mercury is emitted from power stations during electricity generation and energy saving bulbs are more energy efficient – therefore saving on the amount of electricity that needs to be generated.

  25. Miki
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 15:09:36

    Jane, I can’t help thinking about the “While You Were Out”, or “Trading Spaces”, or “Clean Sweep” shows from TLC. A cute commercial would be Paige Davis and Ty Pennington coming in to a home where the owner has asked for a room makeover – and the room contained overflowing bookshelves of books.

    Ty does his crazy “demo[lition]” thing, tears down all the shelves but one, and on that one…a shiny new red Sony!

    Pan to truck with boxes and boxes of books being loaded into a library van…and someone throws in a feather duster (or Swiffer, for the young folk here) saying, “Guess I won’t be needing this, either!”

  26. kirsten saell
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 15:42:42

    Over the life time of both lamp types, energy efficient bulbs produce less mercury. This is due to the fact that mercury is emitted from power stations during electricity generation and energy saving bulbs are more energy efficient – therefore saving on the amount of electricity that needs to be generated.

    That depends on how your particular region generates energy, too. But yeah, that really goes to show how complex these issues are. My dad even mentioned to me that he has no problem with conventional bulbs producing “waste heat” because 90% of the time, he’s got the lights off in summer anyway, and on in winter, when the “waste heat” isn’t actually wasted. And I read somewhere that a vegetarian who drives a Hummer has a smaller carbon footprint than a meat-eater who rides his bike to work–again, things are always more complicated than they seem on the surface.

    I do think the per-read issue is not just one of environmental impact. It should be a price-point factor as well. If an ebook is only typically read one time by one person, and a print book multiple times by 6 or 7, the ebook really ought to be cheaper–just like disposable contact lenses cost less than ones produced for long-term use. I don’t think this would necessarily translate into less revenue for publishers–it means that more people have to buy the ebook than would have to purchase the print book new. Reducing the list price to be attractive to consumers could actually put more money in publishers’ (and authors’) pockets in the long run.

    As for the quote about DRM–WTF is that guy smoking, and where can I get some?

  27. anny cook
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 15:56:24

    I own the earliest version of the Sony Reader. I take it everywhere… doctor’s offices, restaurants, traveling, vacation, laundromat. Out of hundreds of encounters, I’ve only met two people who knew what it was before I demonstrated how it worked.

    One of those was a particularly surreal experience. The technician in a doctor’s office was very enthusiastic with all her questions. I mentioned that I wrote books for an e-publisher. She immediately asked which one and what I wrote. When I identified my pen name, she jumped up and rushed out of the room. That mystified me, let me tell you.

    A few minutes later, she came back with all the office staff ladies. They were all readers of e-books–including MINE. Loved it, loved it!

    Wherever I go, I pass on the good word. Read green.

  28. Laura Vivanco
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 16:17:43

    Reducing the list price to be attractive to consumers could actually put more money in publishers' (and authors') pockets in the long run.

    As for the quote about DRM

    Kirsten, seeing what you’d written about the cost, right beside the bit about DRM, made me think that if ebooks were cheaper, then readers might be a lot less worried about DRM. I mean, at the moment, ebook readers are expensive to buy, and the ebooks are expensive to buy too (particularly when you bear in mind that they can’t be sold on or loaned out and there are worries about losing them), and that’s off-putting. I don’t want to spend a lot of money buying myself an ebook library, only to lose it all. But if the ebooks had been cheap to start with and then I lost them, I probably wouldn’t be quite so upset because it wouldn’t be so expensive to replace my “keepers.”

    So yes, cheaper ebooks might encourage existing ebook buyers to buy more books new (as opposed to buying second-hand paper books, or borrowing from libraries), and they might also encourage more readers to make the switch to ebooks and offset some of our concerns about DRM. I’ve no idea, though, if the economics of this would really work out for the publishers. I can see how it can be a bit of a chicken and egg situation, with neither publishers or readers wanting to expose themselves to certain risks.

  29. BevQB
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 18:45:37

    OMG Jane! I want to have your babies! That is, if you were a guy and I wasn’t old, but you know, it’s the thought that counts, right?

    This is so perfectly spot on. I’ve felt all along that manufacturers of eReaders need to realize that making the TECHNOGEEKS excited for an hour or a day doesn’t do all that much for their sales. Long after the technogeeks have moved on to the next shiney, those of us who actually want to BUY and USE ebooks and eReaders as part of our everyday lives are the ones they should be listening to and marketing to.

    I don’t know how you could make it any clearer to TPTB than what you wrote up there. Right on, Sistah, right on. ;-p

  30. KJ
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 19:25:05

    I think the biggest problem is that men make up the majority of product designers and engineers. And since most of these companies don’t have a woman on the design team, they just don’t see the need to think about women as consumers. Which burns me up.

    There are SO many of my friends (well-educated, internet-using) who have never heard of ebooks and don’t know about any of the publishers much less what a Kindle is. THIS is the biggest gap right there. Sure you can advertise an ereader to women, but if they don’t know the variety of what they can read on it….falls on deaf ears.

    Market the books just as much as the devices. Make the product something these women want to purchase.

  31. Tae
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 20:03:50

    Steph> I’m living in South Korea right now and I have the Sony PRS 505. Of course, I’m an American citizen and so I still have a US credit card and a mailing address in America. However, you can probably get an e-reader on Ebay. Fictionwise allows you to buy books using paypal for international people. I was lucky that I could buy the Sony, send it to a friend and have him ship it to me in Korea.

  32. Heather Massey
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 20:23:49

    Impressive round up of stats there! Great post, thanks.

  33. Herne
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 22:21:08

    eReaders are going nowhere with either sex until they drop the price to something less than astronomical. If you look at the Amazon Kindle, for example, why would I pay that sort of money for a device that locks me in to a specific retailer? I could purchase a Netbook at that price and do so much more than just read books. And Kindles only work in the US, I mean…c’mon.

    Secondly the DRM issue. Every consumer who knows what DRM is knows that they don’t want it on the products that their purchasing, so until the retailers lose the DRM, eBooks are not going far.

    Thirdly the eBooks themselves. Sugar coat it as much as you like, but the fact of the matter is when I “purchase” an eBook I’m not really purchasing anything at all. I am RENTING an eBook, there is no physical product to “own.” I can’t put an eBook on the shelf and admire it, or share it with a friend, nor does an eBook appreciate in value as time goes on. So let’s stop saying we’re “purchasing” eBooks when we’re really renting them.

    You want to see eBooks? The reader should cost between $100 and $150, and it should sync to your PC with an iTunes-like program. eBooks should be DRM free and work on any device including your computer. eBooks should come with a physical element, either a CD, an SD card, or included with the print version of the book. Until then, eBooks are going nowhere.

  34. Swoop
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 22:56:43

    Herne is absolutely right on all points. Netbooks and smartphones are a much better deal for the money, and proprietary ebook readers today prevent us from doing even the most basic useful things with the books. Devices should not be locked down to the point where they become unusable. That’s a really big problem with DRM.

    Who wants 3+ electronic devices in her bag, each dedicated to only one task? We carry too much already.

    I want my e-reader to talk to the net so I can read online news for free. If it did email and web over Wifi and ethernet and accessed books online that would be useful enough to spend $250-300 on it.

    Plenty of industries are not doing customer research, and it shows, as this article clearly illustrates. When I look at the female version of the ad, I see a cold woman in an uncomfortable position with closed body language. This does not look like a happy relaxed escape at all. Did they even focus group this image? Is the display even readable in direct sun?

    I’m disturbed by the suggestion to call it greener when it isn’t, also.

    I think the whole lifecycle model is wrong with these. I want to rent the reader and get the books as part of the deal. Then when the mfgr obsoletes it, I want a hardware upgrade in which my content transfers without a hitch. I want library backup on offline media too. I want my unit to be recycled or reused responsibly via the manufacturer when I trade one in.

  35. kirsten saell
    Feb 15, 2009 @ 23:20:51

    Is the display even readable in direct sun?

    If that’s the Kindle (or the Sony, or any other e-ink reader), then yes.

  36. Daily Square — Would I lie to you? « Wordpress Lab
    Feb 16, 2009 @ 08:34:24

    […] Why eBook Hardware Manufacturers Are Missing the Mark (and the Market)And Jane hits it out of the park (have now decided there is a BS all star publishing team, Jane bats clean-up for obvious reasons!) with a rant about women, devices, and marketing. […]

  37. Kathy
    Feb 16, 2009 @ 08:52:59

    AMEN! Is anyone out there listening?

  38. Angelia Sparrow
    Feb 16, 2009 @ 09:42:07

    I don’t understand the “renting” e-books comment.

    When I buy an e-book, I get a .pdf or .lit or .zip file. It goes on my computer. Every so often, I burn the collection to a CD for safekeeping.

    As long as the Adobe reader works, the e-book is mine. No, I can’t sell it for a quarter on a yard-sale. But when it goes out of circulation, I can e-mail a copy to someone who desperately wants to read it. (I only do this with my own stories that are out of print)

    Perhaps it’s because the sellers I read don’t use DRM. I’ve never bought a Kindle format book or from the Sony store. I tend to spend $6 or less per book.

    The biggest stumbling block on an e-book reader is price. Absolutely. I can get a whole computer for $300. If it were $100 or $150, more people would buy it.

    Also, advertising isn’t getting out there. My mother had never seen one until I brought mine to the city. I had trouble getting it home. 8) One appearance on Oprah does not an ad campaign make, esp considering how many people don’t watch talk shows and aren’t even home or awake by day. Magazines like Redbook, Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle, should be carrying articles and ads.

    Now, if Sony were putting ads on shows watched by women (check the Nielsens) for this, it’d be more popular. I can see one now: she’s sitting in the minivan, a little tired and stressed looking, parked in front of a school. She takes out the reader, flips it on, goes to her bookmark and is instantly on the deck of a pirate ship, dressed like Elizabeth Swan, bellowing orders to handsome, shirtless men. Then the kids get in the car, bursting the daydream, but she smiles, looking much refreshed for her break.

    Or one that highlights the storage capacity. We see the woman first in a regency gown, dancing. Then a Sony page flip effect. We see her in armor, hacking her way toward an ancient and evil-looking temple. Page-flip. We see her in an evening gown, drinking champagne with a handsome man on a balcony. Page flip. She’s staking a vampire. Page flip. She’s riding a horse wearing a six-shooter. Her name is called, with a hint of volume and impatience. We see her in the doctor’s office, tucking her reader back into her purse and smiling at the nurse. “For the days when you want to go everywhere. Sony e-reader.”

    I’ve had my sony for almost a year. And whenever I have it in public, people ask me what it is. Nobody’s seen them. Nobody’s seen them advertised. Nobody in stores has head of them. In the city of Memphis, there are exactly TWO brick-and-mortar places to buy one.

  39. Yvonne Barlow
    Feb 16, 2009 @ 11:34:41

    The e-book is slim, smooth and oh so sexy because I am never without something to read – run for a train with no time to pick up a newspaper – the e-reader is in my handbag with an offering of fiction or non-fiction – it feels like a library I carry in my bag – a powerful tool!

  40. Sunita
    Feb 16, 2009 @ 11:50:09

    I also don’t get the “ebooks are rented not owned” argument. I agree that the formats can become obsolete, which is a huge problem, but that’s a failure of the format wars, not the e-platform. Imagine if there were no DRM, but just one raw format that you then converted to whatever format your reader uses. So all books are made available in .rtf or .txt, say, and then you use a program to convert them to your preferred one. Then you never even get in to the betamax vs. VHS problem. I know it’s never going to happen, and I’m sure I’m missing a whole bunch of steps that would make that difficult, but the problem is not the technology.

    If you want a print book because you want to put it on the shelf and admire it, then clearly ebooks won’t work. But that preference is about the book as an object, and it is separate from the cognitive and emotional benefits of reading the words in the book. As someone who owns thousands of books, I get the print book fetish, believe me. But it’s a separate issue.

    I am also surprised by the lack of advertising, not just to women, but also in print formats more generally. Especially magazines. Thanks to Calibre I now read the Economist, the Atlantic, and a couple of other magazines and newspapers on my Reader. So if I don’t have time for a book chapter, I can skim some headlines.

  41. GrowlyCub
    Feb 16, 2009 @ 12:23:06

    I agree with a few of your arguments and the idea of advertising to women in particular, Jane, but personally, as a non-mother, I’d be totally turned off by an ad campaign that featured a typical mommie day. Now, if the ad had some cats instead… :)

    That said, I don’t find the woman on the beach pictured above effective either. Sitting on a beach like that would be uncomfortable within 5 minutes. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt and we won’t even talk about the sand that would find its way into the reader, since she doesn’t have it in a ziploc bag.

    I’m with the folks who think that the advertising is just not there at all. Or if it is, it’s not reaching the masses.

    Everybody I’ve shown my reader to so far was surprised by the incredible crispness of the type (so was I once I had it outside the neon lights of a Target store), but few really knew about e-readers in general.

    On the Bujold list during a long involved discussion on e-books and e-readers, a list member posted a comparison in different sizes/font types between HC and paperbacks and the Sony and even I was surprised how much more readable the Sony was.

    I still think the price point is about double what it should be on the 505. You can buy a LOT of paperbacks for 300 bucks.

    I also believe that the carbon foot print argument is not taking into account how often folks will change their readers. See Sarah buying/getting the new Kindle 2 and a 505 and already owning the Kindle 1. Jane having an i-phone and a 700. Angela James having 5? different e-reading devices, etc.

    That’s a lot of mercury that’s laying around waiting to pollute the environment eventually. I’m not one to buy a new computer every year, even so, our household currently has 3 desktop and 3 laptop computers, 4-5 printers, 3 TVs, 2 DVD players, several stereo systems and assorted other electronics. And that’s just for 2 people, who only buy new every 3-5 years and are not into the forefront of technogeekery. I sincerely doubt that e-readers have less of a carbon foot print than paper books, if you take into account the usual suspects who are (early) adopters of this technology. If you then include the lifetime use of electricity for charging and lights… I seriously doubt we are coming out ahead for the environment. I may be wrong, but at this time any ad targeting e-readers as green would make me think they are lying to the consumers.

  42. MichelleR
    Feb 16, 2009 @ 13:23:51

    **I agree with a few of your arguments and the idea of advertising to women in particular, Jane, but personally, as a non-mother, I'd be totally turned off by an ad campaign that featured a typical mommie day. Now, if the ad had some cats instead… :)**

    I said dog, but close enough.

    I think advertisers need to appeal to many different groups, but the default to appealing to women shouldn’t be just to hit the soccer moms. Frankly, it makes sense to appeal to women without kids, because play money/disposable income might be more plentiful and more likely to go to adult toys. I mean like readers, not like…adult toy adult toys. :)

  43. SonomaLass
    Feb 16, 2009 @ 17:36:40

    While it would be nice if advertising targeted women more, I’m more concerned that the manufacturers of both e-books and readers targeted us with the product itself. Being more aware of how & why we use/would use the product should not only impact how they advertise, but also the product itself.

    See the discussion of making our voices heard about what we want in these products over at SBTB:

  44. Bee
    Feb 16, 2009 @ 17:55:58

    The most recent Kindle 2.0 ad shows a business man leaning up against the post reading a Kindle and a woman on the beach reading her Kindle, all alone. Seriously? What woman has frequent escapes to the beach where she is alone! The reason that 31% of Stanza readers read at night and 25% read during a commute is because that's about the only time a woman is ever “alone.”

    31% is hardly a majority. I like the photo. I used to read a lot alone on the beach (when I was still living at the cost, now you have to replace the beach for a park). How do you know your personal opinion is representative for ‘all women’?

  45. MaryK
    Feb 17, 2009 @ 00:18:27

    I never go to the beach. I was trying to figure out why the crazy woman was sitting in the middle of a pavement.

    On the plus side, I’ve been seeing e-harlequin banner ads all over the internet.

  46. Mike Cane
    Feb 17, 2009 @ 10:13:34

    Excellent and enlightening post. I recall a Tom Peters book from maybe the late 1980s that really emphasized WOMEN WOMEN WOMEN. It made a deep impression on me. This one added to it.

  47. Debby
    Feb 17, 2009 @ 11:22:12

    All good points, but why are you asking companies to come up with better ways to manipulate women into buying their product? It’s the same product whether the commercial shows it on a beach or riding a subway. I work in marketing in the electronics industry. I know that this manipulation is the bread and butter of marketing. What i am sort of shocked about is that women are asking companies to get in touch with their psychology so that they can be better manipulated. I am interested in eReaders, but I do not have any interest whatesoever in Harlequin just because i am a woman. I also don’t want my mothering instinct to be capitalized upon by tear-jerking ads showing mothers reading to their kids. I just want the products themselves to be good. I think the stereotype that women want products to be more touchy-feely is innacurate. I know most women to be avid label-readers and intensive product researchers. Make the product itself have great specs and features and fit into real life. Dont make the ads cater to my ego and sexuality so I think the kindle makes me a hot multitasker. That’s insulting.

  48. Meg
    Feb 17, 2009 @ 22:16:05

    I lust after the concept of an e-book reader, and they can try any advertising campaign they like to try to sell me an ebook reader, but until the following problems with the things are solved, I won’t be buying:

    1) The high (anything above $100, IMHO) upfront cost of the (empty!)
    reader, and the assumption that if you don’t want to buy a dedicated reader
    you can just use your iPhone/PDA/laptop/other portable electronic device,
    when I do not possess/have any use for any of those (also high-priced)
    gadgets, either (well, I’d like a laptop someday, but that’s another
    2) DRM and incompatible formats and their associated hassle. Proprietary
    readers, like the Kindle.
    3) The often decades-long gap between out-of-print and out-of-copyright,
    where the content would be in limbo and unavailable for purchase if you
    can’t buy used books, which is related to
    4) The whole used bookstore and resale issue, which must be preserved
    *somehow,* and to the
    5) There’s always plenty of free stuff at Project Gutenberg and other like sources gambit. I am grateful for Project Gutenberg, don’t get me wrong, but the point is, it’s beside the point from my point of view. I can get *those* books from the library, and don’t particularly want them as keepers.

    If I buy something, I want the right to sell it to someone else if I don’t
    like it or when I’m done with it. You’ll pry my beloved used book stores
    out of my cold dead hands.

    We all have our differing tolerances for new media. I need mine to be
    simple (on the level of a point-and-shoot digital camera with no formatting issues), inexpensive, and not tell me what I can or cannot do with my purchases. If we accept less than what we want, we’ll never get it corrected.

    I just wish there was some way I could vote with my dollars, instead of just withholding them and hoping someone gets the point.

  49. KJ
    Feb 17, 2009 @ 23:07:49

    Do people who buy MP3s complain or care about reselling the music they buy? No. And I remember 15 years ago there was quite a market for used CDs. I even sold some myself back in the day.

    So to get upset that you can’t resell an ebook is just a weird argument.

    Used bookstores will still exist. Print is not going away. You can still get your fix.

  50. MaryK
    Feb 18, 2009 @ 00:39:28

    @KJ: But MP3s cost about 1/6th of the price of an ebook. And when you buy a song, you pretty much already know you like the song – at least I do.

  51. Daily Square — RT 1 « Wordpress Lab
    Feb 18, 2009 @ 13:27:24

    […] G4 Why eBook Hardware Manufacturers Are Missing the Mark (and the Market)And Jane hits it out of the park (have now decided there is a BS all star publishing team, Jane bats clean-up for obvious reasons!) with a rant about women, devices, and marketing. […]

  52. Barbara
    Feb 20, 2009 @ 11:15:51

    I do agree. They’re not getting me until they make a waterproof one that I can read in my bathtub.

  53. BlueRose
    Feb 22, 2009 @ 23:14:24

    I have just skimmed the comments, but I would just like to add:

    “women who read books live outside the US – in all sorts of different countries!!!!!!”

  54. SAO
    Mar 10, 2009 @ 06:37:24

    Text books are heavy and expensive, part of the expense is printing all that paper for such a short period of time. Sign up with textbook publishers and the market will boom. Students would be much happier carrying one e-book reader than 3 heavy text books. Once they have them, they’ll buy e-books.

    This means there has to be a way to highlight text.

  55. Jane
    Mar 10, 2009 @ 07:46:56

    @SAO Both the Kindle and the Sony 700 allow you to highlight text.

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