The State of our Reading Habits (2015 edition)
I don’t know about you all, but I could use a small breather from the heavy this week. So as I was thinking about this week’s post, I kept circling back to a couple of interesting tweets from Digital Book World. First, a comment from Kobo’s head bookseller, Nathan Maharaj, that “If readers paid only for what they read, publishing would be sunk” (paraphrased or quoted by Jane Friedman), attesting to the fact that so many of us buy books we don’t read right away, if ever. Then Jane Friedman’s comment that “Romance started off as best performing genre in ebook format & still is. Now at 24% of entire ebook market.” (this appeared to be a piece of data presented by President of Nielsen Book Jonathan Nowell).
Just these two pieces of information tell us a lot. Specifically, Romance occupies almost a quarter of the entire digital book market, and readers as a whole (including and perhaps especially Romance readers) buy a whole lot of books, many of which they may never read. We’ve always known that Romance is one of the largest genre book markets, even when print was the only game in town. And we know that Romance authors have been most flexible in experimenting with digital and indie publishing, continuing to expand the genre’s market share.
So, with all that Romance being published, what’s the state of the genre for its readers? I know that as much Romance as I purchase, I’ve actually been reading in other genres more lately (SFF, UF, non-fiction, and literary fiction, among others). And I’ve been reading less historical Romance, which used to dominate the bulk of my reading choices. In fact, a number of my favorite historical Romance authors have crossed over to contemporary, even YA and NA, which has tipped the balance of my reading away from historicals. I’m not sure how I feel about that balance, even as I’ve been enjoying the crossover writing among a number of talented writers (not that those authors who don’t cross over aren’t talented – just that some talented authors whose books I enjoy have been writing books in multiple subgenres).
I’ve also been re-reading a lot of older books, especially some of the older Harlequins and epic historicals. And my consumption of audiobooks has exponentially increased. In fact, there are some authors who have become auto-buy in audiobook for me; the J.D. Robb books are a perfect example, because I can listen to them casually and feel like I’m catching up with old friends without having really high expectations, if that makes sense. And thanks to Twitter recommendations, I’ve downloaded some literary classics on audio, including Lessing’s Golden Notebook and Elliot’s Middlemarch (as well as Gaskell’s North and South, a long-time favorite).
I can also not remember the last time I purchased a Romance book in print – although I’m still reading certain types of non-fiction in print, in part because I can share the books and they’re still really expensive in digital.
So how about you? With all the Romance being published right now, are you reading more of it? And if so, what are you enjoying most? Do you feel like your reading tastes are adequately represented by the current market, and if not, what would you like to see more of? What do you wish would trend out of fashion for a while? And how have your reading habits changed, if at all, since self-publishing became so popular? Do you anticipate any change as agency pricing makes its grand return?