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Ereaders Are Becoming Cool

Thursday, 25 November 2010

In the discussion following the recent interview with Ether Books, blogging chum Thomas Taylor expressed a certain anxiety about young readers and iPhone-based fiction :

... it would only work if the target audience is massively into reading on mobile apps already, and those of us writing for children might not fare so well. After all, what is a 12-year-old going to do with his iPhone on the school bus? Read? Or text his mates and play games?

Hope you don't mind me quoting you there Thomas. It's an excellent point.

My initial reaction was that younger readers may well be more amenable to reading on ereaders than the general population. Interestingly, some recent research suggests there might be something to this. You can read it here. It's an analysis of the present wishlists of American children in the 6-12 and 13+ age-ranges.

The figure that caught my eye was that 15% of US children aged 13+ are hoping for an ereader : the same number as want a Wii and slightly more than want an iPhone. Other gaming devices like Xboxes are way down. OK, so we don't know if that's because they already own iPhones etc. but still I think that's enouraging. 11% of children aged 6-12 want an ereader too.

We oldies may stress and fret about the demise of our traditional books. This generation and the next generation will have no such qualms I think. They'll just pick up their ereaders and get on with it.


  1. Those are interesting figures, Simon, but I'm still worried by them. The most wished for item is the iPad, which can be used as an e-reader, but also as a platform for a host of other fun stuff. My concern is that dedicated e-readers will be edged out by much cooler gadgets that one could read on, if only one didn't have a Zargon Deathship to destroy on it first.

    I'm still confident that kids love good stories, but I'm aware that stories told in words have never had as much competition. But still, no one can really predict how it will go.

  2. Thomas,

    Yes, I love that Zargon Deathship game!

    I do take your point - although I think an iPad is probably too big a device for our theoretical YA on the school-bus to lug around. And probably too expensive. But your general point remains good : these cool devices allow people to do a lot more besides reading. I know I play games on mine quite a bit when I could be reading.

    Still, I think it's encouraging so many want an ereader. The other way to look at it is that some computer games have a fantastic amount of high-quality story-telling in them. It's something I plan to blog about in the future, but perhaps we should embrace gaming rather than fret about it?

  3. Absolutely you should embrace gaming! I could give so many examples of fantastic story telling...just off the top of my head, Final Fantasy 7, Beyond Good And Evil, Deus Ex - all completely different but all equally brilliant because of the plot.

    Aside from these 3d graphical adventures however there's a big movement in interactive fiction these days. The most recent "big" news being Andrew Plotkin being able to raise over $26,000 in pledges for his new company to create interactive fiction games for the iphone full-time. (Link: )

    It seems to be a growing sector, but it's always had a strong community and great (free) software behind it.

  4. ...and still, some number of kids will discover the smell and feel of a real book, just as they will discover the smell and feel of a warm fire, long ago made obsolete by technology.

  5. Bruce,

    Absolutely. I think, as Maureen said in the interview, that it isn't a question of ereaders replacing books, but of the two coexisting. For a time at least. Although could you also look at vinyl records, which many of us love and which not many people bother with these days?

  6. If kids are getting their reads on gadgets, I think it's great; at least they're reading!

    I have to wonder if, sometime in the distant future, a child will enter a museum and ask his dad what that figure in the chair is holding. After his dad explains, and the child looks at him with puzzled incredulity, the child will try and find one of those things himself.

    His dad may find him one and, sitting down, opening it up and putting his face in its middle and breathing, he experiences something magical. He smells the wonder, the anticipation of adventure....

    and a new trend is born....

  7. Words Crafter,

    Sounds fabulous. Actually it sounds like a great start for a story ...

  8. So long as children continue to read a story from beginning to end I guess it doesn't really matter how they do so! I sound like a crotchety old oldie! LOL! Take care

  9. Old Kitty,

    No, you sound quite the opposite!

  10. I'm really liking my Kindle, but I don't think it will replace the books in my life anytime soon. I just wish the local public library would lend eBooks in the Kindle format.

  11. Milo,

    There's some talk over here of libraries lending in Kindle format, which would be excellent I agree. No need to bring them back; they can just expire after x weeks.

  12. I recently bought a Kindle and expected to hate it, but I don't. Whilst nothing will replace the feel of a book in my hands, the Kindle is light and easy to use. I love the fact I can turn it on and have downloaded a book within a couple of minutes. I think it is invitable that future generations will choose electronic reading over traditional publishing.

  13. Ellie,

    I know what you mean. I definitely agree that there's room for both books and ereaders.


I'd love to know what you think.