Friday 19 January 2018

The high brow readers with a taste for low brow e-books

Shane Richmond

DEDICATED readers may pack their bookshelves with works by the likes of Dickens, Shakespeare, Jane Austen and other famous authors, but the choice of ebook reading material is a far more lowbrow.

Their runaway success has been attributed to the fact that books can be bought quickly, easily and they can carry huge numbers of titles - more than 1,000 on the new Kindle.

But ebooks are also proving popular because they free readers from the embarrassment of being seen with the latest pulp fiction bestseller - or something more steamy - on the 8.30 train to work.

A quarter of ebook readers are too embarrassed to tell the truth about the ebooks they are reading, a poll of readers has found.

And one in five say they would be so embarrassed by their collection that if they lost their gadget they wouldn't claim it back.

The majority of books on respondents' shelves, 71 per cent, were autobiographies, political memoirs and other weighty non-fiction titles.

But those categories made up just 14 per cent of ebooks read by those surveyed. In contrast, the most popular ebooks were thrillers and mystery titles, with romance, humour and fantasy not far behind.

Furthermore, 55 per cent said they had read fewer than a third of the books they had on their shelves at home and one in ten admitted that they had never read any.

Ulric Jerome, executive director of the PIXmania group, which carried out the survey, said: “It seems that a lot of people are quite glad that when it comes to ereaders you can’t judge a book by the cover.

“Perhaps it’s this combination of being able to keep our literary truths discreet coupled with the British reserve that has made the ereader such a hit in the UK.”

The rise in ebooks has been led by the success of Amazon's Kindle ereader. Though it has been available in Britain for only two years, the Kindle has been so successful that earlier this year Amazon announced that ebook sales had overtaken hardback sales from its website. In the US, Amazon sells more ebooks than all printed books combined.

In September, Amazon updated its range of Kindles, launching a model in Britain for less than £100 for the first time.

Earlier this month, WH Smith began selling the Kobo ereader at similar prices to Amazon's Kindle. Apple, meanwhile, has sold 180 million ebooks worldwide to iPad, iPod touch and iPhone owners and Waterstone's is rumoured to be considering an ereader of its own.

In March, Mills and Boon said sales of its ebooks had more than doubled over the previous year and the electronic versions of the romance novels were now outselling the paperbacks. At the same time, sales of erotic fiction ebooks had increased while printed sales had fallen by almost a third.

Embarrassing titles were beaten to the top of Amazon's ebook chart yesterday, however. The two bestsellers were Walter Isaacson's biography of Apple founder Steve Jobs and Julian Barnes' Booker-winning The Sense of an Ending.

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