Saturday, June 02, 2012

Curisoa and Curiosa

We must have blinked and missed the recent poll by into our reading habits.

The survey of some 1,863 UK readers threw up some interesting claims. One third of those surveyed claim that they had read erotic novels on their digital readers, 57% claimed that the ereaders gave them the opportunity to read children’s books in secret, whilst 26% used the devices to hide their secret sci-fi habit. So are we now reading the books we secretly desire without others knowing our true habits? Should we read anything into the claim that 58% claimed that they used the devices to deliberately hide what they were reading?

Then like a bolt out of the blue, we found ourselves bombarded with ’50 Shades of Grey’ chatter and noise. ’50 Shades of Grey’ was not only propelled to the top of the ebook charts, it also became the book everyone was talking about and it was erotica! So is erotica the new romance and what we are all now secretly reading on our ereaders behind those hidden covers? Is the news that ‘50 Shades of Grey’ has become an overnight success down to a mass digital release of real reading desires, or is it down to well planned and orchestrated marketing plan, it being a real page turner, or is it just a social viral happening we can’t explain that has created the latest ‘me too’ must read?  What is certain is that everyone will claim the credit.

We love the true story about the irate woman who rang a mail order company to complain that her husband could not have ordered ‘this book’ and demanding they collect the offending article. On confirming the order and credit card details she had to meekly concede that the order had been placed by her husband!   

Erotica has always sold, but the sales have not always been measured by the traditional channel. Erotica is often sold best by mail order, the internet, or under the counter, as we often do not want everyone to see what we are buying let alone what we are reading. A teenager will hide it under their mattress and maybe we all now hide it in our ebook collections. We saw the early cathartic moment when the trade suddenly realised that there was a latent demand for romance that could be met by digital. Interestingly, the ‘plain cover’ offered by digital may well change our publishing, marketing and reading habits, but the big question is, how do we measure this market’s potential?

A second question is whether traditional channels can rise to the opportunity, or shun it with a ‘holier than thou’ approach to what their customers really want? Apple have already stated as their policy to effectively reject the material to protect us from these ‘unhealthy’ works. Murder, war, crime is ok, but no sex please we are British.

Some 25% of those surveyed claimed that they were so ashamed of their book collection that if they were to lose their devices they would not claim them back.

However, one of the most interesting claims from the survey is that 71% of the books in the respondent’s digital libraries are thrillers and mysteries followed by romance, humour and fantasy,  but these only accounted for 14% of e-books they read. These means that some 86% of what is read is could be erotica!

Mail order booksellers have long known erotica sells. The question now is whether the trade takes erotica seriously or continues to trade it ‘under the counter’.

Welcome to the world of Curiosa.

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