Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Making Reading Fit Today's Lifestyle

Is it a surprise that men read less in today’s channel hopping, multimedia, time poor environment? Are we really shocked to find that some 63% of men polled in a recent UK survey said that they prefer to spend time on the internet or watch the big screen version of a book? Many claim to blame a lack of time, whilst 20% stated that they find it difficult or don’t enjoy reading.

So what is the industry response and reaction to the news from the study commissioned by the Reading Agency conducted by OnePoll which polled some 2,000 UK men and women?

Some believe that the answer lies in more of the same assisted by that great give-away event, World Book Night. It’s as if they believe that all can be converted to reading by a freebie and that they can somehow like King Canute, control the tide from coming in. The reality is that social culture is changing and is being driven by many competing demands. The internet and mobile technology is having a significant impact on what we all do, how we do it and where we spend or effort, time and money and although books have significantly benefited from the exposure they have been given, they remain wedded to the physical world and yesterday’s culture. Many still believe that it’s just a case of pouring the finished physical book content into the digital container. They have failed to grasp the opportunity or understand the difference between physical and digital consumption. Some also believe that it is a case of adding more to what already exists and by doing so enrich the physical book with multi media. They have often failed, or ignored the lessons of others and from the often disastrous CDRom days of the late 90s.

To get more people reading and enjoying the experience you have to encourage them by giving them something that fits their lifestyle, habits, time windows and technology today. Some will not take up the offer, others may migrate to the physical book and time commitment and some may remain at the entry point. But trying to force feed them with something that they already have rejected and doesn’t fit their culture is very questionable.

So it’s no surprise to many who have read our previous articles that we believe that the digital offer now requires serious and radical overhaul. Merely pouring that physical content into the digital container is naïve, as it undermines the physical product and makes it a substitution sale, assumes that the experience and appeal is the same and importantly reduces opportunities for authors to reach new audiences.

If we want to grow reading we have to adapt what we expect people to read. We have to give them something that is digestible. Some would suggest that what we are doing to today is like expecting, in the early age of mass literacy, the Victorian masses, to rush out and read War and Peace as their first book. We may learn from other media sectors but we can also learn a great deal from history too.

Making reading relevant to today's lifestyle is different from making today's lifestyle adjust to reading. Giving away books is relatively easy, getting people to change their habits is a lot harder and without change some would suggest that it is relatively easy to predict the results of next year’s Reading Agency survey.

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