Most new Kindle owners buy an avalanche of classics in their initial excitement. All of Trollope for £1.99! All of Dickens for £3! But are they actually read?Though the writer's argument is undermined by her earlier comments (in the same article):
The reading public in private is lazy and smutty. E-readers hide the material. Erotica sells well. My own downmarket literary fetish is male-oriented historical fiction (histfic). Swords and sails stuff. I'm happier reading it on an e-reader, and keeping shelf space for books that proclaim my cleverness.
Publishers say that there is little real change going on, just substitution: those who buy genre books start buying digitally instead. I'm not so sure it is wise to underestimate the boundless idiocy of the unobserved reading public.
Amazon, the dominant player, is secretive with its numbers. As the company revealed its mixed results for 2011 last week, all its UK division would say was that ebook sales over the past three months were up five-fold on the equivalent period last year. No actual data.But why allow the absence of hard data to invalidate literary prejudice?
Amazon has started supplying data to Nielsen BookData in the US for the Wall Street Journal's bestseller lists, but the information is limited. UK publishers know their own genre titles do best as Amazon tells them this privately; across the industry there is nothing to go on.
Oh, and for the record my Kindle includes Dickens, Conan Doyle, Zola and Dumas; all of which have been read. (Even if I am at present working my way through Martin's Song of Ice and Fire ...)