Online writing will end print books?

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In 2014, I wrote an article about the precarious reign of print books. E-books, their digitalized cousin, were looking to take over the market. While I lamented the downfall of the p-book, I also overlooked the impact of online writing. Online writing differs from electronic books as a reading source.

Recent data from Pew indicates the doomsayers of print books may have been just a little too eager to bury the book for good. Pew Research Center’s 2016 Reader Survey shows print books digging their claws into readers, refusing to give up their throne.

Positive news from Pew on print books

Pew’s latest research provides positive news for lovers of the traditional paper format.

  • 65% of Americans reached for print books, compared to 28% who downloaded an electronic file.
  • Readership of paper books rose by 2% over the last year, compared to a 1% increase in e-books.
  • Interest in audio books remained steady at 14%, but significantly less than p-books.

But wait, there’s still more good news for print books

Results from Pew’s 2012 survey signalled an annual decline in overall book readership by 5%. Since this decrease, the percentage of people reading a book appears to have stayed much the same.

Last year’s headlines proclaimed the doom of books once again. According to Pew, readership declined by 2% between 2014 and 2015. This year, the 2016 survey shows readership gaining ground, up by 1%. In the latest Pew telephone survey, 73% of Americans reported reading at least one book over the last year.

Multipurpose devices favoured over e-readers

Americans also favour multipurpose devices over e-readers (Pew Research Centre, 2016)

While e-book reading statistics remained steady, they remain significantly less read than print books.

Also, data gathered from e-readers like Kobo show e-book sales figures do not reflect usage.  on Good E-Reader explains how e-book purchases do not always get opened or read.

Why do readers not open their e-books?

  • People love free stuff including free e-books which join unopened collections.
  • Cheap purchases often carry the stigma of low-quality writing.
  • Readers create archives for reading when they have time, like on international travel.
  • Literary e-books are less likely to be read than genre fiction where plot drives the story.
  • Users are turning to online reading using browsers.

What about online writing and reading?

While many online users read news, lifestyle and tech magazines, blogs, and social media content, little data exists on online reading interests. The focus instead appears to be on how people read online, rather than what they read and why.

Online Writing is the final subject in my Masters of Arts (Writing) degree at Swinburne University. Learning online writing makes me super excited about writing online.

What makes online writing different to print or a digitalized book?

N. Katherine Hayles’s essay on electronic literature provides a discussion on the development of electronic literature. It differentiates online writing from digitalized print media by being “a first-generation digital object created on a computer and (usually) meant to be read on a computer”.

Also, online writing fuses other technologies such as:

  • video
  • sound
  • hypertext links
  • graphics
  • fancy techno plugins and objects made with flash or javascript

to create an interactive experience for the reader.

Online writing includes blogging

Blogging is a just one type of online writing.

Aside from writing for websites and blogging, e-literature also includes:

  • e-journals and short stories published on author’s websites
  • experimental e-literature (check out the projects archived at eliterature.com)
  • choose your own adventure stories that take advantage of hypertext links
  • social media storytelling sometimes referred to as transmedia storytelling

While I do not agree with the doomsayers who say the end of the print book is nigh, as a writer, I feel encouraged to explore different types of creative writing. That includes continuing my story writing projects aimed at traditional print media formats, but also developing projects that combine my passion for creative writing with online writing.

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