By Paul Hudson
When it came, the digital music revolution was relatively swift. We can argue about how predictable it was and whether the music industry was caught on the back foot, but when Apple released the iPod in 2001 it revolutionised the music industry for good. The impact can be seen today with music shops such as HMV regularly issuing profit warnings.
Yet when we analyse the timeline the death of the physical CD has been relatively slow, it has taken a whole decade and the CD is still alive and HMV still breathing, if not kicking!
Our research is now picking up a lot of interest in e-readers and the Kindle, to the extent that in our Christmas research for 2011, 24% of people buying tech presents put the Kindle at the top of their list. This is well ahead of last year and far outstrips the demand for other gadgets such as tablets or smartphones. Our online research community, TrendSpot has seen a lot of debate about the pros and cons of e-readers, with many outlining the price as a key reason for it being top of their Christmas lists this year:
“I put my Kindle at the top of my favourites because it is such an excellent device if you love reading and not too expensive. Smartphones, tablets and laptops make great gifts, but their price puts them out of most people’s price range for presents.”
Yet, one of the most interesting things about this rise of the e-reader is that people who want e-readers tend to be over 30, with popularity rising in the older categories. Last year, we saw similar demand amongst these age groups the i-Pad.
This analysis leads me to conclude that the Kindle and e-readers may lead to a revolution in reading and book sales far far quicker than a lot of people would have thought possible. I would even stick my neck out and predict that the digital revolution in reading habits will be faster and farther reaching than that seen in the music industry.
The reason is simple: to date, it has been the older demographic who have been attached to ‘tangible’ things – such as books, CDs, DVDs. For a long time, we’ve liked the touch and feel of ‘real things’, having them on our shelves and on show. The digital music revolution started amongst kids and teenagers, where they were comfortable with buying things that didn’t exist – intangibles. They didn’t care so much for the physical product. The revolution then spread, slowly at first, to the older groups, who still cared for the CD.
In the case of digital books and e-readers, the revolution seems to be starting amongst the older age groups – and taking off at quite a pace according to the research and comments we’ve seen. This all points to them putting down the physical book and ‘picking up’ the digital form far far quicker than they did with music.
Don’t say you haven’t been warned!