Book Trends Blog

December 31, 2012

Book Buying Trends by Bob Spear

It’s the end of the year and time for my wife, Barbara, to sum up our bookstore’s sales. There are some interesting results that I’d like to share with all of you.

First of all, the typical customers are in their forties and older. The younger people are, the less likely they are to buy books. Of course some younger people still do, but overall, the book buying populations tends to be older.

The preponderance of children’s book buyers are grandparents. The parents tend to buy electronics. One interesting factor is how many grandparents want to buy books they read when they were kids. Although a few are still in print, they don’t hold the interest of the younger population.

Another interesting fact: 55% of young adults books are bought by adults who prefer reading that genre. So many adults do not have enough time to read as much as they would like. They find young adult books are easy and quick reads with fast developing plots. They are easier to fit into their schedules.

My last article addressed the trends of ebooks, which are having a definite impact on shopping habits. Internet sales are also taking their toll. The current group of young readers, our potential future group of shoppers, are actually being given tablets or readers by their schools. There are some youngsters who have never read a printed book. This does not bode well for bookstores or major publishers.

One interesting trend has been major publishers who have insisted on charging as much for ebooks as they do for printed paperbacks. To me, that is simply greed, because it costs much less to publish an ebook than a printed version, especially since they are producing a printed version anyway. One device they have invented is the “Agency” model, where they dictate to bookstores a 30% rather than a standard 40% discount rate and no discounting the standard retail price. This has come under fire by the Federal Trad Commission in several court battles.

Yes, the book industry is in turmoil. The only easy prediction to make is that the ways to publish and market books will be changing drastically. It is my guess that the days of independent bookstores are numbered. Oh well, I’ve been trying to talk my wife into retiring for several years now.

December 21, 2011

Lazy Book Designing by Bob Spear

My eyes are stinging and my brain is dizzier than usual. I just finished reading for my bookstore’s review two excellent young adult books for consideration of including them on our shelves and hand-selling them once we do. OK, so why the physical impacts?

Both books were interior designed using serif-less fonts. They’re OK for ads or internet usage, but they are horrendous for reading on paper. Why? and Why were they used? Ah, here is my best guess. It may all be about laziness on the part of the interior designer/typesetter. Follow along as I explain more:

Text fonts that use serifs are easier to read. The serifs, those little tittles that come to points on each letter’s lines, bring closure to the letters. They let the eye know what the each letter is (try to figure out if a letter is a capital I or a small L in a sanserif font). Reading the text in a book without that help is daunting at best.

The two books I read were The Eleventh Plague and Cinder, and both were excellent, except for the typesetting. I know whereof I speak. I am an interior designer for books and a design judge for the Ben Franklin Awards. Neither books would have made it to the Ben Franklin finals but would have been rejected out of hand immediately.

So, why would a designer use sanserif fonts for his text paragraphs? I don’t know for sure, but I’d guess it was done out of sheer laziness or for a publisher’s cost cutting guidance. Many people prefer using sanserif text fonts for computer screens, where serifs can become too complex for screen resolutions. For this reason, many ebooks are set with sanserif text fonts. OK, so the designer makes the ebook version first thing since they are cheaper, easier, and quicker to publish. Why go back through and change all the text paragraphs to serifed fonts. After all, they are wider (which may add to the page count) and may create some widows and orphans that weren’t there before (again screwing up the layout throughout the book).

It’s my guess that is what happened with these two books I just struggled through to read with my aging eyesight. I think that many self-publishers may fall into this trap as well (both these books were from major publishers). Give your readers a break and design your books correctly. There is a reason for every designing tradition and standard practices.

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