The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 4, 2013

Lee Duran: Readers can expect more changes in 2013

By Lee Duran
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — If you're a reader and you liked 2012, you'll love 2013. That's because it will be more of the same -- more change.

Last year the wonderful world of books smacked us upside the head with one new thing after another. This is good news only for early adapters, making it hard to keep up for many, especially those who liked things the way they were and see no reason for all this folderol.

I sympathize, and in some ways agree, with the naysayers. Not that it will do any of us the least bit of good to drag our feet.

The business and pleasure of books will never again be as simple and straight forward as it used to be: buy a book, open the book, read the book. Now, it's a lot more complicated. The digital age is upon us, and if we don't jump on board it may run over us.

E-books lead the way. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 33 percent of Americans now own electronic readers or tablets, and they're reading more than those who stick to print. That number undoubtedly soared over Christmas, for the younger set especially, judging from the letters to Santa that I read. It seemed as if almost every kid wanted a tablet.

Digital Book World has made a number of bold predictions for 2013, including one that I really like: This is the year we'll see a free Kindle. Of course, DBW made the same prediction last year, but this year many others agree.

Considering the number of e-book sales for the device, free readers make a lot of sense to me. But the experts maintain that it's also about keeping the e-ink e-reader device manufacturers in business.

When paying for a device and given a choice, most people will choose a tablet over a reader. This preference is already showing up as sales of e-readers are quickly falling behind.

Not that the free reader will be the new top-of-the-line Kindle Paperwhite. DBW expects the freebie to be the cheapest, smallest device available. That's not so far-fetched, considering that there's already a $69 Kindle e-reader.

Then there's a German firm that's come up with the Beagle, the cheapest reader in the world, which costs about $13. You put books on the Beagle by downloading them through an app (Android and, soon, iOS) on your smartphone, then beaming them to the reader via Bluetooth.

Another prediction: Conventional publishers will have to re-evaluate book marketing. I know a bunch of authors who agree. Books have previously been marketed with a pre-publication push by title and release date. Books make best-seller lists with careful "laydown" of a title on that specific date, to be greeted with overwhelming sales ... ideally.

After that, there might be a bit more support, but then the book is usually left on its own. When stores stop stocking it, the book disappears to the back