eBooks help the romance novel

At Fictionwise, the e-book seller recently acquired by Barnes &
Noble, about 50 percent of sales are romance books, said Steve
Pendergrast, chief technology officer. “Romance readers tend to be
voracious readers,” Mr. Pendergrast said. “The ability to instantly
download and start reading is potentially more important to that
audience than any other audience.”

…Many readers are still buying. “I would give up something else if money
was tight,” said Annmarie Anderson, a district manager in Atlanta for a
national retail chain, who said she still spent about $100 on romance
novels each month. “I would give up my manicure and pedicure. I have my
priority list, and books are pretty high on my priority list.”

The story is interesting throughout.  Is it because eBooks are impulse, I-want-it-right-now buys?  Or does the eBook-owning demographic have a special attachment to romance?  Are romance books somehow better in the eBook format?

Comments

It's social stigma. People don't want to be seen buying or reading trashy romance novels, but e-books let them get away with it.

Romance novels are consumed quickly and are apparently not valued for re-reading. (Just look in on your local used paperback store. The inventory of romances is huge.) Fits the ebook flow perfectly.

Do these women download children's books on the same E-Readers they use to download their porn?

I like to think their kids borrow the reader one day and ask their mom what a "throbbing member" is.

I'm an MBA student at a well known University and I just got a Kindle for a two week trip to London Dubai and Hong Kong, and because I'm going to be management consultant and I like to read. The ease of use and portability of many books got me.

But I also love reading science fiction and particularly alternate history. The sort of novels that have pictures on the covers of guys in pickup trucks fighting knights and driving around castles. Being able to read these books ANYWHERE while looking professional and not look like a "sci fi nerd" is a huge plus I never thought about before I got the device. I bet the same holds true for romance novels.

Is it because eBooks are impulse, I-want-it-right-now buys?

Don't know, but analogy to my own Amazon MP3 purchasing behaviour leads me to think that might be the case. I purchase a lot more music now that Amazon is selling DRM-free MP3s than I ever did with CDs -- at least a piece or two a week, and occasional splurges when I find a composer I really like. It's much easier, and the gap between identifying a work one likes and buying other similar works is so much shorter. I can buy a piece to try out a composer I haven't heard, and fifteen minutes later, I can be amassing a massive collection of all his available work. In the past, I might have bought a CD in a store or ordered it online, got it a week later, and then thought about going to the store or going back online to get some additional stuff. And in all likelihood, I wouldn't bother.

With ebooks, possibly something similar is going on -- you buy one book and enjoy it, and you can follow-up by buying a lot of the same stuff from the same author right then and there. You're no longer constrained by availability in stores, and there's no longer that lag-time for your passion to flag, in between finding that you rather like something and obtaining a lot more of it.

Signaling, sir!

Psychological Dependence.

Because users want a fix just like last time, we should see serials dominate the category. Readers in a relationship should read less than readers not in a relationship (can we control for time constraints with part-time work vs full-time?).

Any other testable hypotheses?

For the most part, I would say that the suppositions of the previous commenters are accurate.

To wit, the avid reader consumes more books than an occasional reader. Romance readers, however, are iveterate re-readers and ebooks are not disposable bc there is no legitimate resale of a downloadable digital products.

Sales of ebooks largely track with sales of paperbooks. In other words, a book that sells well in paper will sell well in ebook format. Romance books comprise 21% of the overall publishing industry behind religious publication sales (there is something that could be distilled from that but I'll leave the statistical analysis up to Nate Silver). If ebooks are a replacement or substitute for mass markets then it makes sense, just from a numbers standpoint, that romance would comprise a good portion of the ebook market.

As for whether I download my children's books to the same device as I download my porn, I will admit that like gay people, romance readers are known pedophiles and enjoy exposing young children to sexually explicit works in hopes that we can lure them into inappropriate behavior. And let me add, that was a clever deductive comment that I have just never, ever heard before.

err, inveterate.

Or is it because romance is something you want to read when the need for romance hits you. The feeling that you crave. And you need it right there and then. With e-books you can just download something then and start reading.

My mother is a romance author, so I end up hearing a lot about the genre. Romance is popular in e-books because romance is popular in books. Romance makes over 25% of the fiction market and over 12% of the overall book market, and outsells all other fiction genres. Its readers are absolutely voracious; a book-a-day habit is not terribly uncommon. I wouldn't be surprised to find that romance readers are eager to buy a device that could hold their entire library in a single inconspicuous package.

Those statistics may not even include used sales, which are a huge component of the romance market because it's the only way to keep up a book-a-day habit without a very high income. In fact, one of the big "problems" for publishers is that the Internet is making it easier to find used books, squeezing the effective proportion of sales that end up going to the publisher and author. Publishers and authors are focusing a lot of effort on "fixing" this "problem", and e-books, which usually can't be resold, are one of their main hopes.

More romance statistics here. (This is a romance author's group, so the statistics will of course be a little too favorable towards romance, but you can only pretty up bad numbers so much; numbers this good must have been pretty decent to begin with.)

So basically these romance books are porn for women.

Then it's trivial to understand this phenomenon.

Just wondering Adam, BillWallace, etc. exactly how many romance books you've actually read wherein you feel competent to make a judgment call about the entirety of the genre.

I'm amused at the number of men (or at least comments with male names) making sweeping and definitive sounding statements about a genre I'd bet they have never or at best rarely read.

I would agree that portability and to some degree the "embarrassment factor" can help e-publishing along.

But here's another e-book success factor: there are lots and lots of subgenres in romance covering different historical periods, different genre-crossovers etc. They go in and out of popularity. 20 years ago medieval historicals, westerns and genteel regency romances were all huge. Now, not so much. The hot subgenres now have to do with urban fantasy/paranormal, romantic suspense and regency/Victorian historical (I'm speaking in very general terms, there are lots of exceptions of course).

In my experience e-books fill the niches for readers who like subgenres that are out of fashion or not yet in fashion. And they are a great way to build interest in an area that hasn't hit "mainstream" romance publishing yet. E-books have been pushing the boundaries for the "hotter" types of erotic romances for years and that in turn has pushed what is published in the "dead tree" books; moreover the huge popularity of paranormal romance themes in e-books pre-dated the current fad in mainstream books by several years.

And if you are a fan of romance with western settings, there are very few books to choose from in the bookstores now because that genre is out of favor--but books can be published with far less overhead electronically and there are publishers catering to the smaller demographic of readers who still crave Westerns, or Regencies or what have you.

E-publishing is also a way for new writers to break in and hone their craft. There are quite a few writers now doing very well in mainstream publishing who started with one or another of the e-publishers. Again, the lower overhead allows publishers to take a chance on a new name when the vast majority of slots on mainstream publishers lists each month are taken with authors who already have several books published and have developed a following.

Also, I like Jane's last paragraph. Sarcasm is my favorite. But, er, not in this comment, I swear. That was actually a legit comment, Jane. And the last part was funny.

Jane, I don't think your attack on my credibility has any merit even though your implication that I've read zero romance novels is correct. There are other ways to have collected enough information on the subject to make a credible judgment and I have experienced those ways.

In addition I consider my 'judgment' as it were to be entirely positive in nature. There is a vast natural demand in men for a certain thing and porn satisfies that demand, which is why men consume large quantities. This exact demand does not exist in women to anywhere near the degree.

The is a vast natural demand for a different thing in women and romance novels satisfy that demand, which is why women consume large quantities. This exact demand does not exist in men to anywhere near the degree.

I think both situations are great in that a demand is being met by with an obviously well suited product by the market.

My observation is merely that these gender specific demands are extremely analogous. That they share the same relationship as testes and ovaries.

I imply from your tone (always dubious with text so I'll concede it may not be accurate) that you think porn is somehow 'bad' and romance novels are 'good'. If so we strongly disagree. I believe my comparison is to you equivalent to judging romance novels as 'bad', whereas I judge both as 'good'.

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