As promised, I thought I would share the results of my recent (entirely unscientific) ebook poll. Much as I expected, the cost of the technology (both for the readers and the ebooks themselves) was the primary concern of many who voted. In total, around 40% of the votes cast reflected the need for cheaper ebooks and cheaper readers. Range was also a factor with 15% of votes counted suggesting that the limited range of titles at present is a hindrance to making the move to the electronic format. A further factor was DRM (Digital Rights Management) with 13% of votes cast indicating that the removal of DRM would be desirable. However, it was encouraging to note that only six votes flatly refused to even contemplate the idea of ebooks – although given that this poll was primarily circulated via Twitter, one has to consider the type of person who was partaking (generally tech-savvy types who would likely give serious thought to purchasing an eReader). Consequently, it is impossible to extrapolate these results across the general population (which makes you wonder why I bothered in the first place!), but it is fair to say that there is a high degree of interest in ebooks and certainly the poll suggests that a number of people could be persuaded to buy an eReader if the price is right. The interest is there, it is up to publishers and manufacturers to meet the demands of the consumers.
Ebooks, audiobooks and VAT
One of the factors keeping both ebooks and audiobooks high in price is the application of VAT at the full 15% rate. Printed books have been zero rated for VAT for sometime now and it is about time that a reduction in VAT was also applied to audiobooks and ebooks. Given that both formats have huge advantages for those who suffer from visual impairments, it seems hugely unfair that they should be penalised in this way. The EU has already voted to reduce VAT on these items, but it is entirely optional as to whether member states apply this ruling. In order to give the government a gentle nudge, there is currently a petition running at the No10 website urging a reduction on VAT on these items. At present there are only 21 signatures and there needs to be over 200 for there to be an official government response, so there is some way to go to reach the target. The petition closes on 20th November so that doesn’t give a lot of time. I would urge people to Tweet about this poll, spread the word and get as many people as possible to sign the petition. These technologies can be of great benefit to those who would otherwise be excluded, so I would urge everyone to support a reduction in VAT on them.
Finally, I have set up an ebook Reader group on Facebook to share experiences with ebooks in whatever format they come in (including on the iPhone). If you are interested/curious/sceptical about ebooks, feel free to join the group and share your thoughts. With the imminent release of the Kindle over here, ebooks are going to get bigger and bigger and there will be much to ponder in terms of how their growth will affect libraries and retailers in the future.