Monday, January 21, 2008

Steve Jobs: people don't read anymore

Apple Inc. co-founder and chairman Steve Jobs was quoted in last week in The New York Times:

“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product [Amazon's Kindle book reader] is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

I haven't been impressed by the Kindle either, but if Mr. Jobs honestly believes people don't read anymore, I'm curious to know what he makes of the fact that in 2006, the book industry racked up $6.31 billion in net revenue from retail sales. (According to Romance Writers of America's 2006 ROMstat Report, romance novels accounted for $1.37 billion of that amount.)

That might not be big money to Mr. Jobs, but it sure impresses me. And it means that somebody is reading books. Lots of books.


ForstRose said...

Well gee if 40% of people read 1 book or less that leaves 60% who read 2 or more books in the year - to me that doesn't compute to people not reading anymore....?

Of course there's me, also probably in a minority, who reads multiple books in a week sometimes and definitely multiple books a month so we are talking in the neighborhood of 50 or more books a year now while alot of those are library books which the sales stats don't even take into account multiple readers for, that would still be counted in the other stats.

And if people weren't reading why would libraries be expanding????
There's at least 3 libraries that have enlarged their facilities in my local system alone over the last 5-10 years and 2 of those in the last 3 years that I know of.

That wouldn't be happening without a demand for their services unless all my econ teachers over the years as well as numerous texts have been either misleading or sorely mistaken about the concept of supply and demand.

So I think Mr Jobs is reading something into his stats that he wants to believe not what they say or what they would say when interpreted along with other pertinent stats.


Neal said...

Mr Jobs makes says some very sensible things, but unfortunately this isn't one of them. He makes cool products too -- I think he should probably stick to that.

His comment sounds more like sour grapes to me than anything else.

Kristin said...

I am thinking Mr. Jobs himself is not a big reader of fiction. And if he reads mostly non-fiction, like computer books/mags, statistical reports for his business, etc., then I could see why he thinks a Kindle or any kind of fictional e-book would be useless.

It would be just like me saying that a cell phone is such a useless gadget and will eventually die out...because I don't like cell phones and I really don't use one. I could live just fine without one. But some people would think I'm stupid for saying that...

We all have different ways of being entertained. Some read, some watch movies or tv, some do physical stuff like rock-climb or sail. Those that like to be active outdoors and in sports, don't usually understand why people 'waste their time' reading books or watching movies.

Connie said...

Brenda this is not related to topic of todays blog but want to ask. When will you have a new book out? Are you working on one now and what will it be about?

Douglas Cootey said...

Steve Jobs, like many powerful, successful executives like him, doesn't have time for recreational reading. He's always thinking of the next big thing and how to monetize it and make it look stylin'. This isn't a bad thing. I happen to enjoy his products, but the thing about Jobs is that sometimes he exaggerates. In fact, sometimes he outright lies. He also said that people don't like to watch video on tiny screens half a year before Apple released the iPod Video.

This quote could mean that he doesn't really get reading eBooks, that he doesn't consider publishing a growing market worthy of his attention (despite Hyperion Books being part of his new Disney family), that he means "people don't read anymore" as opposed to other things they do more often, or it could mean Apple has a new product in the works that competes with the Kindle and he doesn't want to give his competition any help by way of unofficial endorsement.

Considering how tightly Apple wound RSS into the latest version of OS X, I suspect Steve and co. recognize that people read plenty, but that publishing isn't a market Jobs has any interest in.


Brenda Coulter said...

I suspect Steve and co. recognize that people read plenty, but that publishing isn't a market Jobs has any interest in.

No doubt, Douglas. I just thought it a little strange that he seemed to go out of his way to diss the Kindle. What does it matter to him? And as Forstrose suggests, e-book readers have the potential to interest 60% of the American population. That's hardly a small market!

Brenda this is not related to topic of todays blog but want to ask. When will you have a new book out? Are you working on one now and what will it be about?

Connie, dear, I can hardly object when people veer from the topic at hand to ask about my books.

My next novel, At His Command, will be in stores at the end of August. It's set in a small town next to a fictional Army base in Texas. The heroine is an Army nurse who has just returned from a traumatic deployment to a Combat Support Hospital in the middle east and the hero is a former Apache helicopter pilot who suffers from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder--heavy stuff, but I've included lots of humor, as usual. As publication time draws nearer, I'll talk more about the book and post a link to most of the first chapter. Thanks for asking.

Andey Layne said...

Steve Jobs is a moron. *Ducks*

Okay, not really, there is the Kindle's instant-gratification side. (C'mon... wouldn't you rather have your favorite author's newest book (or the sequel to the one you just finished at 3 am...) go 'poof' into your hands instead of waiting until the bookstore opens at 9, or (perish the thought) the mail arrives at 2:30 that afternoon?

Other than that, though, I just can't see the draw. I do a fair share of my reading in the bathtub, and a $400 piece of electronics does NOT belong in the bathroom. (According to my nine-year-old, her Nintendo DS has to go to the bathroom with her... kids are weird.)

Where was I going with that... oh, yes... the book will never die. And Steve Jobs is just miffed that HE didn't think up the kindle in the first place.

PS- Love your webpage. Going to go order one of your books.

Brenda Coulter said...

Thank you, Audrey. I don't suppose this will matter to you, but my book is available in a Kindle edition.