The Future of Reading
Updated: May 20, 2020
When it comes to the future of reading, there are two questions I often get asked:
Are Books Dead?
Absolutely not. Our industry continues to grow by both volume and value. How readers choose to engage with stories evolves as new technologies arrive, but at the heart of it – as people, we still love great storytelling.
You may have seen the statistics recently shared across our industry through the #ReadingHour campaign. A study from the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by as much as 68% and it works faster than other relaxation methods such as listening to music, going for a walk or having a cup of tea. The study also found that reading for even six minutes, was enough to reduce stress levels by two thirds.
This becomes increasingly important as our screen time at work and at home accelerates.
(And for the pedants asking about print books specifically, print still accounts for the majority of our sales. Audio book sales are on the rise, and ebook sales have plateaued after years of rapid growth and depending on the genre/market seem to make up anywhere between 10 - 20% of print sales).
What Power do Readers Have?
Readers have a lot of power when it comes to accessibility and convenience, and from my perspective this isn’t something that is unique to book publishing. These days when we publish a book we know that readers will expect it to be available in a timely fashion and broadly across platforms and devices so that consumers can choose how they engage with and share that content. This is a really important for us as an industry, as we embrace and support new technology and continue to find innovative ways to connect with consumers.
On top of this, readers are expecting more when it comes to the publishing side of things. Having a great story is a wonderful starting point, but that’s what it is – it is a starting point. What we’re seeing from consumers now is that they are demanding more in terms of escapism, meaning, learnings, inspiration and aspiration. This is critical when we are thinking about our publishing list and the diversity of themes, topics and voices and so on. It fits well with the philosophy that underpins Pantera Press and our mission which is that we want to spark imagination, conversation and change.
Beyond publishing, we know that consumers are expecting more from businesses full stop. We pride ourselves on a cross pollination of business and social good, where our social purpose is part of the DNA of our company and informs everything that we do. When we launched our new imprint Lost the Plot, we saw just how important the social purpose aspect of our business has been to attracting and exciting a generation of readers to great books. Pantera Press invests in new Australian voices, we publish with purpose and off the back of our publishing success we use our funds to invest in charities and not for profits to help close the literacy gap – because as a business we believe literacy is the first step to changing the world. The Sydney Story Factory is one of the wonderful organisations that we support.
I had a great time chatting about some of this over the weekend on ABC RN with ABC’s Stephanie Smail, Best-selling Australian author Nick Earls, ABC News Digital Grant Sherlock and Neuroscience Professor George Paxinos. The full recording is here: https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/futuretense/future-of-reading/10377538
Ali Green is a CEO, Founder, Social Entrepreneur, Board Director, Woman of Influence & Champagne Enthusiast.