Conversations with the Unconverted: Further Shortcovers Analysis

For the most part, the people that I love are book-lovers. Tastes and habits varymy sister is a voracious and curious bibliophile who will read anything from any genre, historical time period or geographic region if it’s recommended by those she trusts while my fiance tends to stick with a handful of beloved authors/subjects and has been known to read the same trusted book four or five times in the span of a couple of years.

In the past six months, both of these readers got iPhones and rapidly became devoted to their devices with a fervor rarely matched. Not since my sister took up knitting or my fiance read his first historical analysis of World War II have these two intelligent people been so consumed. Just starting a sentence with the word “I” (as frankly, I do a lot) would trigger both of them to whip their mobiles out of purse or pocket with no real objective except to bask in the warmth of the backlit glow and fake checking their email to avoid looking obsessed.

Obviously, as soon as Shortcovers came out, I sent both of them a link thinking it was a perfect fit. Imagine my surprise when both of them came back to me with a solid ‘meh’ after trying it out.

So what happened? For my sister, the price of an eBook compared to the price of the more familiar and easier-to-use in her view hardcopy did not make the value proposition work. It just wasn’t cheap enough for her to convert and lose the benefits of the bookeven if that meant carrying a book along with her. She conceded that if she had a long commute, she’d consider it but since she’s usually biking or walking, she’d rather listen to music.

Different reasons led to the same conclusion for my partner…his love of the classics allows him to read his favorites for free, thanks to Project Gutenberg and other public domain digitizers. He’s sticking with Stanza as his iPhone reading app of choice.

In short (covers):

  • Both liked the idea of reading on their device but neither were willing to pay for something that was strictly digital.
  • eBooks are still too close in price to paper books to merit taking the risk.
  • The free excerpts aren’t enough to draw these readers in (and actually acted as a deterrent as it was felt that it was simply an attempt to hook them so they would buy something.
  • The free samples didn’t seem to solve the familiar online commerce browsing problemthey didn’t feel that they browsed this way and felt like they were being heavily sold to (see above).