Great engagement or active disinterest

E-books today have about five percent of the book market. Audio books are more popular and are increasing their market share faster, but there are far more e-books than audio books on the market. In her dissertation "Selling and landing e-books: Changes in the Swedish literary field," Birgitta Wallin, Senior Lecturer in library and information science, has examined the views of the distributors. Through surveys and interviews with libraries and bookstores, both physical and web-based, two different main ways of responding to the e-book are evident.

"Libraries have generally chosen to offer e-books and are at the forefront of offering their borrowers new formats even if the lending of digital books is expensive for the libraries. The physical bookstores do not--they are not interested. They see that they are good at selling printed books and intend to continue with this," says Birgitta Wallin.

Several bookshops told us that they had tried to sell e-books, but did not receive much interest from their customers. And since the market for e-books is still so small, they have so far left the e-book alone. However, there are players who have done the opposite, such as a specialist bookstore that successfully invested in e-books for their young customers. Online bookstores do not sell many digital books but subscription services such as BookBeat and Storytel have entered the digital book market and offer their customers a kind of library-like service in which the customer can read as much they want at a low monthly cost.

The e-book becomes more accessible

Birgitta Wallin describes that it has long been difficult to borrow digital books through libraries. But this will change. Now there is competition in the market and in the future it will be much easier to borrow both e-books and audio books from libraries.

There are several advantages to reading books digitally. Anyone who reads on an e-book reader can, for example, enlarge the text and change contrast levels, which can be good for older people or people with visual impairment. The great advantage of the e-book is accessibility. According to Birgitta Wallin, "Audio and e-books change everything. When we sit at home in the evening and are eager to read something, we can do so right away, even if the library or bookstore are closed. It is a whole new way to consume material, not just books but also other entertainment."

Birgitta Wallin defended her doctoral thesis in library and information science at the University of Borås on 22 February.

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Doctoral thesis title: "Selling and lending e-books: Changes in the Swedish literary field" (External link to the thesis)
Supervisor: Elena Maceviciute

The case of the e-book in a "small language" culture: Media, technology and effects in the digital society

Reporting about Tom Wilson, who is a part of the project, from the research magazine 1866 number 2 2018

Reportage "How does the next chapter look for the e-book in Sweden" about the project from the research magazine 1866 number 1 2017

Text: Lina Färm
Photo: Ida Danell
Translation: Eva Medin