Bookstores in danger as Kiwi uptake of digital media accelerates
- 08 January, 2015 07:28
The rate at which Kiwis are moving away from books, and towards digital media, appears to be accelerating according to research by a local PR agency.
New figures taken by Impact PR from an analysis of data provided by the Companies Office show more book retailers closed in 2013 than in any of the previous 12 years.
Impact PR director Fleur Revell says there has been a 212% increase in local bookstore closures in the past seven years than in the previous seven - a change that could be linked to the widespread introduction of e-reader devices in 2007.
As a result, a total of 291 bookstores throughout the country have closed since that year.
With increasing availability of e-readers and online book downloading services and apps, people appear to be flocking to digital options over traditional bookstores in greater numbers with every passing year.
“This definitely seems to be an increasing trend,” Revell says. “The last three years have seen a steady increase of bookstore closures throughout the country, with 46 closing in 2011; 50 in 2012; and 68 in 2013.
"We also used the same methodology to identify trends among bricks and mortar video retailers and found a similar pattern with video store closures at an increasingly rapid rate."
A follow-up survey conducted by Impact PR on Kiwis’ use of digital media shows many people expect to increase their use of digital media when it comes to reading online, but have concerns about the way that will affect literacy.
“Over half of those surveyed believe the increasing digital media consumption in New Zealand will have a negative impact on literacy levels here,” Revell adds.
“Even the 18-24 year olds who have grown up in a digitally-savvy world are concerned, with 47% believing this will have a negative result.”
Despite those concerns, or perhaps because of them, an overwhelming majority of Kiwis (92%) still believe there is a place for libraries in the future as more e-books are published.
“We asked New Zealanders if they enjoyed going to the library as children, and 84% said yes, so it’s clear they want to still have that experience available for their own children in the future,” Revell adds.
And while Kiwis may be worried about the impact of digital media on literacy, that’s not stopping them increasingly using e-books, online newspapers and magazines to get their reading fix.
Forty-six per cent said they had downloaded or read an electronic/e-book in the past 12 months, and one in four believed they were likely to consume more, or do this for the first time, in the coming year.
“While the numbers of those aged 18 to 34 years old are highest for reading e-books, we found just under 40% of those aged 65+ have also tried a digital book,” Revell adds.
“Plus, a greater number of people aged 55-64 intended to consume more electronic books in the next 12 months than any other group, so this is definitely not a trend limited to the younger generations.”
Meanwhile, uptake of reading online newspapers and magazines was also high, with 7 out of 10 Kiwis having read a digital version of a newspaper online or via a smartphone or tablet app in the past year.
Magazines were less popular as a digital product, but one in four people had read an electronic/e-magazine in the previous 12 months.
“Kiwis may be worried about literacy, but it’s clearly not stopping them from using their smartphones, tablets, e-readers and computers to consume books, news and magazine content,” Revell adds.
“One in five of those surveyed intend to read online newspapers even more in the next year.”
Other figures from the survey show that uptake of digital TV and radio is also high, with TV promising to see the highest increase over the next twelve months as over one-third of Kiwis say they’ll consume more online.
The availability of services such as Netflix and Apple TV in New Zealand, as well as local network on-demand offerings, are likely to increase these figures even further, Revell adds.
“Kiwis are looking for ways to fit books, magazines, TV and radio into their busy lives, so digital offerings that can be consumed wherever, and at a time that suits them, seem to be winning the race at the moment," she says.