Today and tomorrow, I'm going to be asking them. I'm speaking at the Appledore Festival in Devon, with a family event on Sunday and school events on Monday.
This won't be the first time I've asked teenagers this question but it's the first time the answer is going to be terribly important. Here's what I've learnt from the few (probably too few to be significant?) times in recent months that I have asked:
- When I ask a mixed group whether they have ever read a book or part of an ebook, about a third say yes. (The others look at me blankly!)
- When I ask those who have not done this whether they would in theory like to read an ebook, most say no. (And I'm guessing it's because they aren't interested in reading at all, whether paper or runes.)
- Of those who have already, many (half?) have no objection to reading ebooks. They seem to divide fairly equally into those who still prefer physical books and those who prefer ebooks.
- And the keenest readers tend to have a passionate view about one form or the other.
- But the interesting thing to me is that of those who like to read on screen, most (hugely most in the small samples I've taken) choose to read on their phones.
Some more questions I want to ask, though:
- When it comes to buying books for their phones or Kindles or whatever, are they allowed to do this themselves or do they have to ask permission? (They'd need to have permission to use a parent's credit card account?)
- How much is price an issue? (A lot, I'm guessing.)
- And how fast is all this changing?
- I'm also interested in whether the Kindle (or other device) is perceived as a desirable gadget among that age group.
"YES!" they are all saying, because increasingly schools are acquiring Kindles and other ebook readers. So, what I will do, to show goodwill and thank them for their enthusiasm, is offer a free pdf version of the text for use in their school. And, as long as they pledge only to use it in school or for school activities, then they can do what they want with it - make powerpoints, copy bits, anything. And I'll hope they (and their pupils?) will enjoy it enough to buy some copies of the ebook.
So, those of you who have already published YA ebooks, what do you think? Do teenagers buy books?
And teenagers - do you?
Parents - how do you allow your teenagers to buy ebooks? Do they have free rein? Do they need to ask you?
I'm really interested! And I'll report back on my findings from sunny Appledore.