In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway takes a look at a German survey of 20,000 readers that shows young people are reading more intensively, and spending more on books.
In our brand new podcast, Howard and I talk about ALLi’s Indie Author Income Survey. We look at what the figures mean and what story they might tell over the coming years.
German study shows young people are reading more
A 20,000 strong study in Germany gives some fascinating insights into the reading and book-buying habits of 16 to 29-year-olds. The study compares habits in 2022 with 2017. Which means, of course, that year on year trends will be missing. But which provides an interesting comparison with life pre-Covid, and strips out the noise and complication of updates being too regular. The headline figures show that while the number of readers in this group has fallen from 4 to 3.3 million, spending has increased from 392 to 425 million Euros.
Some of the most interesting figures come from the youngest members of the group, 16-19-year-olds. Spending in this group increased by 19%. And the number of books bought on average in that group rose from 7.5 to 12. The influence of social media is clear to see as well. A fifth of purchases came from social media recommendations. This is why Frankfurt so freely gave time and space to TikTok at last year’s Book Fair, and it’s why so many alarm bells are sounding as US States move to ban the immensely popular app.
This is an age range that was briefly in the spotlight a few years ago when “new adult” emerged as a category in its own right. Since then, that spotlight has dimmed somewhat, especially on those in their 20s, as attention ratcheted up on slightly younger BookTok and BookTube readers. Maybe we should start thinking more about how to reach this generation of readers hungry for words. Certainly my own limited YouTube browsing experience has hinted at the avidness of readers in this age group, with the rise of cultural-aesthetic movements like dark academia.
Writers Strike Raises Questions About AI
A writers’ strike is a big deal in the US. It may seem strange to us as indie authors to think of writers striking, given how solitary and self-sufficient a profession we imagine ourselves to have. But when you write for some of the biggest shows and films, a strike can have a huge impact. I remember the last time there was a major writers’ strike. The result was major TV series such as Heroes cutting their series length in half. Daniel Craig even used some colourful language to explain the impact of the strike on the flimsy plot of his second Bond outing, Quantum of Solace.
Now, writers are striking again. And one of the writers’ demands really caught my attention. They do not want to edit or finish off work that an AI has generated. This is interesting because one of the ways in which many commentators have imagined human creativity co-existing happily with AI involves precisely that.
What fascinates me about the way the debate plays out in this TechCrunch article is that it demonstrates the fact that there are two completely different arguments in play. One is about whether AIs like ChatGPT will ever produce really good, nuanced art, given what they are trained to do. And the second centres around whether uses of AI will devalue human effort. One of the things that most frustrates me is seeing people adopt the former as an argument against using AI creatively. On the one hand, it feels to me like just a bad argument. On the other, the implication would be that the moment AI can produce good art, there is no reason to keep human artists.
Bookwire adds ChatGPT to One Solution Software
Meanwhile, AI is in the news elsewhere in publishing. Bookwire has integrated ChatGPT into its One Solution software. This will serve a function we were talking about much more freely before AI-generated art started making such waves. That is, optimising marketing. The distribution platform will enable publishers to harness ChatGPT’s power to generate blurbs and social media posts.
Governments Try to Grapple with AI
AI might be creating particularly large waves in our own corner of the world. But the conundrums it poses have a far wider reach. Governments recognise this and are trying to bolt some stable doors while the horse's footprints are just visible trailing into the horizon. Kamala Harris held a summit with the heads of Google and Microsoft, among others, last week.
UK AI Consultation seeks input by June 3rd
The UK government has already had one massive misstep. After consultation, it sought to extend a copyright exception to text data mining, which would have allowed firms to train AI on any text that had been lawfully attained without paying the authors of that text any kind of license fee. This provoked outrage and was quietly withdrawn.
Now the government in the UK is taking another look at AI. This comes as it struggles to get its Online Safety Bill enacted into law. Which I mention by way of providing context. And when I say “provide context” I mean, “illustrate the fact that with very few exceptions, lawmakers are utterly clueless about how even basic online technology works, let alone its ramifications.” The latest move is from the Competition and Markets Authority. And it focuses on “foundation models.” That is big stuff like chatbots. One of the aims of the consultation just announced is to assess the impact of these foundation models on competition in other markets. The government is desperate, as the failed data mining exception showed, to create the best environment possible for AI-based business. But it is at least looking at what that might mean for other businesses. Like ours.
The consultation will also look at data protection. Which comes at a very interesting time as the UK thinks about rewriting its data protection laws following Brexit. Full details are in the government document here. This is where I usually say “watch this space.” But the government is seeking input to its consultation before June 3rd (see page 9 of the linked document), so I think it's more a case of “speak now.”German survey suggests 16-19 year olds are reading a book a month, and other top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy #publishingopenup Click To Tweet