This week I had the privilege of meeting academics, authors, publishing folk, and of course readers of romance at What Is Love? Romance Fiction In The Digital Age, hosted by the Library of Congress and the Popular Romance Project. If you’ve never been there, the Library of Congress is beautiful, truly a monument to books. I have included some photos here.
There were a lot of fascinating conversations taking place, both in the building an online. There were discussions on the romance canon, the romance community, and the timeline of romance from the science and history of love to where romance fiction is headed in the future. The panels were lively and sparked great discussions. I got the opportunity to hear and meet people I hadn’t before, including Eloisa James, whose poetry roots rock, and Beverly Jenkins, certainly a force to be reckoned with!
The conversation was online as well using the hashtag #poprom on Twitter. To get the full Twitter conversation, check out the compilation that Kiersten Krum put together on Storify, you’ll get a sense of the conversations we had and some of the best quotes from the day.
I had the opportunity to give a talk at the conference on the Transformation of the Book (you can check it out on Slideshare here). One of the things that I’ve found really interesting about the digital transformation of the book is how fundamentally different it is from other media transformations. And part of that is due to heavy romance readers, who were early adopters of ebooks and ereading devices. That’s right, the romance reader has had a significant impact on the shape of the transformation of the book and they continue to do so. In 2010 romance books were about 19% of all ebook sales, and today they are about 24% — a bigger piece of a bigger pie.*
When ebooks first started to take off, there was a lot of talk and a lot of concern that ebooks would “kill print.” You can see from the data that ebooks are by no means killing print; in fact, print books are still 77% of the book sales market.** There is more in the deck.
And of course there was a sneak preview of Love Between the Covers, a documentary about romance books and the romance community. Even more fun is that Love Between the Covers features our very own romance cover designer Dawn Adams and our Editorial Director Deb Werksman, both doing what they do best! You can see some clips from the film at popularromanceproject.org (and yes, I’m in the film too).
I can’t thank the Library of Congress, the Center for the Book, and the Popular Romance Project enough for giving me the opportunity to participate in such a dynamic and interesting conference. I think John Cole, the Director, Center for the Book at the Library of Congress has it exactly right when he said that romance fiction is “one of our culture’s most popular yet least appreciate or understood genres.”
**from the Book Industry Study Group 2014 Annual Report