If print erotic romance books had less embarrassing covers, what effect would that have on the e-book market for erotic romances? In other words, people say they like to buy these stories in digital format because they don't have to worry about being embarrassed by carrying the book around in a bookstore. If we eliminate that embarrassment, what effect does it have on e-books?
Web readers are early adopters-- I don't mean just people who use the Web, but those of us who are just as comfortable reading online as in print. They're going to tend to be more open to change and experimentation, probably more socially liberal. Erotica's greater popularity online is not always a matter of readers being embarrassed to be caught reading erotica, I think, rather just a recognition of the ease and variety of erotica online.
I, for example, don't read a print newspaper anymore. Still subscribe for the dh, but he's the only one who reads it. Me, I get my news brand spanking up to date on the Web. I read the local paper on its website. When I want to read a classic novel, I don't buy it at Borders or take it from the library anymore. I get it from the Gutenberg Project and read it right there on screen.
Many of us who have been online-- eek... joined my first Usenet group, I think, in 1989-- for almost twenty years would RATHER read online. I still read print books and probably always will-- nothing beats a paperback for inexpensive and portable entertainment-- but I'd say at least 60% of all my reading, and maybe 30% of my fiction reading, is done online. And that's by choice. I'm too old to spend my time worrying what someone else thinks of my reading material (though I do think it's no one's business, including President Bush's intrusive agencies)... but I also want it available NOW. This moment. Instant gratification. And I like the niche aspect allowed by the Web. I can find what I want to find with a couple google strikes.
I think erotica is actually akin to fanfiction. That is, I remember print fanfiction (mostly Trek) was circulated by hand at sf cons decades ago. It existed in a sort of underground designed to avoid the copyright police (there aren't any, but Paramount has been known to make litigation noises now and again). But the Web was practically invented for fanfiction. The Web has made this underground fiction easily accessible and yet as anonymous as the creator wants and the reader wants. It's also searchable. So if I want to read, say, Spike-Starbuck fiction (that is, a crossover between two TV shows, and fairly exotic, I assume), I just google that, and I find it. It's not illegal, but it's a bit secret and that makes it more fun. The best writers are minor stars in that secret world, identified mostly by pseudonyms but fairly well-known. Just as in erotica! (And fanfic authors are okay— have to be— with having few readers, and legally bound not to make any money… unlike commercial erotica writers, at least!)
But that's why I'd say that changing the print covers wouldn't have much effect. It's a new media world— private but interactive. Those who read erotica on the Web, I think, choose that not as a second choice to print, but rather as the first choice. Most wouldn't rather be in a bookstore choosing among the 12 erotica novels on the shelves this month. They'd really rather be cruising the Web, googling, looking for exactly what they want right that moment, effortlessly buying every story by a writer they've just discovered, following links to other similar stories, reading a sample here and there and maybe deciding not to read this one (because it BEGINS WITH A FLASHBACK! Not to mention it has a dangling participle on page 2! Eliminate! Eliminate! as the Daleks would say) and removing it from the shopping cart.
We should exploit the advantages of Web reading. There are many!
Just my $.02, and worth exactly what you paid for it.