Thursday, August 08, 2013

Not So Fast: E-Books Will Not Kill Physical Books After All

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A piece over on the Washington Post "Wonkblog" today touches on a trend that I've been noticing among my friends - both in the real world and on the internet.  It seems that everyone I know who wants an e-book reader already has one or two of them.  If not, they have already downloaded the e-book reader apps for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, Bluefire, OverDrive...you get the idea...to their smart phones, iPads, Macs and PCs and will not be buying a standalone reader at all.  

So, as it turns out, the Nook will not be the savior of Barnes & Noble, after all.  As B&N has finally admitted, it just won't happen, so they are shedding that hardware business.  

The huge drop in the number of e-reader sales translates, of course, into a leveling off of the growth of the sales of actual e-books.  And, as the article points out, this is mainly because e-books do not readily adapt themselves to all reading situations.  They are not great for reading in bed, for instance.  Nor for reading long, detailed, heavily footnoted non-fiction books that the reader will want to keep on the shelf for future reference, or if they like, as  "trophy" books.  They are perfect for reading while traveling or commuting to and from the job on public transportation.  They are great for reading in a waiting room.  They are wonderful for snatching a page or two of reading while standing in one of those slow-moving bank lines.  They just don't work everywhere.

As the article puts it:
But the fact that that leveling off is already happening with e-books suggests that the ratio of printed books sold to electronic books is going to stabilize at a higher level than it had seemed likely a year or two ago in the era of extraordinary e-book growth. 

Read the whole Washington Post article here (I find it ironic that Amazon's founder just bought this newspaper).

I admit that I like this trend.  It means that print books are very likely to continue to dominate the publishing industry both in sales and prestige.  As an avid reader and book collector, I like that.

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