Thursday, January 10, 2013

"The Death of Printed Books May Be Exaggerated"

This January 4 Wall Street Journal article made my day.  I've been looking for an "unlocked" version of the article for a couple of days so that I could link to it and snag a few quick quotes to give you guys its flavor.  According to Nicholas Carr, "Reports of the death of the printed book may be exaggerated."  Here are a few quotes, but do read the whole thing because you'll feel a little better if you do:
The growth in e-book sales is slowing markedly. And purchases of e-readers are actually shrinking, as consumers opt instead for multipurpose tablets. It may be that e-books, rather than replacing printed books, will ultimately serve a role more like that of audio books—a complement to traditional reading, not a substitute.
Meanwhile, the shift from e-readers to tablets may also be dampening e-book purchases. Sales of e-readers plunged 36% in 2012, according to estimates from IHS iSuppli, while tablet sales exploded. When forced to compete with the easy pleasures of games, videos and Facebook on devices like the iPad and the Kindle Fire, e-books lose a lot of their allure. The fact that an e-book can't be sold or given away after it's read also reduces the perceived value of the product. 
E-books, in other words, may turn out to be just another format—an even lighter-weight, more disposable paperback. That would fit with the discovery that once people start buying digital books, they don't necessarily stop buying printed ones. In fact, according to Pew, nearly 90% of e-book readers continue to read physical volumes. The two forms seem to serve different purposes. 
Might one of the purposes of e-books be to hide titles like Fifty Shades of Grey so that you don't embarrass yourself in front of perfect strangers?

I tell you what.  I was in an Apple Store today and I saw one of the iPad Minis for the first time.  Those little gadgets are amazing.  Sure, they cost more than a single-purpose e-book reader, but they do so much more that I can't imagine anyone opting for the book reader if they get their hands on an iPad Mini first.  Heck, we have two iPads in the house and have owned three of them now...and I was still tempted to add a mini to the arsenal.  I predict that sales of e-book readers are going to go flat very soon and that tree-book sales are going to start rebounding or, at the very least, quit dropping, in the next year or so.

I just hope Barnes & Noble is still around to regroup when that happens.  They won't be if their CEO doesn't wise up soon.

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