by Joseph T. Sinclair.com
I read a lot of press that claims ebooks have reached their peak and will coexist with printed books for a long time. Reports base this on two trends. First, the rate of growth in the market share of ebooks has slowed. Second, the sale of dedicated ebook readers (ereaders such as the original Kindle) has declined.
Although the rate of growth in the market share of ebook sales has declined, ebook sales still grow at a high rate. Ebook sales went from 0% market share in 2007 to a 41% market share in 2014. This constitutes one of the fastest market takeovers in history of commerce and certainly the fastest in the history of publishing. Ebook sales continue to grow, and market analysts have anticipated the sale of ebooks to surpass printed books by 2018. It seems likely, however, that ebooks will surpass the sales of printed books before then.
The dedicated ereader sales are irrelevant. Ereaders are dedicated devices that use electronic ink, but people can now read just as well on their tablets and phones, which are multiuse devices. Ereaders continue to use black & white displays because color electronic ink has never materialized as promised; the colors are just too washed out. In contrast, the color displays on most of the new phones and many of the new tablets are higher resolution and better color than the finest color printing on paper. Finally, because ereaders are dedicated devices and don’t seem to add significant new features with the advance of digital technology, users tend to keep them and use them for a longer time than they do tablets and phones. Thus, the decline in the sales of devices indicates that new buyers are not buying dedicated ereaders, but it’s likely that current ereader owners continue to buy and read plenty of ebooks nonetheless.
One of the biggest problems with the desirability of the ereaders is the lack of competent typography. The typesetting for the ereaders is just too simple to publish all but the simplest books, mostly novels. Yet tablets and phones have unlimited typographic capability that can accommodate any kind of typesetting. In addition, phones and tablets have declined in cost to the point that they are more competitive in price with dedicated ereaders.
All in all, the prediction that ebooks have reached a peak and will coexist with print in the future is just hype published by those with an anti-ebook agenda. (My personal choice of words would be hogwash, but I’ll go with the more acceptable word “hype.”) The real question is not whether ebooks will come to dominate the book market but whether Barnes & Noble can last until the end of the decade. Let’s face it, printed books are on the way out. Ebooks have stormed the citadel of print publishing and have swarmed over the parapet much quicker than anyone predicted.
The author of this article, Joseph T. Sinclair, is the author of twenty How To books published by national publishers.
For low-cost non-exclusive reprints rights for this article, contact sales@AuthorsAndPublishersDigitalReview.
©2015 Joseph T. Sinclair. All rights reserved.