There are new numbers out today from Publisher’s Weekly. Ooooh, boy, is it getting interesting.
According to PW, ebook sales rose last month to just about $40 million. Print sales fell to just about $180 million.
There are those who are wandering around with sandwich boards draped around their necks, ringing a handbell, tolling the death of books and traditional literature and proclaiming not only a sea change, but a veritable DNA rewrite in how mankind reads simply because of new delivery systems.
Not quite yet, my man.
I believe that day will absolutely happen, but not in the near future. Not this year, not next year, not the year after.
By the next Presidential election, ebooks could be half the market, maybe slightly more, but it’s going to be awhile yet before ebooks are the market.
Why? Simple: not everyone has ereaders.
Everyone who’s gnashing their teeth over the market has overlooked the fact that not everyone has an ebook reader and that, in this economy, when disposable income is at a premium, ebook readers are not going to saturate the market.
Doesn’t matter if your new book only costs $ .59. If the reader is $399.00 and Susie and Johnny aren’t sure if they’re going to have jobs in three days, you ain’t selling that book.
I understand the economy is transitory and eventually, like mp3s, nearly everyone will have readers, but that day ain’t coming soon.
But when it does, here’s an interesting question: will the ease of access spur more sales? Right now, you have to go to a store and buy the physical book. Or you buy it on-line and wait for delivery.
But what about instant access? If the books are inexpensive and I can get it NOW, am I apt to buy more things?
My personal experience is that I buy more music than I used to because I get it instantly. Will that tendency carry over? And what about people who watch movies instantly via Netflix? Do they watch more movies because of ease of delivery?
The ultimate question, hidden behind everything else, is: will these new delivery systems increase sales?
But here’s another lesson for why digital will never, ever completely replace print: vinyl.
Digital music didn’t kill vinyl and, in fact, vinyl is making a comeback.
Ink on paper will always be around and while I suspect I’ll have a reader at some point, I’ll always read books.
Actually, I could see myself getting a reader as soon as magazines and newspapers pull their heads out and start offering half-decent subscription services, along with value-enhanced content.
So don’t listen to the doomsayers who predict publishing is dead.
Don’t listen to their corollary, either: that publishers have no clue what they’re doing when it comes to ebooks. Those who say that are rewriting the narrative to fit their own notions of what they think is going on.
Look at some of Amazon’s best selling ebooks: George Bush, John Grisham, Stig Larsson, Nora Roberts, Lee Child.
Those writers don’t work for mom and pop publishers, they write for the largest publishers in the world.
In other words, what ebooks are being sold (and it’s still a small chunk of the market) are being sold by the big publishers…you know, the ones who are killing literature because they won’t get with it when it comes to ebooks.
Okay, enough random thoughts about publishing. Time to go check a book out from the library.