Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In Defense of Print

Lately the majority of email I get, and the authors I meet, all want to know one thing:

Are ebooks going to replace print books?

Right now, ebooks are a supplement to print, much like audiobooks are. They're less than 2% of book sales. Some industry pros think they cater to a completely different audience than print, and the two can coexist peacefully. Other industry pros are in complete denial. At a recent convention, I was talking to a well known agent about how publishers are artificially inflating the cost of ebooks by charging etailers hardcover prices, and this person told me "You're making me angry. I can't talk about this with you."

Amazing. Ebooks are the big elephant in the corner of the room that everyone sees but refuses to acknowledge, even as it craps all over the floor.

I don't reach hasty conclusions. I like to gather information and learn all I can about something before forming opinions or predictions.

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I do believe ebooks are the future. I believe this based on my personal experiences in publishing, and what I know about the industry. I can also draw conclusions based on my knowledge of other media industries, namely music and newspaper, and my interest in the Internet, digital media, file sharing, and formats.

I'm still in the minority. People are fond of quoting me, or pointing others in my direction, but I haven't seen any industry professionals brave enough to either agree with me, or open a debate with me to disprove my assumptions.

But I have seen a lot of statements, and heard a lot of questions, repeated over and over. Here are a few that stand out:

I love the feel of a regular book.

I hear this a lot. The tactile experience of cracking open the spine and turning the pages. The smell and feel of paper. We grew up reading paper, and we have a good relationship with it that fosters warm feelings.

But what if we grew up reading ebooks? Would paper have a single advantage? Who's to say you can't form that same bond with an ereader?

Actually, if you've ever listened to someone who owns a Kindle, you'd know that not only can you have feelings for digital books, but the feelings are even stronger than with print. Whenever I meet an ereader owner and ask them if they like it, they don't just say yes and move on. They evangalize.

These people are so enthusiastic, so happy about their discovery, that they gush on and on AND ON about it.

Remember that the written word can be written on anything, and it still has power. Books aren't on the page--books take place in our heads. While you can be nostalgic about the delivery system, I highly doubt you still listen to music on 8-track or 78.

I want a tangible product.

Me too. I have over five thousand books. I love owning them. I love how they look on the shelf. I love perusing my library.

But I'll be honest here. I used to have over a thousand cassette tapes. I loved owning them. I loved how they looked on the shelf. I loved perusing my music library.

Then CDs came along, and I repeated the love affair.

Eventually I got my first iPod.

I don't even own a CD or cassette player anymore.

I still love to own. But now I own digital files. I still love to persuse my music library. Except now I do it on iTunes.

Tangible is only a state of mind...

Ebook readers are too complicated.

If a computer is too complicated for you, than an ereader might be, too. But no too long ago, vacuum cleaners, clothes washers, and microwave ovens were considered complicated. Fear of technology is pretty common with the older generation. But the longer a product is around, the easier it becomes to accept, and to use.

Future ereading devices will become simpler and simpler as the developers strive to reach those late adopters.

Ebooks are a niche market.

Well, no duh. All new technology begins as a niche market.

But this is a niche market based on the written word, just like printed books. Except it has many advantages over books, and doesn't kill 40 million trees a year or involve shipping and returns.

By all accounts, more companies are developing ereaders, and more consumers are buying them. Ignore this at your own peril.

You can't autograph an ebook.

I've signed over a dozen Kindle covers, and one Sony cover.

When is some smart publisher going to give away skins or ebook covers that feature the cover art for their latest novel? Or at least sell them cheaply? Wouldn't it be cool to carry around a Kindle that looked like Whiskey Sour or Afraid? I think so too.

Ebooks can be shared and stolen.

The fear over digital rights being abused is real, but there are no clear indicators that sharing ebooks, free ebooks, or stealing ebooks have any effect on sales.

In fact, I think freebies promote sales. Which is why I still give away ebooks on my website, even though I'm selling the same books on Amazon and elsewhere.

Copyright can't be enforced in a digital world. Those who try are going to get more frustrated, protective, and paranoid, and ultimately they aren't going to protect a damn thing. Ask the MPAA, the RIAA, and the billions of people file sharing.

EReaders are too expensive.

The Kindle debuted in 2007 at $399. Two years later it's $259. Give it another two years, and we'll see $150, or less.

Tech prices come down. Always.

Books will never disappear.

I agree. There are billions of them on the planet.

But will the printed book remain the main mode of delivery for the printed word?

I doubt it. Anymore than newspapers remained the main form of delivery for news, or CDs remained the main form of delivery for music.

Remember all the music stores? Remember Coconuts, FlipSide, Tower Records, Musicland, and Sam Goody? Where are they now?

Amazon sets the price on ebooks, that's why they're expensive.

I've had a few industry pros echo this. So let's clarify it.


Guess what? I bet Amazon, Sony, and the other etailers would love to open negotiations for fair and reasonable ebook rates, which would result in the price of ebooks going down, which would result in more people buying ereaders and ebooks.

But the print industry doesn't want that.

Ebooks hurt my eyes.

I hear this all the time. And, in the case of standalone ereaders, this is wrong.

E-Ink technology doesn't cause eyestrain. At all. It's as passive as reading paper.

Some lament the tech of ebook readers, saying black and white displays are so 1998. They're waiting for color models.

But the fact is, E-Ink is very technologically advanced, and reading in black and white (or grayscale) is the easiest on the eyes. Include the no-flicker technology, and E-Ink is high tech that just looks low tech.

If ebooks are so great, why haven't they taken off yet?

In one form or another, it can be said that ebooks have been around since 1993. So why haven't they dominated the industry like mp3s?

I believe there are two reasons.

First, there has never been a universal format. I've blogged about this before.

Second, because publishing doesn't want ebooks to dominate the market. Why would they? The traditional role of publishers in this industry is to print and distribute books. In an ebook world, their role would be largely reduced, if not completely eliminated.

If I were a publisher, I'd be doing several things in order to prepare for the future.

1. Drastically lowering the prices on my ebooks.
2. Making ebooks available on my website, so I didn't have to share profits with etailers.
3. Publishing my backlist inexpensively in ebook format, and securing rights to as many out-of-print titles as I could get my hands on.
4. Directing the majority of marketing and advertising dollars toward ebooks.
5. Partnering with etailers and ereader manufacturers and offering them exclusive content.
6. Moving toward a digital future where all ebooks are free, funded by advertising.

But I'm not a publisher. Or an agent. Or an editor, or sales rep, or publicist.

I'm just a writer.

Here's the thing, though. I'm secure I'll still have my writing job in ten years.

Since April, I've sold over 6000 copies of THE LIST on Kindle. It will soon be on Sony, iTunes, and B&N. I expect these numbers to climb dramatically over the next few years.

Now I'm actually contemplating a sequel to this book--a book that was rejected by NY publishers--to release exclusively as an ebook.

That's crazy. That's absolutely crazy. I've dedicated my life to getting into print. I've dreamed of having this career since I was a little kid. I've busted my ass trying to succeed in this business, and have the battle scars to show for it.

I love print books. They're the reason I became a writer.

But my career isn't about printing my words on paper. It's about reaching readers with my words.

If readers want to read my words on a Kindle, I'd be stupid not to give them what they want.


Jamie Ford said...

I still contend that eBooks are more evolution than revolution. But at a recent book event a woman in the audience bought my book on her Kindle as I was speaking--which was something I hadn't seen before.

She still wouldn't let me sign the damn thing...

Lisa Katzenberger said...

On a flight home this weekend (from a writers conference), when the flight attendant made the announcement to turn off electronic devices, she said, "If you're reading a Kindle, you need to turn that off too." I think it says a lot that ebook readers have made it onto the FAA's radar.

Spy Scribbler said...

You can get a refurbished 1st gen Kindle for $149. I actually prefer 1st gen to 2nd gen, but my husband wanted the 1st gen, and I was writing an essay, and the 2nd gen is better at highlighting and taking notes which I could use for an essay.

I'm totally guilty of rhapsodizing about my Kindle! I swear to God, I feel LOVE for my Kindle. I have never loved any *THING* so much.

I wouldn't have made the switch had I not been planning to pack up and live in a camper.

But I LOVE the bookstore. They seriously need to find a way to have, like, a special wi-fi when you're in the bookstore so when you order the book on your device, the bookstore gets a cut. In my dream world, bookstores will have physical copies of all books, and we can flip through them to decide and buy, say, a coupon for the ebook. I don't know what I'll do without my bookstores. They need to find a way to survive in the ebook market, because I do believe ebooks will become the primary way people read, especially when a device comes along that will hold college textbooks.

Jude Hardin said...

I think the Kindle and similar devices will become the format of choice for hardcore readers (hi Natasha!); that is, people who devour fifty or so books a year ravenously. The problem is, most people--even regular readers--just don't read that much. Books just aren't a popular enough form of entertainment for digital devices to make anywhere near the impact they have on music.

Ebook sales will increase over the next few years, but I don't think they'll ever replace print. The majority of readers don't read enough to make the devices practical.

Stacey Cochran said...

I am just amazed at how well my Kindle version of The Colorado Sequence continues to do.

This is a novel that was rejected by 475 literary agents and editors (less than 10 even asked to see sample pages), and it has been on bestseller lists for five months straight as a self-published book.

The whole experience has made me wonder how out of touch professionals in publishing are regarding what readers actually want to read.

Anonymous said...


You mentioned before about the enhanced ebook becoming like the DVD is for video. Is it viable for a newbie to attempt this type of ebook?
I also agree with your thoughts on the "feel of a real book." I have students who actually hate using textbooks and like to use their Kindle to read because, accroding to them, its easier to carry

Anonymous said...


I believe ebook sales are more than 2% of the market at this point. I can't believe that my Kindle-published book (it's on Kindle only) would be selling 7,000 copies a month in the DTB world.

Somebody is in denial, and I'm pretty sure it isn't me.


JA Konrath said...

@Jude - That's an interesting argument, but I'm not sure the numbers support it.

There are enough readers to allow me to write fulltime. There are enough readers to support over 15,000 libraries and 10,000 bookstores.

The price of ereaders is already low enough that buying a Kindle and fifteen ebooks a year is cheaper than buying fifteen hardcovers at retail price. And the prices will only drop further.

And ereading devices aside, Kindle is releasing an app for computer users (something I told them to do a while ago) and iPhone and smartphone users are reading on their devices in greater and greater numbers.

I don't agree that ereaders are just going to be for the hardcore user. I foresee a day when ereaders are the preferred form of reading, whether you read two books a year, or two hundred.

JA Konrath said...

@Anna - Your Kindle book is selling 7k per month?

Anonymous said...

Joe, I'm rather curious about your agent's opinion of you selling your unpubbed novels on kindle.

Anonymous said...


No my book isn't selling 7,000 a month on Kindle, it's selling 150 copies a month (average of past 3 months sales). Humble as it is, I'm proud of my accomplishment as a newbie author.

But I digress.

IF your statement (that only 2% of the market is sold via ebooks) is true, that means my 150 a month would be 2% of my sales. Extrapolating from that, my other 98% of sales per month (if I had hardcopies being marketed by a mainstream publisher in the bookstores) would get me a bit over 7,000 sold a month, right?

Now, I'm guessing that it wouldn't be that high (I think 7,000 a month would put me on bestseller lists in my category, in fact I'm sure it would). Hey, maybe half that -- 3500 ?? Woohoo!

Joe, I enjoy your blogs, and I agree that ebook publishing is the future.


Jude Hardin said...

Bookstores exist because a large number of people buy books (mostly bestsellers--thus the name), not because people buy books in large numbers.

I could probably make a nice living selling nothing but James Patterson titles on a streetcorner. Most of those people wouldn't be interested in a Kindle, however, because most of those people only read a handful of books a year. And those are the readers. The majority of the population doesn't read books at all.

Anonymous said...


You are correct. Just like 1% of the population holds 90% of the wealth in this country, less than 5% of the population reads more than 5 books a year.

But that 5% is generating at least 40-50% of the sales in the Barnes and Noble stores (I've read up to 400 books a year at times). What happens when that 5% leave (it's easier to buy and hold 500 books on a Kindle)?

You are absolutely right -- instead of the 50,000 square foot mega Borders store, a book retaller can make do with one rack of Dan Brown, James Patterson, and Nora Roberts -- basically what you get at the grocery store book section.

Midlist books will all be ebooks. That's why authors like Konrath (and me -- my books are midlist) are benefitting from the market at Kindle Store. The voracious readers have adopted ebooks -- they are more convenient (I've heard these readers say, "I don't have to pack 9 books in my suitcase when I travel, and then buy 5 more on the road").

A few bestsellers will remain in DTB versions . . . as you say, you can sell those on the street corners.


Jude Hardin said...

The voracious readers have adopted ebooks...

Exactly. But the voracious readers don't support the industry. There just aren't enough of them. The industry is supported by the millions of people who buy five or six (or fewer) books a year. I'm guessing those people will never want a Kindle, unless there's simply no other alternative, and that therefore ebooks will never replace print.

Anonymous said...

How much does it cost to print and distribute a hardcover in the quantities some midlist book would need? That is what I would expect the difference in price to be. After the hardcover run I would expect the eBook price to drop to just under the paperback price.

Anna, your ebook sales would drop if you had a print version available. So the 50X multiplier would change. It also depends a bit (I expect) on the genre etc.

Dave K

Anonymous said...


Those people will never buy a Kindle -- but they own PCs, and now the Kindle app is available on that platform.

In addition to ebooks being available to anyone with a PC (or a Mac or iPhone or iPod Touch), there will be other multi-function devices (the rumored Apple tablet), and these will accommodate books, newspapers, magazines, etc.

Ebook reading will be platform-independent, so even the 5-6 book-a-year crowd will be reading those on a digital device -- the same device they use to read the daily news, browse the internet, look at videos, make phone calls, and send email. Apple, with the iPhone, has proven the popularity of multi-function consumer electronics.

I agree that print will remain (there will always be those who prefer hardcopy books), but the majority of reading will be done on electronic devices. We've already reached that tipping point with newspaper and magazine content.

--Deb said...

My only real concern about the advent and booming ebook trend? What about longevity? A book I bought 20 years ago is still just as readable today when I take it off the shelf, but what about ebooks? You can't rediscover out-of-print books by browsing around a friend's collection, or the public library, if all the books are electronic files. (Especially if they're as user-restricted as they are right now, where a Kindle reader can't read Sony files, and so on.)

I love a lot of things about ebooks and do truly want a Kindle one of these days, but it's still not the same as owning the dead-tree edition.

You compared this to your old cassette music collection? Yes, formats change, BUT. Music is an insubstantial thing. No matter how it gets to your ears--played live, off a cd, from an 8-track--music itself is ephemeral. The rest is just the media to get it into your head.

You could say the same about the words in books, of course. It's not the physical words that have heft and weight, it's the idea the words represent. But, still ... you have to have something solid to be able to read them, whether that's a book, magazine, or computer screen. Music can be wafting through the air and you can still enjoy it. Words, you need something in front of you--you can't change the relationship, just the means of continuing it.

(Did any of that sound rant-like, or like I don't like ebooks? I hope not! Just some thoughts.)

Christopher said...

Great post. I love my autograph book collection but I love my Kindle also. I think there will always be a place for both.

Anonymous said...

Dave K

All good points. But hey, a writer can dream ;-)


Anonymous said...

"Yes, Amazon does set the price, BASED ON WHAT THE PUBLISHER SELLS IT TO THEM FOR."

This isn't quite true. The publisher sets the price. Amazon can lower the publisher's price, but the publisher still gets 35% of the price it set.

Example: Publisher sets the price at $10. Amazon leaves it alone. Publisher gets $3.50 per sale and Amazon gets $6.50.

Publusher sets the price at $10.00 and Amazon lowers it to $5.00. Publisher gets $3.50 per sale and Amazon gets $1.50.

Amazon used to lower the prices regularly. Now it's very rare.

Anonymous said...

Anyone have thoughts about the idea of an Enhanced Ebook? It seems like that will become the trend.


JA Konrath said...

The industry is supported by the millions of people who buy five or six (or fewer) books a year.

If you say something like this you have to back it up with numbers and facts, or else it's just a guess.

And even if the average book buyer only reads a few titles a year, it's a leap in logic to assume they won't read those on an ereader, once ereaders become cheaper and more commonplace.

Anonymous said...

I'm guilty of telling everyone about this blog. And this blog is the reason why I'm trying to give e-books a shot--I'm going to have Joshua Tallent of e-book architects do the Kindle formatting for me next week.

I'll admit that I was afraid of e-books eating up my book business, but this month the income from my study guides dropped drastically (from 9K to 3K) because Amazon is glutted with used copies now. So what's the difference? Maybe if I sell an e-book version I'll get a few more dollars from people wanting immediate downloads.

I belong to a newsgroup where the members are composed of a lot of older ladies (authors) and talking to them makes me want to scream. They don't want to use social networking, or monetize their blogs, or get a website-- good luck with that! Keep trying to make money from book signings and book fairs...

Jude Hardin said...

Gee, I didn't know I was writing a term paper here. ;)

Here's the article I was thinking about when I came up with those stats, published in the Washington Post August 21 2007.

My numbers were probably generous, actually, since this survey only indicates how many books people read, not how many they buy. We have to figure some of those books were borrowed from libraries or other sources.

And even if the average book buyer only reads a few titles a year, it's a leap in logic to assume they won't read those on an ereader, once ereaders become cheaper and more commonplace.

To me, it's a leap in logic to assume they will.

AM said...

Eventually, ebooks will become the standard form of distribution. Eventually.

But your discussion with the agent got me thinking. I think that at the root of the industry’s objections is the concern about whether or not agents and publishers will still be standing when ebooks are the dominate form of content distribution.

It’s a legitimate concern, but it is doubtful that ebook distributors will replace publishers. Amazon wants to revolutionize distribution and thereby, reduce its warehouse overhead, inventory management, and shipping costs. And by driving the technology, Amazon can help shape the standards that other manufactures will follow. It’s a win-win for Amazon.

The major casualties will be the printers & shippers of paper books and the brick & mortar storefronts.

The agents and the publishers will still be standing. In some form or another, they will be vetting submissions, editing manuscripts, managing authors, negotiating contracts, and marketing their clients’ books. Collectively, they will still represent the Publishing-Industry’s-Stamp-of-Approval.

As far as self-publishing is concerned, reputable ebook distributors will still have to be convinced to carry an unrepresented book. How this will be determined remains to be seen. I suspect that they will create a product category for the self-published books, and they will charge authors’ a base fee to vet their submissions and then charge a per book distribution fee.

If you’re a big name like James Patterson, et al, this will be a prime time to more easily remove the middle man. And yes, if an established author is willing to do all the groundwork, then, they too, may have an opportunity to increase their sales without a professional publisher.

But, overall, I think the basic publishing structure will remain for a long time to come.

Barbra Annino said...

It seems to me that the argument that ereaders won't become mainstream is leaving out the HUGE demographic of non-fiction readers.

So even if people don't read as much fiction, or they check it out from the library, there is always a market for people who need and seek reliable, expert information.

Students, history buffs, lawyers, doctors, hobbyists, gardeners, home cooks, business owners, self-helpers, do-it-yourselfers - the list is endless. I think that's where ereaders will hit their stride.

Barbra Annino

Karen McQuestion said...

Another great post! As a reader I love my Kindle, but I also love books. I am a regular patron of my local independent bookstore and a frequent visitor to the library. My Kindle is great for the ease of purchasing books, and for travel. Traditional books are perfect for sharing and gifting. I don't think ebooks will replace regular books anytime soon. As Joe pointed out, it's just another format.

And of course, as a writer I'm inclined to like the Kindle since my books on Kindle are selling well. :)

JFBookman said...

Funny, Joe, I was posting about this topic (very briefly) today also. Man, those ereaders are not nice. Not kind on the eyes, expensive, and every book looks the same. Let's hope print holds up for a while yet. Here's the post: http://bit.ly/1aWRE5

JA Konrath said...

To me, it's a leap in logic to assume they will.

You read my blog, right? I've sold 12,000 ebooks in a little over six months. And this is just the start of a very long tail.

We've got an entire generation growing up learning to read on computers. It's not a question of if print gets surpassed. It's a question of when.

Maria said...

If readers want to read my words on a Kindle, I'd be stupid not to give them what they want.
end quote

I think that pretty much sums it up. I'm with you--if there are readers looking to buy books, that is where I want my books to be.

Jude Hardin said...

You're making me angry. I can't talk about this with you.


JA Konrath said...

LOL Jude.

Mark Terry said...

I don't know exactly where I fall on this, although I find Jude's arguments pretty strong. Here's what I CAN say, which is completely anecdotal, but...

1. I've never seen a Kindle in the wild. Ever.

2. I've referred to the Kindle in casual conversation over the last year to more than a dozen people and only about one of them has even heard of it. These people are not readers, apparently. Or if they are, they pick up Oprah's book pick or James Patterson's book just before they go on vacation so they can read on the plane. (I mean, really, this shocks the hell out of me, but it's happened so consistently that I can only think that a majority of people just plain don't read).

3. And if you buy the assertion of #2, then I question whether those same people will be willing to pay $150, let alone $250 for an e-reader. But...

4. I have hopes that Apple's actually going to cough up a tablet computer at the end of this year, beginning of next, which would have an e-reader ability (but where would you download books from? iTunes?). Then it would be a multi-media device, one I could read books on, watch TV shows and movies, play video games, read magazines & newspapers, surf the web, listen to music, etc.

5. Concern: if you have a multi-media device, will you bother to read on it?

Anonymous said...

@ Mark Terry

"Apple's actually going to cough up a tablet computer at the end of this year, beginning of next, which would have an e-reader ability (but where would you download books from? iTunes?)."

You'd download them from Amazon Kindle store, the same as I do right now on other Apple products (iPhone, iPod Touch). The Kindle app is free, and shopping for books is easy -- Kindle Store has an interface designed for these devices.

I've read Kindle books on a multi-function device (iPhone, iPod Touch) that is a much smaller screen than the proposed Apple Tablet device. One friend has read over 40 books on his iPhone (all from Kindle Store).

You ask, will people bother to read on a multi-function device? Yes. They already are doing it, and rumor has it that Apple is aggressively signing deals with NYT and other publications to offer content.

Anne Lyken-Garner said...

I love the way you supplied arguments or thoughts from both sides. This kind of 'debate' usually ends up with finger pointing and clueless blaming. I'm going to include a link to this post on my new writing blog as 'resourceful articles' for writers.

Mark Terry said...

Anonymous 9:31,
I've tried reading books on the iPhone Kindle app, and although I'm very impressed with it, my middle-aged eyes just can't deal with the size of the reader. But if Apple actually comes out with something later this year or Q1 2010, and the rumors are pretty strong (but then again, the rumors have been out there for over a year), I'll buy one.

Scott Marlowe said...

This editorial touches on a lot of the points you've been making, Joe. Thought it might be worth a read.

Do Authors Still Need Publishers?

Of particular note:

"...at one time it was virtually impossible to publish without a publisher. Today, the game has changed. New tools for publishing, marketing, distribution, and selling are available to indie authors and indie publishers, often at little to no cost.

With free do-it-yourself publishing platforms for ebooks and print on demand books, authors can publish in seconds or days.

Of course, just because you're published doesn't mean you've written anything worth reading.

If indie authors want to stand out, they must invest the resources and effort necessary to produce and promote a quality work that satisfies readers."

Anonymous said...

@ Mark Terry

"I've tried reading books on the iPhone Kindle app, and although I'm very impressed with it, my middle-aged eyes just can't deal with the size of the reader."

Interesting. I'm over 50 and I love the ability to size the font as large as I need (essentially creating my own large-print book on the screen). My friend, who has read over 40 books on his iPhone, is also over age 50. He likes the backlighting because he can read in bed with the lights off (while his spouse sleeps). These devices are targeting the needs of aging baby boomers. Kindle even offers an audio option (although I've never used it), and I suspect the Apple device will do that as well.

I expect the Apple device will be optimized for reading, and -- like the iPod and iPhone -- it will blow the doors off in it's category.

DCS said...

I've been researching the available e-readers and came across a funny article in a magazine written in 2006. At that time, Sony was introducing its product and the author was jumping up and down, asserting that ebooks had already failed, this was going to be a fiasco, yadda yadda yadda. What a difference 3 years makes! The future is still mysterious: maybe there will be an ultimate smart phone/ereader/computer that our children's children will carry around. Ebooks are here to stay.

Anonymous said...

Great post again, thanks for the information on ebooks, very interesting.

Ebooks can be shared and stolen.

This interests me as I share paper books all the time and have been known to frequent the used book store before I got my ebook reader.


ms said...

I think your open-minded detailed posts on this are great. That some other writers seemingly aren't interested in being slaves to an industry, that they foremost care about reaching readers--that gives me some hope. If only more writers like that existed.

Eric Christopherson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric Christopherson said...

I'm with the camp who thinks dedicated ereaders are soon going to be replaced by multi-functional gadgets with an ereader as one of the functions (starting in 2010 with Apple's iTablet it appears). I'm sure ereading will spread, including among all those millions who only buy a handful of books per year.

What I wonder about is the market share in two years, say. Instead of 2% could it be up to 10%? Higher?

Eric Christopherson said...

FYI, there's a new estimate by Forrester (a tech market research firm) that sales of ereaders will reach 3 million by the end of the year and a prediction that sales will double next year.

Liz Kreger said...

Very thought provoking blog ... thanx. I agree with nearly everything you pointed out. Yes, I'm still old school enough to enjoy the feel of a book in my hand, but I'm not adverse to evolving to an ereader (when the price does come down a little bit).

I do believe that ereaders are going to eventually take over physical print and applaud that move if only for environmental reasons.

Anonymous said...

So many of the perspectives are right on point, regarding the likelihood of an inevitable expasion of ereading. But I find it a bit odd that while you make the comparisions of 8 tracks, cassettes and CD as being outdated by ipod technology, you overlook the the ipod/iphone as the next vehicle. People are reading more than ever... through their phones. The Kindle is a step toward the evolution of ereaders, but the iphone is logical "next" step.

n s

JA Konrath said...

People are reading more than ever... through their phones.

Indeed they are. Check out my latest blog post. :)

Julia said...

I read ebooks and I listen to audiobooks. I still prefer print. I don't think either will replace the printed book, because IMHO, they aren't as good as books.

Examples given (CDs replacing cassettes and albums, DVDs replacing video tapes)don't address that the new technology is superior.

When the technology surpasses the printed book, I'll change my mind.

Anonymous said...

Just Because its inevitable doesnt mean I have to like it. Your like...a Sith Lord telling us its just easier to give in because its
1) easier to get published
2) eventually we will all turn to the dark side anyway

I admit its a very seductive prospect - so many books at my finger tips - so much power and knowledge so easily obtained...but I still ask - what are we giving up..Just because something is easier or newer doesnt make it better. I knit my own sweaters. It takes more time, its a lot of hard work but in the end..I get a product that fits me better and means more than a mass produced sweater. I made my friend a winter hat that she swears is good luck - she has won every pool match since i gave it to her as long as she is wearing it - cant get that from something mass produced. This same friend sends me books she has read. we live a whole country apart (Louisana to San Francisco)...but when I receive a box of books from her and her husband...its a bit of them. Ebooks cant be sent with a hand written note and some coffee beans as a birthday gift.

My sister has turned to the dark side...loves her kindle. We used to share our favorite books back and forth. Now - we cant. The kindle is one more nail in the coffin of a society that used to be connected. Now we have digital relationships, digital coffee house (What the HECK) digital books, digital dates...its ridiculous. We will become a society that doesnt interact socially in real life. That really bad movie of Bruce (surragotes) comes to mind....We are exchange REAL for Convientant.

The kindles is a seductive Idea - but I wont be turning to the dark side anytime soon...
Of course - maybe when I actually finish my books...and want to get published....and am no longer just a reader but a writier...(reminds of a T-Shirt - come to the dark side...we have COOKIESS)...


Sarah Woodbury said...

My God, Joe. Were you prescient or what?

I think you were right on every point, though we don't have those Kindle skins yet, do we?