E-book Prediction: Buy Your E-reader Now!

Do you have an e-reader yet? Well best go out and buy one in the next year. Books are going digital!

Want proof? Well how about Mike Shatzkin’s speculations from his blog.

Here’s an assumption that is not documentable; it is my own speculation. I think we’re going to see a US market that is 80% digital for narrative text reading in the pretty near future: could be as soon as two years from now but almost certainly within five. We have talked about the cycle that leads to that on this blog before: more digital reading leads to a decline in print purchasing which further thins out the number of bookstores and drives more people to online book purchasing which further fuels digital reading. Repeat. Etcetera.
We’re already at the point where new narrative text units sold are well north of 25% digital (percent of publishers’ revenue is lower than that, of course) and we are still in a period that has lasted about five years (soon to end) where the penetration of digital has doubled or more annually. (I italicized that to emphasize that what I’m talking about doubling is the percentage of sales that are digital, not the absolute number of digital sales. Several people misinterpeted that when I made to it previously.)
Of course, penetration will slow down before it reaches 100%. I’d imagine we get to 80% in 2 to 5 years, then then to 90% in another couple of years, with the last 10% stretching out a long time. How long did it take after the invention of the car before the last person rode their horse to town? – Mike Shatzkin (Source)

Of course that is in the USA. In down-under land we like to be on the dull edge of technology and trends. I’m sure many of you are in a similar situation in your countries (UK, Germany, Canada, India, Netherlands, Russia, Malaysia, Philippines – who round out my top 10 visitor countries). So whilst we as individuals may be on the cutting edge, many of our compatriots are still wary of the idea of books that aren’t made of paper. Suffice to say we will probably need to add a few years to these predictions and subtract the price of milk (full cream, not that white water stuff).

What do you think of these predictions? I think most countries will be e-book dominant in 5 years, I’m not sure about 80% though.


4 thoughts on “E-book Prediction: Buy Your E-reader Now!

  1. While I think it is fair to say that we are moving in the general direction of e-book dominance in publishing, I'm skeptical that it will be as fast or as complete as some people predict. This is mainly because many people simply prefer the physical aspect of a traditional book.I do not think the car/horse analogy is valid, for example. Although some people do still ride their horses to town, a car is vastly superior to a horse in many ways (speed, range, convenience, etc.), therefore few people would consider a horse to be their preferred method of transportation. Of course there are advantages to an e-book; when was the last time you picked up a printed book and did a string search for a phrase you wanted to quote? Yet those advantages are not overwhelming as in the case of a car versus a horse.Another reason I'm not convinced about the speed and scope of the conversion to e-books is from my own personal experience of getting reactions from family members when I started talking about buying a Kindle. I'm sure you're familiar with the stereotype of the younger generation being fully comfortable with, and knowledgeable about, digital technology. However, my youngest son (who can be very hard to tear away from playing Minecraft) stated rather bluntly that he would not read a book on an e-reader. With that kind of preference even in the youngest generation, I don't think we will see the relative end of printed books in our lifetime.


  2. Stu, I agree and disagree. The uptake probably won't be as fast as some experts think, as I stated at the end. But I also think that a lot of the reticence to change will be overcome.The "feel" of a book, I think, is rubbish. How many people own a set of encyclopaedias, how many have record collections, and any other example you wish to put up.As to the advantages, I agree. There has to be an advantage and I've covered some in previous posts. Check out my September post about e-books winning. Basically I can get my new books now. I don't have to wait, I don't have to go to a store – if there is a store – and hope they have what I want, the pricing scheme changes, etc, etc.On the e-reader screen, I've heard that argument from everyone who has never read a book on an e-reader. Those same people try one in a store or a friend's and are sold on them. My mum and my mother in law both hate technology and had made the e-reader statement, yet both now have a Kindle.


  3. Yes, I have one and it's my favorite device that I owned! An e-reader is very easy to use, we can find it with Wifi and other great features. I didn't read a printed book for about two years, because I travel a lot and this device I can take it with me… Little by little, many people will choose to read this way! In my opinion, it's not a bad thing!


  4. I've just received my new Kindle. Fantastic reader and I like it more than the Kindle 3. The readers have come a long way in the last 3-4 years.I agree on the travel thing. When I'm on the road I often find it hard to pack my book, or need to take several books "just in case". Annoying. I have 550 books on my Kindle and roughly 600 on the bookshelf at home. Kindle is slightly easier to take with me.


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