The eBook Revolution

The sale and popularity of eBooks continue to rise against the 570-year reign of printed tomes.

I haven’t seen the numbers yet for 2013, but a quick look at sales figures for the past couple of years shows an explosion in sales up to about 2011 (a Reuters article reported that electronic books “more than doubled in popularity in 2011), and a slight slowdown in 2012.

But based on the publishers’ practices, what I learned in 2012 at the Romance Writers of America Conference, and what I see in the office, the lunch room, home, and on outlets like Amazon, I’m willing to bet the pace has picked up again. According to one article (by Tom Corson-Knowles on TCKPublishing.com), reviewing a Pricewaterhouse Coopers report of the Total United States Consumer book market, the 2013 picture should be something like this, in terms of dollars:

eBooks are cheaper than physical books, and particularly in fiction, it’s likely that eBooks have outsold hardcover books (in number of works sold–probably not dollars spent).

The use of eBooks is growing in more than just fiction. School Library Journal’s 4th Annual Survey of eBook Usage in U.S. K-12 Libraries extrapolates an estimated $73 million spent on eBooks in U.S. schools in the 2012-13 school year, and since the prior survey, the percentage of school resource budgets spent on eBooks has nearly doubled, with an expected triple of that budget by 2018.

Yes, there is still something wonderful about a physical book. I’ve cluttered my walls with shelves of them (not to mention certain floors, drawers, and other previously open spaces). I like the feel, the smell, and it’s nice to be able to easily flip back and forth, and to have a visual sense of where you are in the tale. And for reference books, it’s nice to have a tabletop full of open books, comparing pages, sections and illustrations. But sometimes, the inability to do something simple, like word-search or change the font, makes the eBook format more attractive.

Projections vary. I do not foresee a future in which physical books don’t exist (at least not in a future in which people still exist to read them), but eBooks will continue their invasion into the mainstream for quite awhile. In the short term, the Pricewaterhouse Coopers projection for the 2016 U.S. Book Market seems reasonable.

And I would think the trend will continue from there for at least a few more years. More interesting are the changes to the industry these figures imply. eBooks are easier and cheaper to produce and market. Self publishing is consequently easier. Markets have developed, and will continue to develop, to take all of these changes into account, and in the end, the book consumer, and hopefully writers as well, should benefit.

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One thought on “The eBook Revolution

  1. Pingback: EBOOKS–Here to Stay and Then Some… | Hearts in Ruin

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