All indications are that ebook reader manufacturers are expecting this holiday season to be the elusive, much anticipated, often-predicted but never quite arrived yet, tipping point moment for the ebook industry.
In this scenario, on Christmas morning millions of people will awaken to find that Santa has decided it’s better to save the trees, and forget that copy of the new Jon Stewart book that Aunt Lucille was hinting at. She’s going to find a Kindle, a Nook, or one of the dozens of other ereaders under her tree instead.
And not only that. Aunt Lucille is going to sit down, boot up that new ereader, and start downloading ebooks. We know, statistically, that people who own ereaders read—and buy—more books than anyone else. So really what Aunt Lucille will be holding in her hand a few weeks from now is nothing less than the future of the book publishing industry.
Throughout the country, what looks like a coordinated army of retailers have set up big retail displays—always near the front door of their stores—hawking Kindles, Nooks, Sony Readers, Kobos, iPads, and all the other hopefuls in the ereader race. Prepare to be corralled into a test drive when you hit Wal Mart, Target, Best Buy and every other shopping destination this holiday season.
The Tide, Approaching Flood?
Until just recently, and despite a lot of excitement, ebooks made up only a tiny proportion of all books sold. But now the indication is that’s changing, and changing fast.
Julie Bosman, writing in today’s New York Times (Great Expectations for E-Readers) reports that two years ago ebooks accounted for about 1 percent of all book sales. Now they may be as high as 10 percent.
Over on Cnet.com there are reviews of 76 different ereader models from 17 manufacturers.
John Biggs writes on CrunchGear.com:
The NYT’s trend piece is correct in assuming that the folks who usually ask for the latest Stephen King thriller under the tree will probably ask for an e-reader instead. Like any technology, it takes a while to build a head of steam but once the average reader gets his or her head around the e-book market, things will change drastically and quickly.
Nate Anderson on ArsTechnica.com goes even further:
. . . devices like the Kindle have now become so attractive and functional that it’s hard to imagine going without a reader in the future. With this newest unit, I’m a convert to idea of e-readers. . . devices are now good enough, and the content is finally varied enough, that it’s possible to envision the wholesale shift to digital texts.
Later, Anderson adds,
Plenty will be lost . . . Book lovers will mourn the change and carp endlessly about typography, design, cover art, and the facing page format, but music and movies have already showed us that people will make the switch to digital convenience even at the expense of quality.
Prophetic words? Or is there something intrinsic that will keep the printed book viable even while ebooks continue to grow?
So ebooks are coming. They are here, and they are growing. Will all those ereaders become this year’s Cabbage Patch Doll, only to be forgotten in the back of the closet by Valentine’s Day? Or is this the leading edge of the big change that will sweep over the book business, transforming everything in its wake?
Stay tuned, it will be an interesting ride. But if you’re a self-publisher, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be getting ready to profit from the wave yourself.
What will it take to succeed in the new ebook market?
Image licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, original work copyright by Nan Palmero, https://www.flickr.com/photos/nanpalmero/