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OPLIN 4cast #380: The decline of the ebook?

Posted in 4cast

printing pressAfter we wrote a post about the woes of the e-reader industry a couple of weeks ago, we saw an article in the British press this past week (first link below) about the predicted decline of the ebook itself. Are ebooks in trouble, too? Could this be true? Is this just something that’s happening in Britain? No, it turns out that this is kind of old news, based on sales figures from the end of last year. And as is the case with many predictions, this one is a point of debate.

  • Waterstones founder: e-book revolution will soon go into decline (The Telegraph/Hannah Furness)  “‘I think you read and hear more garbage about the strength of the e-book revolution than anything else I’ve known,’ Mr Waterstone [founder of the Waterstone’s bookstore chain] told the audience in Oxford. ‘The e-books have developed a share of the market, of course they have, but every indication – certainly from America – shows the share is already in decline. The indications are that it will do exactly the same in the UK.’”
  • A mixed blessing in slowing e-book sales (Publishers Weekly/Jim Milliot)  “The slowdown, of course, didn’t come as a surprise, for as HarperCollins CEO Brian Murray told PW, ‘Nothing grows by triple digits for too long.’ The positive side of slowing e-book sales is that the decline of print books has slowed, prompting many of those interviewed to hope that the industry is entering a more stable and predictable period, one that will lead to a wide number of distribution channels to facilitate book sales regardless of format.”
  • Paper vs digital reading is an exhausted debate (The Guardian/Nick Harkaway)  “Digital will continue to grow for a while at least, and continue to exist, because it is becoming part of the world we inhabit at a level below our notice, no more remarkable than roads or supermarkets. Ebooks are here to stay because digital is, and quite shortly we’ll stop having this debate about paper vs ebooks because it will no longer make a lot of sense.”
  • How are declining ebook sales a ‘mixed blessing’? (Liquid State/Dee Caffrey)  “Just because one format is seeing a slight decline of sales (after the skyrocketing figures that ebooks have produced in the last 5 years), does not mean that the people no longer buying ebooks are now inexplicably turning to print books. That just doesn’t make sense. Nor are new consumers suddenly opening ereaders or print books, because this industry is already a fairly mature one – chances are, people who weren’t previously interested in books are not going to spontaneously flock to ebooks just because the format has changed. People who love books are most likely already in their format of choice, and no amount of new ereader technology will change that.”

Hunger fact:
The various organizations that track ebook publishing statistics almost all point to the fact that strong sales of The Hunger Games in 2012 skewed the numbers so much that 2013 looked bad in comparison.