Honeymoon’s over. Can this marriage be saved?

So, the talk lately (around here at least) is that e-book sales are slowing down—significantly enough that doomsday prophecies about the health of the format are being bandied about by the ever-unflappable* publishing community. Through several Amazon initiatives that are too complicated and, well, tedious to go into here, that monolithic company has undermined the Indie publishing world it mostly created as well as undercut sales of  traditionally published books.  Then, there are the studies that say that print reading gets absorbed more efficiently into your bloodstream.  And, finally, there’s the “Hipster Effect” which makes anything retro cool again—so the youngsters are all reading paperbacks on the subway instead of Nooks–combined with the “Geezer Effect” which makes all this newfangled technology suspect and terrifying.Kindle and Book

All of these things really add up to just this:  there’s been a correction in the digital book market.  The quick growth of the last few years has slowed down as consumers have gotten used to the idea of a new product, road tested it, and decided that, while nifty, it’s not the be-all, end-all.  Does that mean e-books are over.  Uh…no.  This format has legs, in my opinion.  But, it does mean that it is going to have to get creative about competing against its print counterpart and all the other media we’re collectively obsessed with.   And, that means that publishers, e-publishers, and e-tailers as well as authors are going to need to come up with ideas on how to make this a category that works on its own terms but also complements the underlying publishing rights—i.e., the copyrighted content.

For my part, I’ll just keep doing what I usually do—read both my Kindle and the thousands of print books cluttering my house and office—and wait to see how sales actually look once the dust finally settles. 

What do you guys think about the long-term health of the e-book market?  Is the slowdown a good thing or bad, in your opinion?





4 Responses to Honeymoon’s over. Can this marriage be saved?

  1. I have yet to see plausible evidence there is an ebook slowdown. So that’ were I part ways with this post: I believe the underlying assumption is flawed.

    While there was an Amazon train different than the train today, nobody but AuthorEarnings is delivering hard figures using a methodology that isn’t full of holes. And AuthorEarning also looks at Barnes and Nobel.

    Someday someone will have an webcrawler that hits Smashwords, iBooks, Amazon and Nook. Then there will be good data to make some trend observations.

  2. Reese G says:

    Despite the fact that I have had a love affair with hard copy, dead tree books (I just like the feel of the bulk and weight and texture in my hands. (I have, apparently, gotten my son addicted to this drug as well. He has an antique book collection with books dating back to the 1800s, including a German language Bible with covered hardwood leather covers and the medical book/dictionary!))That being said, I fully acknowledge that modern, instant gratification society is more attuned to carrying around a Tablet than a tablet and is more likely to be found with a Kindle than a physical book.I hope, despite the ever shrinking visibility of brick and mortar bookstores, the physical book trade is not yet ready to breathe its last. But, in the same vein, I cannot imagine the techno-reader of the birthing 21st century being willing to give up the convenience and immediacy of his/her technobooks.Growing pains, sure. But I doubt this child of the marriage of literacy and technology will quietly slink off into the shadows where such horrors as 8-track tapes and Pikachu lurk.

  3. D. C. DaCosta says:

    As Mark Twain might have said, predictions of the death of the e-book are highly exaggerated.

    We are simply entering the mature phase of the market cycle. No product, no matter how nifty or useful or affordable, will increase its sales at the same stunning rate forever. Not possible.

    I wouldn’t say that market saturation is around the corner (I’d bet it’s still a long way off) but it is unreasonable to assume that the initial growth rate could be sustained, and unreasonable to run around shouting that the bottom has fallen out.

    Wait a few more years until the government bans the use of paper and e-readers cost $49 and e-books $.50. Then some of us Luddites may decide they could be worth trying.

  4. Reese G says:

    Well said, D.C. Well said.

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