For many years people have been predicting that eBooks would one day be the demise of the printed book. Naysayers pointed to the dismal percentage of the book market eBooks represent. Amazon recently announced sales of books for the Kindle outnumbered sales of hardcover books. The catalyst of the surge in eBook popularity is the dissemination of the eReader. The last three years have brought us the Kindle, iPhone, Nook, Sony Reader, and iPad, just to name the top eReaders. Digitimes estimates 7.3 million eReaders have been sold as of Quarter 2 of 2010. Heretofore, the eBook could only be read on a cumbersome laptop or desktop computer.
The demographics of eBook buyers tell us about the future of the printed book. According to BISG, eBook buyers are 51% men (compared to 58% women for paper books). eBook buyers have higher income that paper book buyers. Among eBook buyers, 11% no longer buy any paper books. 8% buy mostly eBooks, and about 30% prefer to buy eBooks. This tells me we are far away from the printed book ceasing to exist. Based on the demographics, as long as we have women and the poor, we will have printed books.
I believe we will continue to see eBooks gain market share. As more people obtain cell phones with eReader applications, and eReaders become more affordable, eBooks will surpass printed books in the number of units purchased. According to Wikipedia, the
has 285 million cell phones in use as of December 2009. My wife recently started reading books on her iPhone and said she doesn’t see why she would ever buy a printed book again. I believe people who were born digital will migrate toward the surcease of all printed things. The Baby Boomers will most likely cling to the printed form as a whole. US
The role of printed books may change over time. Instead of being what the majority of book buyers purchase for personal consumption, they may become collectibles to be primarily given as gifts. In the same way that a collection of the Beatles’ greatest hits is purchased as a keepsake, special edition printed books may become the only printed form necessary. Time will tell.