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SURVEY: When Will E-Book Sales Overtake Print Sales?

People love to speculate about the future, and while sometimes the predictions are as outlandish as time travel machines, many times current events can help us see into the future. Given the way e-book sales have been steadily increasing over the last few years, it’s not hard to see that this trend will continue. The question is, how fast will e-books take over the business?

Five years ago, a decent number of publishing people believed that e-books would never outsell print books. Is that still the case? Tell us what you think.

[poll id=68]

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  1. Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:44 am | Permalink

    Doesn’t it rather depend on what your definition of a “book” is? If I digitized (for instance) an old Ken Burns book, bought the rights to the accompanying TV series, threw in some new content (text and video), would that still be an “ebook” (albeit one for tablet, rather than ereader, use)? And if that same package were created by the TV company, issued by them under their logo, rather than by a recognised publishing house, would that then by a TV/movie download with additional text content?

    I think the form is changing. I don’t see “pure” ebooks (basic Kindle content) outselling printed books any time soon – their format is too narrow. But once you start expanding the format, and making use of all the options a tablet offers, can you still describe the content as a book – or is that limiting?

  2. Jennifer
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Years ago, the idea of reading a book electronically left me feeling sad. It lacked all the romance I associated with being lost in a good book. Now, having read several ebooks, I don’t have any problem with them and recognize that they offer several advantages (ease of handling and glow-light being my favorites) over physical books. Now, so long as I have a quality e-reader, ebooks are my preference for everything except poetry and kids books. I still need the physical book for those.

  3. Posted October 3, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    It rather depends upon whether you’re thinking about trade books, professional and reference, academic, or some other types? And it also depends upon whether you’re talking about units sold or revenues or profits.

    For trade books, I would say it will happen within 2 years. For mass market fiction, it will be sooner than that, I suspect.

    For some of the others, the answer may well be “never.”

  4. Posted October 4, 2012 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    I believe that with the announcement recently that e-books will soon be the way students’ will read their text books, that we’ll see educational titles push up sales past the 50% mark by Fall 2014, if not before that date.

    I think that as parents see their kids use their e-devices more often, they will also move over to e-readers, tablets and other devices, perhaps in 2 to 3 years. You may also have a whole raft of parents who end up ‘inheriting’ their kids’ e-readers as they continue to want and get the latest and greatest devices. Mom and pop may then find out that e-reading has its benefits.

    At the time I wrote this, it’s fascinating to me that 19% of respondents didn’t believe that e-books would ever overtake print. I’m not sure what portion of the publishing industry those folks are in, but they will be the 19% out of 81% in ten years who may wonder what happened to the publishing as they knew it. e-Reading is not only here to stay, the evolution of the devices will change how we communicate just as Skype and interactive webinars changed how we can now easily see the people we chat to many States or a couple oceans away.

    With the ongoing improvements via Kindle’s new HD tablet, the fact that iPad is already at 220 dpi resolution, and that it is probably on one to two years before iPad comes out with a 300 dpi tablet, I imagine that most people who haven’t moved over to e-book formats will probably do so well within the next five years. I was surprised that the survey didn’t offer a two year selection window for e-books to overtake p-books. In a few genres, based on the current trends, that seems to me to be a very realistic possibility.

    There are still boats that use sails, even though the big shipping fleets all moved to steam engines and then diesel many decades ago. You’ll know the changeover to e-books is complete when highly successful authors begin to put out their e-book editions months before the p-editions are released. Whatever floats consumers’ boats is what the majority of publishers will do.

  5. Margaret desjardins
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Because of the ease of reading (changing font size, backlight, keeping the page holder), retired readers are steadily marching towards the Kindle. With 10,000 people a day retiring, an with the affordability of buying best sellers and the now well written Kindle Singles for .99 , I believe e-readers will explode. Prices of e-readers are reasonable and with an app can be read on I-pad or I- phone , terribly convenient. As a college prof, I believe required texts will be ubiquitous! Same reasons as above, but more student oriented tools, such as highlighting, etc., are making ebooks so convenient! Self-publishing allows for more authors who are not published yet, but who have a story to tell, to be heard. E-publishing allows all author’s dreams to be realized without subjecting themselves to the rejections, and re-writes that are required by publishers. If you write well, your voice can be heard, world-wide!

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