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A couple of interesting things happened recently. For one thing, Amazon, not given to revealing sales data except when it suits them, announced that for the last three months they have sold 50% more Kindle books than hardcover books. No mention was made of how either total compares to paperback books, however.

Now, Amazon is not that big in terms of the total book market (between 15 and 20%, last I heard). And I've never seen any numbers on what percentage of hardcovers are sold by Amazon versus in bookstores. Therefore, it's hard to know how significant that numbers is; possibly it's merely intended to strike fear into publishers' hearts. In another part of the story, it says that the growth rate for Kindle sales tripled when they dropped the price below $200. (I am wondering what what growth rate this period was compared to) Plenty of folks seem impressed with these numbers. The NY Times story on it agrees they're significant.

But another announcement may prove even more portentous. Book Publisher Penguin is in a partnership with Starz cable TV channel to create an amplifed ebook version of Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth. Starz is releasing a miniseries of the story, and this ebook version, which will run only on the iPad (and soon the iPhone and iTouch) includes an admittedly neat-sounding “character tree” that looks like a stained glass window and grows as you read the book, illuminating characters names and relationships; other special features are strictly TV-tied: the author's Multimedia Diary, about his impressions during filming; other folks' insights into the making of the series; some music (hymns, soundtrack themes, and battlefield scene scores); and (of course) video clips.

Movies and TV already dwarf books as an industry, so I see this an interesting and potentially scary development. As ebooks grow in market share, does technology hold the end of the plain old “text” book? I hope not. But stay tuned.

And by the way, if you have not read it, TPotE is a good book, with or without the stained-glass character tree!





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Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
misha_mcg
Jul. 20th, 2010 05:02 pm (UTC)
Interesting! I used to be terrified and appalled by e-readers, but now that I have a couple on my computer, they're actually kind of nice. If I could afford it, I would definitely get a Nook. I think the thing that really convinced me was having to MOVE my physical copies of books back and forth twice within a year. The space saved it really fantastic. And if it encourages people to read more then I'm all for it.
karen_w_newton
Jul. 20th, 2010 05:06 pm (UTC)
I am all for books as ebooks. But I am worried that too many bells and whistles could make the
"printed" word obsolete.
misha_mcg
Jul. 20th, 2010 05:12 pm (UTC)
Ah, true. I don't want to be bogged down with extra junk.
karen_w_newton
Jul. 20th, 2010 05:14 pm (UTC)
I am with you there! I have a house full of printed books!
bondo_ba
Jul. 20th, 2010 05:13 pm (UTC)
We live in exciting times. Strangely, despite the current numbers, I think the printed book will survive, but that the mass-market paperback might not make it!
karen_w_newton
Jul. 20th, 2010 05:15 pm (UTC)
>I think the printed book will survive, but that the mass-market paperback might not make it!

That's probably a good bet! A Kindle or even an iPad doesn't make for a good coffee table decoration. I wonder about trade paper, though.
valarltd
Jul. 23rd, 2010 08:58 pm (UTC)
My thoughts exactly. There will always be a market for print books. You can't autograph an e-book. You can't leaf through the e-book standing at the dealer's table as the author tries not to hover.

Also, there's still the digital divide. I live in a town where only 30% of people own a computer. They'll pick up a Nora Roberts at Wal-Mart or Walgreens, but they aren't downloading the latest J.L. Langley.

I see the future of books as hard-cover collectors' editions, print on demand trades and a trickle of mass-market paper for the lower income readers.
karen_w_newton
Jul. 24th, 2010 12:11 am (UTC)
I have bought ebooks while chatting with an author in a bar, though. But they can't autograph the, I will be interested to see if they come up with a way to do that.
tracy_d74
Jul. 20th, 2010 06:22 pm (UTC)
I think printed books will survive . . . for some time. At least in some genres it has to: kids books. I mean, are you gonna snuggle up with your 2 yr old and a Kindle at bedtime. Now, will those books have computer extras? They already do. I'm still clinging to my books until someone rips it from my cold hand. :)

I really, really liked PotE. So good. What a love story. And all that research he had to do. Jeez! World Without End (I think that is the name of the sequel) was good, but not as good, IMHO.
karen_w_newton
Jul. 20th, 2010 07:16 pm (UTC)
Actually, I don't think kids will mind ebooks; I just think it's going to be a good long while until eReaders can be made indestructible enough to give to young children.
valarltd
Jul. 23rd, 2010 08:59 pm (UTC)
Actually, I do. I'm reading to my youngest of my Sony. But until pictures get better and come in color, nope, not gonna fly.


And BTW, Hi. I dropped in from a friend's LJ. I write e-books and have had this discussion many many times.
tracy_d74
Jul. 23rd, 2010 10:51 pm (UTC)
Hi!
karen_w_newton
Jul. 24th, 2010 12:17 am (UTC)
Nice of you to drop in! Have you seen iBooks? They do look pretty spiffy. But I would not let a small child get his mitts on an iPad.
mtlawson
Jul. 20th, 2010 06:40 pm (UTC)
I consider Amazon's and the "super duper" eBook (for iPad) release stuff an advance shot in the now suddenly crowded eReader field.

Amazon has the lead and iPad has the "oo--Apple!" cachet, but there are now a bunch of cheap eReaders out on the market for a little more than $100, all of them using eInk. If you want an eReader, you now have a viable alternative to either big name option.

The two big players either have a closed system (Amazon) or will go to one as soon as they feel they can dominate the market (Apple). They have to differentiate themselves from the inexpensive competition, so emphasizing their unique capabilities is their only hope of being overtaken.

I'm a little skeptical about how the enhanced eBook will help things in the long run. It seems a way to entice people who do not have the patience to read into buying the book. ("Here! We'll do the outlining for you! You don't have to keep track of people in your head!") When you get down to it, however, the enhanced eBook isn't a movie, and you still have to read the text. If you're a person who isn't interested in reading, that little fact is still likely to give you pause.
karen_w_newton
Jul. 21st, 2010 03:24 am (UTC)
I have my doubts about "enhanced ebooks," too. It reminds me a tad of what spec fic fans sometimes say about media tie-in novels, like Star Trek or Star Wars: "They'll pull those folks into reading other science fiction or fantasy books." Except I don't think they do, especially.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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