>This week has been an interesting one on the e-book front. Amazon released its latest version of the Kindle. The Kindle boards have been alive with anticipation — and frustration — as all those who ordered the first day waited on the UPS truck to come down the road. As I read some of the posts, all I could think of was that scene from The Music Man where a very young Ron Howard lisped his way through “Wells Fargo Wagon” as he and the rest of the town waited for the delivery of the band instruments. Of course, there were the subsequent posts about how wonderful the new Kindles are, about the ones that didn’t live up to expectations and the wails of despair because their Kindle had yet to be delivered.
But the new Kindle wasn’t the only bit of news surrounding e-books this week. There has been a lot of speculation the last few years about whether e-books are really here to stay or if they were just the latest flash in the pan. People have predicted the tipping point for e-books has been everything from just around the corner to years down the road. Well, my friends, I have a feeling it is closer than we think. Laura Lippman’s new book, I’d Know You Anywhere, went on sale the 17th of this month. The sales figures for the first week show that the electronic version of the book outsold the hard copy version. And it wasn’t by just a few copies. For that first week, 4,739 e-books were sold of the title as compared to 4,000 hard covers.
“This is the first book of ours of any consequence that has sold more e-books than hardcovers in the first week,” said Frank Albanese, a senior vice president at HarperCollins. “What we’re seeing now is that if a book gets a good review, it gets a faster lift on the digital side than it does on the physical side because people who have e-readers can buy and read it immediately.” The same article notes that e-books sales have risen to approximately 8% total revenue this year for the leading publishers as opposed to 3 – 5% for the same period last year. More importantly, by the end of 2012, these same publishers forecast that e-book sales will comprise 20 – 25% of their total revenue. Yeah, I think e-books are here to stay.
What struck me as truly interesting in the comment by Albanese above is the phrase “first book of ours of any consequence”. Call me paranoid, but it sounds to me like this isn’t a new development for HC. It’s just the first time it’s happened with one of their best sellers. And, because it has, they can no longer deny the existence of e-books. What will be interesting is to see how HC and the other major publishers react as this trend becomes more and more the norm.
Now, before you point out the study that came out earlier this year about people reading slower on e-book devices, I’ll say I agree with the WSJ article that part of the reason may be the technology of turning an e-page. But there is another reason, at least for me. It is a lot easier with a physical book to skim pages, skipping over those massive infodumps to get to the juicy action, than it is with an e-book. You simply thumb through the pages, scanning for the return to action. It is a familiar action for almost all of us. It is something we have to learn how to do with an e-book — at least in my case. And, to be honest, I hope it’s one I don’t learn because I’m enjoying reading every word an author wrote — usually.
So, what do you think? Are we reaching the tipping point with e-books? Did you find the “books of consequence” language by Frank Albanese as interesting as I did? And what about your reading habits/purchasing habits? Have they changed over the years and, if you are the owner of an e-book reader or a device that lets you read e-books, has that changed your habits? Inquiring minds want to know.