The news this week that ebook sales have now overtaken paperback sales on Amazon’s US site do not come as a huge surprise. Amazon’s Kindle 2 is so light and so cheap that it’s easy to see why people have rushed to buy it – and this form of ‘book’ has been available in the USA for longer than in Europe.
Beyond the device itself, Amazon has also rolled out Kindle apps for various devices, ensuring that people who have an iPad but not a Kindle can still use their books. Once you’re into the Kindle ecosystem, Amazon locks you in tightly (sound familiar?) – just as Apple does with its iTunes/iPod system.
It’s so easy to buy from Amazon’s store and the books are so cheap that it’s not worth the effort of going elsewhere (and that includes iTunes).
The general view is that the ebook market is nowhere near peaking and the expectation is that we can expect to see more and more readers move away from printed books and pick up ebooks instead. But I don’t think that will mean the death of the printed book.
There are some who prefer printed books – I for one do not feel that a Kindle or iPad would feel ‘right’ to read a book on. Plus I like having shelves filled with books collected and read over the years. To me the physical form of the book is almost as important as the words it contains.
Perhaps the way forwards would be for publishers to bundle ebooks with printed ones – in much the same way that film studios bundle DVDs with digital copies of films? I have to admit to being one of the ‘old school’ who still but CD’s and then copy them to iTunes as well. I like to have the ‘hard copy ‘ of music as well.
The printed book will survive, it has however reached a ‘tipping point’ from which there is no return.