PricewaterhouseCoopers analysts are predicting (again) that ebooks could soon edge out print as publishers’ most lucrative products. What does this mean? Essentially that a ebook popularity and pricing stabilizes, users will spend more on bits than they will on pulp. The resulting switch could be the final nail in the print coffin.
The NYT created this chart of rising revenue from books, leading to slightly over 50% US penetration in 2018:
Will this happen? I’m not betting on the 2018 number. First, The Digital Reader points out that PwC has been making this same prediction over and over again, year after year. Why? Because at some point they will be correct.
I honestly expected ebooks to overtake print in the US far sooner. The numbers still point to print surpassing ebooks with alarming regularity and print is still wildly popular in Europe. But this will change as cheaper ereaders become available but there is also a generational issue. Kids and older adults – audiences that bookend the book market – are still reading print books as the plethora of 50 Shades, Twilight, and Harry Potter titles at second-hand bookshops can attest. But as parents become more comfortable with leaving a tablet with the kids as they doze off I feel even the first of these hold-fasts can soon crumble. As for older adults this number is chipped away as grandparents and parents become familiar with their kids’ Kindles.
Print books are still commonplace. In order for ebooks to “win” print books have to become cult objects. I, a book lover who understands the amazing tools afforded writers by epublishing, recently purchased a copy of Cory Doctorow’s new book Information Doesn’t Want To Be Free in hardcover. I can’t remember why I bought it in paper form – perhaps I wasn’t paying attention on Amazon – but there is something about holding a nicely printed book in my hand, dust cover slipping slightly off the cardboard cover, and the minutes ticking away into hours as I flipped crisp pages. But, as an indie author, sooner I can romanticize the experience of ebooks the better. We are caught in two worlds and the new one isn’t quite ready yet.