Friday, May 20, 2011

eBooks have already blitzed the printed word

I've blogged about the way in which the humble eBook seems to be taking on, and beating, its printed counterparts.

Just last year, Amazon.com announced that, for the first time, eBook sales had exceeded those of hardcover editions.

eBook advocates were enthused but most people were somewhat cautious about the announcement - with good reason. The number of hardcover editions sold is dwarfed by the number of paperbacks so, although it was an important milestone, this announcement didn't shake the world.

However, when it was announced earlier this year, that eBooks were now outselling paperbacks, even the most skeptical commentators had to admit that inky stains on dead tree flesh was at risk of losing its dominance in the book publishing industry.

Now -- the final proof.

Amazon has just announced that for the first time, eBook sales now exceed the combined total of both hardcover and softback editions. It seems the eBook is here to stay and picking up speed like a runaway freight train.

The falling price and growing practicality of portable e-readers, combined with the lower cover-price of e-editions are driving this growth at rates which have surprised even the most informed observers.

It's now starting to look very much as if the dominance of the large book publishing houses may be under even more threat than the recording companies who have whined so long and loud about the effects of the digital revolution.

Before the days of the eBook, a would-be writer usually had to search long and hard to a publisher who'd take a punt on their first novel. Now, thanks to the eBook phenomenon, anyone can self-publish for next to no cost -- opening the door to a wealth of previously unknown writers and their works.

Of course the big issue for readers will be that of sorting the good from the bad.

Fortunately, thanks to the proliferation of social networking, even this "problem" may be easily remedied.

I continue to be astonished at how quickly and dramatically the internet and modern technology is changing, and in some cases obliterating, long-standing business models.

But I'm not complaining.

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