Four Reasons Why the Sales Growth of e-Books Will Be Slower Than Industry Executives Think

Last week I attended Digital Book World in New York. More than 1,300 industry professionals showed up, doubling last year’s attendance. It’s clear that digital represents the fastest growing segment of the book industry, but will it grow as fast as industry executives think?

A Businessman Trying to Read a Crystal Ball - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/VallarieE, Image #12041842

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/VallarieE

Forrester Research presented a fascinating study, based on a survey of book publishing executives. One conclusion was that “by 2014, [publishing] executives predicted that half of units sold will be e-books, although it was not clear at what price e-books will be sold.”

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I have no doubt that we are in the midst of a digital transition. It is here to stay and is proving disruptive—especially to brick-and-mortar booksellers. The only question is. how fast will the migration to digital happen?

In my opinion, not as fast as the majority of my colleagues in the industry think. I do not believe that by 2014, 50 percent of all books sold will be digital. I believe the number will be closer to 25 percent. That is, in fact, the planning assumption we are using at Thomas Nelson.

Here’s why:

  1. Forrester’s study was based on a survey of industry executives. Honestly—with all due respect to my colleagues—who cares what they think? The only audience I care about is readers. And, unfortunately, consumers are notoriously bad at telling you what they are going to do. The only accurate predictor of trends is how consumers actually behave.
  2. E-book sales are still relatively small. The media hype has outstripped the reality. According to a study by BISG, e-book sales for the fourth quarter of 2010 were only 7 percent of all book purchases. That’s up from 2 percent in 2009 and represents dramatic growth. But this is still a long way from “50 percent by 2014.”
  3. The music industry hasn’t even reached this benchmark yet. Apple launched the first iPod in the fall of 2001. Almost ten years later, digital music sales are still only 46 percent of the overall music market. Yet, if you read the press, you would think CD sales died years ago. Certainly, the music industry has gone through enormous disruption, but digital music has not yet reached half of all music sales.
  4. Readers are more attached to print books. Music has always been an audible experience. It doesn’t matter if the device generating the sound waves is a CD player or an iPod. For everyone but audiophiles, the experience is the same. This is not true of books. Holding the book and flipping through the pages is a cherished part of the reading experience for many readers. (Even e-readers try to replicate the page-turning experience.) So expect readers to embrace e-books more slowly that music lovers have embraced digital music.

Let me be clear: I am not arguing that the book publishing industry is not in the middle of a digital transformation. It is. I am only arguing that the rate-of-change will be slower than the media, consultants, and hardware and software manufacturers—those with something to sell—suggest.

Thankfully, at Thomas Nelson we are ready regardless. Ninety-five percent of the books that generate 99 percent of the revenue are available for sale today in all the major e-formats. In addition, we are publishing every new book simultaneously in e-book and print formats. Regardless, I envision being in the print business for some time to come.

Update: PriceWaterhouseCoopers (“PWC”) agrees with my basic premise. They just released a new study called Turning the Page: The Future of eBooks. They project that digital sales will be 22.5% of total book sales by 2015. They say, “The Gutenberg era is not about to come to an end. … In coming years, printed books will still account for the majority of sales.”

Question: Do you agree with my assessment or disagree? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://jhwist.tumblr.com/ Henrik Wist

    Speaking as a book consumer, I couldn’t agree more on your analysis. For me, especially 4) is the main argument. I like having a real book in my hands, and I am not likely to change that in the next 50+ years. I grew up with paper-based books, mind you, and so do my kids.

    Granted, envisioning the 4 week vacation in the U.S. next summer with the tight baggage allowance makes me wonder if a Kindle would be better than the number of books for two adults and two kids, but I am sure we’ll figure it out. It wouldn’t be the first time that we trade books while on vacation, something you can’t do with eBooks.
    So from my readers perspective, I’d be surprised to even see a 25% share by 2014.

    • http://twitter.com/wyclif wyclif

      >It wouldn’t be the first time that we trade books while on vacation, something you can’t do with eBooks.

      Actually, you can: http://www.kindlelendingclub.com/

      • http://jhwist.tumblr.com/ Henrik Wist

        Oh wow, thanks for that pointer, I stand corrected. Even though I am not sure there is a real need to trade books on the Kindle … after all, they don’t take up (that much) space.

        • http://www.cdenning.com Chris Denning

          I see what you’re saying, but I like the option to trade books because it allows you to sample, or even read, a book that you’re just curious about. I’m not willing to drop $10 on a book I think might be enjoyable, similar to how we’ll leaf through a book at Borders and not take it home.

    • http://twitter.com/adamrshields Adam Shields

      In addition to the lending outside of your account (which I think might go away once these lending groups take off) you can also share anything with the people on your account.

      I have 10 kindles and 5 other devices on my kindle account. I am within the terms of service for Amazon. We all can share all of the books on the account (over 700 last I looked).

    • Drmomjfc

      Yeah for you! I agree…carrying a Kindle while traveling is a convenience…but reading a good book on one is akin to using a microwave to bake a chocolate cake. It just ain’t the same.

  • http://twitter.com/FrozenFabulist John Morrow

    Good article. It’ll be interesting to see how the ebook market evolves.

    As for me personally, I bought a Kindle for Christmas 2009, and since then I would say 95% of my purchases are ebooks. And I’ve bought over 100 of them. (Ya, I read a lot).

    If I had to cite one overall reason for my buy-in, it’s convenience. 100 ebooks take up no space (my house is overflowing with books), I can take all of them with me where ever I go, and I can access them on multiple devices. I am a 100% convert.

    I may not be the average reader though.

    John

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I agree. This is the same reason I own a Kindle.

    • http://www.bretmavrich.com Bret Mavrich

      For many years, my Father recoiled if we would buy him a book as a gift. He is an avid reader and so I always assumed the issue was frugality: why buy a book you could rent for free at a library? This past Christmas, we got him a Kindle, and I was shocked that he loved it. It turns out that the reason all this time was portability.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        My dad loves his Kindle, too.

      • guest

        Your dad can now borrow his kindle books from his local library (MOST libraries have this service).  Surprise!

        • http://www.bretmavrich.com Bret Mavrich

          Awesome. I’ve already told him about it! Thanks for replying though!

  • Timothy Fish

    I think I can agree with your assessment. While it is just a small snapshot of a much bigger picture, sales of my own books doesn’t indicate a fast trend toward e-books. Right now, e-book readers are the lastest toy so many of the people buy e-books now may later decide to go back the other way.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I am finding that I am still buying both. The one thing you don’t get with an e-book is the artifact benefits that physical books provide. For many people, books are still a way that they like to decorate a room.

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

        I do like the look of a filled bookcase, especially with cl,assy looking spines!

        • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org Jeff Goins

          Me, too. I’m just running out of bookcase space!

    • http://endless-satsang.com Nirmala

      My wife and I have the opposite experience with the sales of our books. Ebook sales eclipsed paperback sales last year in plain number of copies, and have recently exploded to be much greater even in terms of the money we earn.

      So we are experiencing very fast growth of ebooks sales approaching a 400% increase over just a few months ago, even as paperback sales have stayed the same over the same time period.

      As they say, your mileage may vary.

  • Pedro Godfroid

    Wrong.

    The e-Books sales stay low because the editors put ridiculous restrictions on the sellers and fix the price of the e-Books too high. It’s stupid that an e-Book costs more than its dead-tree version when the electronic version carries none of the added costs of the material version. Often the e-Book version is even more expensive than the hard-cover edition.

    It’s a consequence of the greediness of the executives of the publishing houses who want to try to take advantage of the novelty milking the cow. Just as the movie and music industry suits, they are wrong and shooting themselves in the foot.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      You might be right. We’ll say.

      I did a study recently, comparing e-book prices on Kindle to print prices. Higher e-book prices were definitely the exception. In fact, the average price of paid e-books (not free) was $8.81. You can find e-books that are priced higher than their print equivalent, but this is the exception. And it is stupid, in my opinion.

      Thanks for commenting.

      • Pedro Godfroid

        Of course my experience is personal and so anecdotal but *all* the e-books that I’ve bought or tried to buy were more expensive than their dead-tree version, often even more than the hard-cover version. That’s why I’m buying very little e-Books and using my Kindle more for its free Wifi browser than as a book reader. I’ve consulted with Amazon and they told me that these prices are imposed on them by editors. Just as the region restrictions that forbid me to buy lots of books because I live in Spain and not in the US.

        • http://twitter.com/DebraDJames Debra D. James

          I was going to buy my own Kindle…I had waited until time seemed right (my 50th). Then just last week I went in and looked at a few books I would purchase and found what you stated–Kindle books are more expensive than the print! This wasn’t the case the last time I looked seriously at purchasing a Kindle. Bottom line, I told my husband forget it. I like having the books in the house. Other issue–none of the E-readers have everything I want. I plan to wait at this point.

    • Anonymous

      I am still convinced the sale price is a sticking point. Though I think more now that is reflective of an industry in flux and it will eventually settle down. I resonated with Seth Godin’s recent perspective that the current pricing model is reflective of misplaced competition and the application of an old business model onto a new technology. It doesn’t quite fit.

      However, I am very enthusiastic to see where it goes. Ebook sales at 7% means the market is wide open.

      • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org Jeff Goins

        I agree with that. The price point still seems high to me. I often buy used books or new books at a discount (via Amazon marketplace or overstock book stores), so I’m not comparing the $9.99 Kindle price to a $25 list price of a hardcover. I’m comparing it to the $4.99 price for which I can get it online or at a local book store.

        • Gmorris

          Just how much lower do you expect the prices to go? Comparing ebook prices to the purchase of used books might seem fair to you, but is it? The author and publisher of those titles you purchase make nothing.

          • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org Jeff Goins

            @Gmorris – that’s fair. I was thinking about it from a consumer perspective. Thanks for the feedback.

    • Shara Gray

      I know this is an old discussion… But I am finding this to be EXTREMELY true when it comes to textbooks. I am paying 3x the price of renting the physical copy to rent an e-textbook for several months. The ONLY reason that I am doing it is so I can convert each chapter into an audio file so I can listen while I work. Most days, I’m too busy to actually read a physical book. I do not understand why the price is so high?! 

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  • Billygood13

    Also to consider is the havoc on the eyes that the computer/monitor produces. Older reader may be able to read short paragraphs, and rest. That is not the way books are read. Also just weak eyes that I have. Fifteen minutes or so, my eyes are burning, bleary, and headaches is starting.

    You will see more of this in the future in when younger reader eyes will be deteriorating even quicker.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I don’t think this is a factor with e-ink, which is the technology that Kindle employs. In fact, this technology was employed to avoid this exact problem.

    • Amiedoll

      The e-ink screen is very easy to read, and a surprising number of kindle owners are from the older generations. The ability to change font sizes, and ease of use for the device make it very user friendly and accessible to people of all ages.

      My own eyes are not that great, and reading on my Kindle is a great experience. LCD and back lit displays are the reason for most people’s eye problems and e-ink is not back lit at all. With the new pearl screen my Kindle has better contrast to many books I own, and the light weight of the Kindle means I can read any size book on a without straining my wrists.

      There are a lot of benefits to using a Kindle and I absolutely love mine, to the point where I have gotten e-book versions of books I own in print.

  • http://brettcohrs.com Brett

    I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but one of the hardes things for me to do since I received my Kindle is to decide if I want an ebook or a paper-based book. I love taking notes on anything nonfiction and until the Kindle gets a stylus or something like that. If I were more of a consumer of popular fiction, I definitely would use the Kindle more.

    On the whole, though, in my roughly 70 person office, only 2 of us have Kindles. My parents–who read voraciously–can’t stand the idea of an ebook. I agree wholeheartedly that the tactile element of reading is huge.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Have you tried highlighting on the Kindle? I didn’t like it at first either. Now I love it, because it saves my highlights to my Amazon account in the cloud, where I can quickly view them. Also, most importantly, I can cut and paste them into Evernote for future reference.

      • Lola LB

        How do you do that?

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Just highlight the text, wait a few minutes then visit your Kindle page, login if necessary, and click on “Your Highlights.”

      • http://brettcohrs.com Brett

        I have highlighted here and there, but I’ve not checked back on Amazon or added to Evernote. I will try that. And is it me, or are oft-highlighted passages noted in a Kindle book?

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Yes, you can turn on or off Popular Highlights, which shows what other readers are highlighting. I haven’t found it too helpful yet. I think the better option would be to invite a small group of friends and be able to share highlights and notes among the group. This will happen; I have already seen a couple of prototypes.

          • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

            I would be willing to give that a shot.

      • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org Jeff Goins

        I use that feature a lot on my iPhone Kindle app.

      • http://www.bretmavrich.com Bret Mavrich

        …and then I just discovered the Evernote extension for Google Chrome. Now, every time I conduct a search in my browser it shows me results within my Evernote files. Finding that specific quote has never been easier.

  • Randall

    I absolutely agree. Coming from the music industry, i too hung my hat on the notion that digital would vastly overtake physical sales… We still haven’t seen that 50% benchmark and we are going on more than 5 years post-napster.. This along with the fact that most of the publishers i know are (with all due respect) pretty old school and unwilling to invest in such a systemic shift in business practices makes your speculative numbers much more realistic.

    (on a side note, i really enjoy your blog.. Keep it up!)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      It was an eye-opener to me to see that only one-third of music sales are digital after ten years! (The first iPod was introduced in 2001.)

      • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org Jeff Goins

        Ditto.

      • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org Jeff Goins

        Ditto.

      • http://www.bretmavrich.com Bret Mavrich

        I would have thought that would have been a show stopper at the conference. That’s kind of an elephant in the room I would think.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Except no one brought it up. :-(

      • Gmorris

        Don’t forget, however, that the figure you quoute is of music sales. The true elephant in the room is the amount of illegal downloading that continues to this day. it is much higher than people care to admit (just talk to some students and ask how many of them pay for their music). So the fact is that downloads have not quite reached 50% of a vastly reduced market.

  • Sjohnston

    I agree. Another thought would be that it is hard to give an e-book as a gift…

    • Genie4711

      Oh! That’s another good point! I never thought of it before, but how would I “give” my granddaughter a gift of my favorite book?

    • http://www.bretmavrich.com Bret Mavrich

      Nah. You can gift e-books at the Kindle store. Pretty easy, actually.

      Plus, I just saw Kindle gift cards at WalMart the other day, right next to the iTunes cards. I think everyone is getting used to giving electronic gifts.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        I’ve done it, too. Super easy.

      • Genie4711

        You’re right — I forgot about gift cards, which I give anyway because I’m thousands of miles away. Well, I hate to admit it, but if the grandkids got Kindles, they might start getting those cards for Christmas (sorry, Borders :(

  • Bwenman

    YES! I love books. I have been thinking about getting an e-reader and have not done so yet. My reason – it doesn’t feel like relaxing to me, it feels work. People can argue this point, but I believe that there a lot of people who are like me who don’t really want to give up crawling into bed with a page turning, book! Just my opinion!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the commitment to have Thomas Nelson’s books e-ready. There’s nothing more aggravating to me than to visit bn.com to purchase for a book and to discover that there’s no e-version currently available and no information telling me if the e-release is short coming or never.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      You’re welcome. Our commitment is to make our books available in the format our customers prefer, regardless of what that is.

  • http://twitter.com/wyclif wyclif

    Like you, I enjoy the tactile experience of reading a bound book. I’m in the Christian ministry and I’ve invested some money in a good theological, historical, and reference library comprised of many out-of-print books.

    There are a couple of things that have pulled me in the direction of eBooks, though. The first is convenience and minimal storage. But a more interesting effect is the social aspect that hasn’t been discussed much so far. Many of my pastor friends on Twitter and Facebook are enthusiastic about their Kindles, and they use the “shared” feature often. This is a very attractive feature. In some cases, you can share the content you’re reading– a particularly striking illustration or point– with almost your entire congregation (or at least the influencers) without typing anything.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I also like being able to highlight the text, which sends it to my Amazon account. From there, I can copy and paste it into Evernote. This is a great way to save quotes and illustrations for future reference.

  • http://rachelblom.wordpress.com/ Rachel Blom

    For sales figures eBooks to really take a flight, Kindle would have to be available in Europe as well. So far, we can only order it through Amazon.com which entails heavy VAT (and the wifi doesn’t always work), but the biggest problem is that we can’t buy all available books on Amazon.com because of the rights issue. Amazon.co.uk is completely shut off for anyone not living in the UK, so for ‘us’ Europeans, there’s really not much choice. It surprises me, because it’s a huge market and I can’t understand why Amazon doesn’t tap it yet. But I bet if they did, it would make a huge difference in sales numbers.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I am sure they will eventually get to it. The rights issue is a major one. Authors, agents, and publishers are going to havev to abandon the notion of territorial rights. It doesn’t make sense in a world of digital distribution.

      • Amiedoll

        I totally agree, as an Australian I find it very inconvenient that so many ebooks are not available to my country, but I must say that it is slowly improving. Either way it is still more of a choice then I have locally so I am not complaining lol.

        I really hope the publishers see the need for global ebook rights, and that they also reduce the price to below that of a physical copy, if both these things happen I can imagine that ebook sales will soar.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          The rights are the biggest issue. Publishers and agents need to orient themselves to the new reality—there are no borders!

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    Mike! I concur with your assessment (when we look from the angle of advanced country like US). If we look from my country’s (India’s) situation, things are far more lagging and slow. Here, digital publishing is still in a very nascent stage. Majority of the people still prefer paper backs only; and, not e-books. I think there is great divide between developed and developing countries in this front. Another factor to be noted in developing country like ours is that the level of digital equipment penetration is itself very low. Only then comes the question of e-books. Hence, from India’s perspective, it’s way behind the current trend happening in US. Print books are here to stay in the near future on a vast scale.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This is a great reminder. Those of us in the U.S. are so often ethnocentric in our outlook.

  • michael K

    Couldn’t agree more- when I spend the money on a book I want to be able to take it with me places, loan it out, put it in my library and read it when the power goes out ;)

    • http://www.bretmavrich.com Bret Mavrich

      You know what, I thought the same thing until I discovered that Amazon already has an e-book lending program. It’s a little restrictive for my liking, but the program is still in it’s early stages.

      Also, the battery life on a Kindle is something ridiculous like 30 days of straight reading on a single charge (it’s not backlit). So in the event of a power outage, you’ll be reading your regular books in the same way as your Kindle: by flashlight or candle.

  • Thedavid J Dunn

    Good to know that my Kindle isn’t killing my paper books. Now I can stop feeling guilty.

    Point of clarification: #3 is not wrong but would it not be skewed since it does not account for “the cloud”? There is a difference between *buying* an MP3 and subscribing to a service or listening to Pandora, which I assume would not factor into digital music sales, but would still suggest a larger percentage of people *listening* to MP3 music over traditional formats. FWIW.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I don’t think streaming music from the cloud represents enough consumption yet to matter. But I could be wrong. It would be interesting to look at this statistic.

    • http://www.bretmavrich.com Bret Mavrich

      It might be killing newspapers though. Or saving them. Hard to tell yet. ;-)

      • Amiedoll

        Newspapers are available on Kindle, as are magazines, so the newspaper companies should be fine either way. The printing business might take quite a hit though.

        I don’t believe we will ever move past printed books, its great to have a back up that is not reliant on any type of technology, and libraries will still buy their share, as will those that are just not interested in ebooks, but hopefully the number of copies of printed books will drop a bit and save us all those natural resources :0)

  • Lola LB

    There are some books that I will probably always buy in print, especially knitting books. These tend to be be very heavy on illustrations (pictures, charts, etc.). I think that books that have a lot of illustrations will not really make the transition to ebooks easily until there are more variety in color ereaders (and especially if Kindle comes out with a color version) and the cost is reasonable enough.

    I do love having my technology books on my Kindle, which makes it convenient for me to just browse through when I have a spare moment.

  • http://twitter.com/doughibbard Doug Hibbard

    I wonder how much the perception of the surveyed industry executives will try to force the change. In music, for example, you pointed out that 2/3rds of music is still sold in a physical format. Yet every time I walk into my nearest Christian bookstores, the CD sections are smaller. It’s shrunk 4 times in 2 years, and the statement has been “corporate says everyone buys digital now.”

    Are we going to see that happen with books in the next 5-7 years? You brought out the impact on brick-and-mortar bookstores already, will we see the development where there will be fewer places to buy real books because of the perception that e-books are overtaking the market?

    I love my Kindle, that’s for sure, but I have 5 people that read in the house and I’m not buying the kids a Kindle each, so real books will keep their needs met.

    So, I’m with you that it won’t be that fast, but I think that some of the surveyed executives may make decisions that push the acceleration.

    On a different tack, has anyone studied how much of e-reader sales are repeat buyers or duplicated buyers? I know Amazon doesn’t publish exact numbers, but how many Kindle-3 buyers had K-2′s and K-1′s and are just replacing; how many Nook owners have Kindles; those types of questions. Because if there’s serious overlap on those numbers, sure the total “e-readers sold” number is high, but the number of “e-reader households that buy books” will be substantially different.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That is precisely why I wanted to speak into this. So many publishing executives are buying the hype of the media, consultants, and digital vendors. My concern is that the perception of a sea-change will negatively impact retailers. Again, I don’t doubt that things are changing; I just don’t want us to get ahead of ourselves and destroy and important ecosystem.

      With regard to your last question, I don’t think we will know any time soon. These retailers are very tight-lipped when it comes to sharing any meaningful data.

    • http://endless-satsang.com Nirmala

      I’, sure some of those folks gift their older model or sell it on ebay, so some of those Kindles would still be in use.

  • http://relevantbrokenness.com Marni Arnold

    I agree with your numbers more than this study’s numbers, Michael.

    As an avid book reader, I personally do not read for long periods of time on a computer screen. I have a few e-Books on my laptop, but it is only because those books are not published in the print format. I barely open those documents to be honest, and I only scrub through them to find out information I need or want. Otherwise, I head to the library or bookstore to get my books.

    I see a few (not many at all) people in our community now with eReaders. They look cool and all, but I do not see myself purchasing one of those gadgets – ever. Why would I when it is a redundant format – to me like the iPad? Yes, these are great gadgets and they do great things – I do not deny that, but they do exactly what an iPhone or Android phone already do, as well as any normal desktop or laptop. For my book reading, I am like you comment about here – I am one of those who would just rather sit in a quiet room with a book, and flip through the pages as I read it with a cup of coffee.

    There is something cathartic about reading a real, paper bound book – especially when it comes to reading the Bible. I have noticed that while I have an app on my phone for my Bible, I do not use it for my study time. My Bible that sits on my nightstand is the one I use all the time for my deep, serious study and prayer time. And there is something to be said about the worn pages and book cover of any book – especially a Bible – that you can pass down to your children for generations. That is a piece of your heart being passed onto them – and you just can’t do that with an eReader.

    Our society has become so engrossed with “things” and embracing the idea of, “the more stuff – especially the newest, most hyped stuff – I have, the better off I am.” That is so untrue in my own life, and honestly also many lives of those I know who are even my age and younger.

    Our needs, even in this technology laden world today, are not reliant upon acquiring multiple gadgets that each do the same thing (to a greater or lesser degree) than each other.

    • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

      That’s art of the beauty of the Kindle’s e-ink technology. It’s not hard on the eyes like a glossy screen is. And it doesn’t duplicate the various functions of my laptop, like the iPad. The Kindle is an e-reader only.

      • http://www.bretmavrich.com Bret Mavrich

        Well, an e-reader mostly. I’ve found that “search wikipedia” function a little too tempting.

        • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

          That hasn’t been a temptation for me, Bret. Both my wife and I have found that using the experimental browser freezes up our Kindles way too often. She keeps trying. I avoid it. And I have to reset hers when it freezes… ;)

      • http://relevantbrokenness.com Marni Arnold

        The challenge, again, that I have with eReaders (like Kindle) is they don’t have the ability to be a paper-bound book in which I can read over and over again, and have the ability to pass down in generations to loved ones (nor can I share them with others). Plus, I just realized another drawback…in order to read a book on one of these devices, one needs power (energy) to recharge the battery. My mindset always thinks of the possibilities of what could happen – and if I had one of these, and had all my books on it that I read, and I lose power – and I have no ability to recharge it, then how worthwhile is the device then if I want to read my book(s)? With an actual paper-bound book, I can hve the ability to read it anytime I desire – no plugging in required.

        eReaders are good, don’t get me wrong – but they have a sloo of drawbacks concerning our humanity.

        Technology is good – I am not down on technology. When then the idea that it could potentially replace so much of our lives, is truly an abstract concept at best. It is not 100% viable because there are so many drawbacks.

        • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

          I do not disagree with you at all. I am divided on my use of the Kindle. I use it primarily for fiction. But for books that I consider more important, I prefer a hard copy. My office is cram-packed with undreds of books. I need more shelf space.

          I’ve thought about the energy issue before, but you’ve put a new idea in my head with passing my books on to my kids. Not sure why that hasn’t crossed my mind before.

        • http://twitter.com/mnphysicist Ron Amundson

          Having lost about 20,000 books in a flood a couple years back, I’d jump for joy had they been ebook format. At least at that point, even if the Kindle device had washed away, I’d still be able to recover the ebooks themselves on another unit. With so much of my library being out of print… well when the flood came, it took them out and they are gone forever.

          • http://relevantbrokenness.com Marni Arnold

            I can see that – I seriously can, and do. Nothing really is permanent in this life – however, if I have an opportunity to pass down books to my child…I will do that. But if they somehow disappear tomorrow, while I will be disheartened – I know I can replace them and still pass them down.

            It really just all boils down to perspectives.

  • http://www.MindingGaps.com Thomas J. Lee

    As a new newbie Kindler, I like the idea of just automatically receiving the Kindle version whenever I buy a book at the regular price.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I think you will see a major trend of “bundling” this year. I wrote on this under “Six e-Book Trends to Watch in 2011.”

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    I agree with you, Michael. One big reason is what I would call the Coffee Table effect. I like to have books displayed in my home, my office, and I usually have one with me when I go to meetings. The reason? Books are great conversation starters. While an e-book will have the same information, it can’t sit on my coffee table with a striking cover shouting out an amazing title. Books actually become an extension of your personality.

    If you walked into my office at work right now, you would learn something about me by the books displayed on my small glass table. I change the books up almost daily and I have people actually stop by to see what the latest title is. Books create reactions. One of my favorite books to display is “Change or Die” by Alan Deutschman. The bright red cover with white lettering screams out these three words and most people just have to pick it up. Many a conversation has been started by the title alone. As a publisher, I’m sure you have experienced the same thing!

    Here is a question: What has been the greatest conversation starter book in your office?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I agree. My office is full of books—as you might expect, since I run a publishing company. I think the Bonhoeffer book by Eric Metaxas has sparked the most conversations.

      • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

        Bonhoeffer: The stoic face in black and white with an unusual name would make anyone want to know more. I had a similar experience with Andy Andrews book, The Noticer. Everyone wanted to know what was in the suitcase on the cover.

  • http://fireandhammer.blogspot.com Dennis

    As a consumer I agree with you and I think #3 on your list is the big indicator, especially when we look at age demographics. Music on cool gadgets should serve as a big draw for young listeners. Yet the industry has not yet reached 50%. I am not sure if e-readers have the draw for young readers that mp-3 players do. Younger readers may not be able to afford a device like an i-Pad and lower priced readers may not do enough to attract their attention. So you have the young who will be slow to buy in coupled with older readers who prefer a “real” book and I think we have a mix that will keep e-book sales from reaching the 50% target by 2014.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      These are both good points. Thanks.

    • http://www.godsabsolutelove.com Patricia Zell

      As a high school teacher, I agree with you. In fact, one of the main reasons young people may not buy e-readers is because many of them hate to read. Also, their reading skills are tumbling because all the technological “goodies” (especially texting) promote surface reading, not the deeper reading that is required for higher level thinking. There is something to be said about the benefits of “real” books, paper, and pencils for learners. Highlighting passages on an e-reader does not provide the physical engagement (like doodling while listening to a speaker) necessary to comprehension. I’ve learned that my students understand so much better when they are given graphic organizers to help them comprehend what they are reading. I am hoping that we resist the pull to go paperless in our schools–while technology can supplement what we teach, it will not replace the pencils to paper and the “real” books that students need in order to learn.

      • http://www.kathink.blogspot.com Kathleen T. Jaeger

        If the majority or many of the next generation hates to read, will they buy books, regardless if it is an e-book or print book? That also seems important aspect for publishers to consider — raising a generation of people who love books — regardless of format.

      • http://fireandhammer.blogspot.com Dennis

        Patricia, I was also thinking about the decline of reading skills. I think I saw a study a while back on how having books in the home use to correlate with a child’s ability to read. But could technology and the availability of so many outlets for entertainment lead to a decline in reading with effects on book publishing that cannot be measured right now? An interesting aspect publishers may have to deal with in the future.

        • http://www.godsabsolutelove.com Patricia Zell

          I think we educators are having to reassess how we teach. For example, in some high school English classes, literature (and lots of it) is emphasized. I think we may need to cut back on the quantity of what we teach and focus on giving our students strategies to read deeply. I think most of us who are older have learned to read beyond the surface of what is written, but, with all the technology, our kids are just skimming the surface and are getting tripped up in comprehension. In case anybody didn’t notice, English is a complex language–it’s little wonder that our kids struggle.

          • Genie4711

            Not to mention they are now learning to believe that “Wher ru?lol Cu l8r” is English.

          • http://fireandhammer.blogspot.com Dennis

            I agree that educators need to reassess teaching methods. I also think teachers (and if I may piggy back on TNeal’s comment parents) must find ways to get young readers passionate about reading. Perhaps e-readers could fit in here but I fear that will lead to excitement about a device instead of passion for a well written story.

      • TNeal

        I know I wasn’t a reader in school and, to some extent, I’m still not. I tend to read nonfiction and listen to audio versions of fiction.

        My love for reading really comes from my wife, a children’s librarian, who read to my son and me when he was younger. How much does parents reading to children show up in the classroom?

  • http://twitter.com/PFNikolai Pete Nikolai

    Thanks for raising an important topic!

    It may be that the sales transition is not as important or impactful as the reading transition. While digital sales of music have yet to reach half of all music sales, digital listening is probably closer to 80%. CDs comprise 80% of all album sales (which are down from 706 million units in 2000 to 374 million in 2009) but music is now a business of selling singles/tracks which were up to 1.16 billion (with a “b”) downloads in 2009. Many CDs are bought just so they can be ripped and the songs played on an MP3 player. And all those numbers don’t begin to factor in pirated music which is estimated to be over be over 10 billion downloads per year—more than all legal music combined…

    The vast majority of music being listened to is not on CD. The majority of books being read will probably not be on paper within three years. So a big issue for book publishers will be: How do we monetize as much digital reading as possible?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      The difference between buying books and reading them is important. I think we’ll have to see how this develops. I don’t see pirating being as much of an issue with books, but that might change. Nor can people easily buy a physical book (analogous to a CD) and rip it to their e-reader.

  • Jenn

    I’m a hard-core reader who does not yet own an e-reader (holding out for the second generation iPad) and I agree with all of those who say that most people who read will choose both print and electronic.

    If you’re not familiar with the blog http://www.gutenberggirls.com, I think you would enjoy it very much. Their post today echoes the sentiment you expressed.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Jenn. That post was dead-on. Thank also for linking back to my post in your comments on that blog.

  • www.therextras.com

    I really appreciate an analysis that debunks hype. I see hype in reports of the ‘industry’ I work-in also. I wouldn’t think of disagreeing with you, Michael. ;)
    Barbara

  • http://twitter.com/john_gallagher john_gallagher

    Mike, I think your analysis is rooted in fact-based decision making, which is great. The data simply doesn’t support the 50% analogy, the consumer is who will ultimately drive the shift, and I believe, personally (as a reader who reads both print and ebooks) that the transition will take longer for me. I haven’t embraced the ereader yet. Give me an e-reader that will catalog my highlights and my notes, by topic, and print a report for me…then they might have something!

  • Sawyer Chris

    As a book printer, the 20-25% figure is what our analysis is forecasting. The big iron printers are going to take a bath over the next two years. Most of their printing equipment is geared toward long runs. Digital printing “is” the future for the short run and print on demand needs of the consumer.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I agree. I am so glad I am not in that business. Your company is definitely well-positioned, Chris.

  • http://www.jonnywhitman.com Jonathan Whitman

    I agree wholeheartedly!!
    Try as I may with the different electronic book media (including Bible software), I keep going back to the timeless experience of leafing through a page, skimming, highlighting with a real marker, taking notes with a real pencil or pen. It will be a sad day when our bookshelves are empty and our hard drives are full.

  • http://www.culturesmithconsulting.com cherylsmith

    Given the fact that Forrester’s research is based on executives, maybe their 50% by 2014 should be of executives as well, rather than consumers at large. The price barrier has come down significantly on Kindle/Nook but not so much on iPad yet. That’s likely another consideration.

    I had to laugh when I read your comment about what consumers are going to do, compared to consumers’ actual behavior. Oh, the personal applications there. :)

    This is a strong analysis, Mike, and one that should position Thomas Nelson nicely in the near future.

  • Michael Bernt

    As a print buyer and customer of Nelson I absolutely believe your analysis. I do most of my work overseas in Africa and there is not the infrasture to support wi-fi nor the purchase of e-readers of computers ….. a book is still the cheapest way to teach from!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This is an important point that is often missed in the discussion about the global accessibility of digital content. Thanks for the reminder!

  • http://twitter.com/marklrussell Mark L. Russell

    I love all things digital includine e-books and the e-book revolution is welcomed and will continue to be welcomed by our small publishing house. Nevertheless, I think this is an accurate post. Change is always slower than the first movers anticipate.

  • http://twitter.com/colleencoble Colleen Coble

    I totally agree. I finally caved and bought a Kindle. I really like reading novels on it but I have to have the cover on it that makes it feel like a book. :) I don’t like reading research books or non fiction on it much which surprised me. I know the market is growing, but I’ve long argued that until a whole generation of people pass, print books are here to stay. Most of our parents and grandparents who are still huge readers have no interest in an ereader. Many in my age group aren’t interested either. The young ones seem to love the technology,

    I was in a Family Christian and a Barnes and Noble this week. The stores were packed with browsing customers. There is something about the experience of pulling down a book and looking at it that can’t be duplicated. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them have ereaders too like me, but still buy physical books.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I love hearing about stores packed with browsing customers. I think this also has to do with the improving economy. I am so OVER the recession!

    • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

      I’ve seen people browse a book, pull out their phone, snap a pic and submit it to amazon right there in the aisle. It’s rather amusing, but it works, and it probably saves them a lot of money over Borders’ or BN’s prices…

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        This is the scary thing: It makes local booksellers a showroom for online retailers. Personally, I think it is unethical as a consumer to do that, knowing that the retailer has invested in the retail space, the inventory, and other associated costs. But, hey, people are going to do what they are going to do.

  • http://twitter.com/JoshuaMHood Josh Hood

    Mike, Do you think this digital transformation is a good thing for young authors trying to get published? How has it changed the publishing process?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I really don’t think it matters, other than giving you more potential readers.

  • Ashley Musick

    Interesting insights. I tend to believe the reports about everything going totally digital in the near future, but I think that’s because I’m quick to jump on the digital bandwagon. I don’t remember the last time I bought an actual music CD and I love my new Kindle. The convenience of clicking one button on my computer and having these things is very valuable to me.

  • Michael McReynolds

    I agree with you. While the digital readers offer many advantages especially for frequent flyers, there is just no replacement for a book in hand.

  • http://twitter.com/carolbostian Carol Bostian

    Although I believe that digital books are here to stay, I don’t think that paper books will ever become obsolete. The difference between books & music media is that the reading “devices” for books will never become obsolete as did the 8-track and tapes. As in the past, we have been forced to convert our music media to the new technology in order to keep listening to it, so in the future the same will hold true for digital books as technology changes. But this will NOT be the case for paper books.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I agree. In fact, I had a paragraph on this in my original post, but it made it too long. For the record, I agree. I don’t think print books will ever go away—not even in a hundred years. I believe this for the same reasons that candles are still with us. There is something about the reading experience of a physical book—the feel, the smell, the page-turning—that creates an ambience that people love.

  • http://familysynergy.wordpress.com JD Eddins

    I think the largest evidence that you are correct is the reality about the music industry. I would have thought the percentage of digital music would be much higher at this point.
    Personally however, I can tell you that since receiving a Kindle for Christmas I have exclusively bought e-books. However, I also got a Barnes and Noble gift card, so I’ll be making a stop soon to actually pick up some real books.
    There are definitely some books however that readers will have to buy in print format. I’m looking at getting Presentation Zen and I think the pictures and formatting of the book won’t translate well to the Kindle format.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I can attest to that on Presentation Zen or slide:ology (another presentation favorite). You need the illustrations, and they need to be in color.

  • http://twitter.com/KLOlund Kyle L. Olund

    I was surprised at the statistics for digital music downloads. I sure hope that more e-books sold will not just replace paper book sales but increase book sales overall. Maybe college students’ attitude about e-textbooks is foretelling . . . http://bit.ly/guCDqC (BISG press release on January 6, 2011).

  • http://studio27b.net David Nash at Studio27b.net

    I agree with what you’ve said. eBooks are a big deal, but in a “we need huge headlines” culture, many things are blown way out of proportion. I would have to agree with the tactile element as well. I collect old books. So far my oldest is a french misionary’s field book from 1779. When I hold it in my hands it’s weight, texture, page thickness, and even arroma all play into my experience (not too mention the handwritten pages that were “laminated” to make the cover stock – had to throw that in). My imagination is swept up by more than just words…it’s a wholistic experience.

    Call me wierd, but those feelings can’t be created by a device. Even recently published works fall into this in a way. If a book is a cheap reprint or dime store version, it feels that way. All this aside, a great story can still transcend it’s medium. Wether a person is looking for a “preview” or travel ready library, the eBook market has it’s place.

    I think more folks will continue to migrate toward the electronic format much like email has steadily grown. I doubt it will ever fully overtake print though…I still receive handwritten letters…and they’re my favorite! Vivent longtemps le livre!

  • http://twitter.com/MarkYoungBooks Mark Young

    I would have to disagree with you, Mike. As a reader and an author, I look around my little world and see the digital reading world exploding. All ages, all genders, all walks of life. Anyone who sees me using my eReader (Kindle & Nook) soon gravitates closer with curiosity. Book lovers who swore they’d never switch are being persuaded to change. One of the greatest lures is cost to the consumer. Once the initial cost of the reader is overcome, readers love the choices they get online. And, the price point of many books often becomes the driving force behind which book to buy. I believe the times are changing quicker than publishers might believe. Time will tell.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Mark, you might be right. Time will tell.

  • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

    I agree with your assessment. I absolutely love my Kindle. But most of what I read on it is fiction. For books related to my ministry or personal/spiritual growth, I still much prefer paper books. I bet I don’t even buy 25% of my books digitally. Not yet, anyway. My brother is the opposite. If he can’t gt it on his Kindle, he doesn’t want to read it.

    I think the print industry will be with us for a while yet.

  • http://www.yuzzi.com Rick Yuzzi

    I think the 50% estimate may be closer to being right. My sister just bought a Kindle, and just six months ago she was talking about how she didn’t think that was right for her. Her motivation was running out of shelf space and her eyesight getting worse. She loves it. My eighty-year-old mom just asked for one for her birthday, and for her it’s also the ability to increase type size and the convenience. I think there will be a snowball effect. Folks will still order special books to enjoy the tactile experience and keep on a shelf, but a lot of the reading they do in the future will be on a digital device.

  • http://www.margaretbrownley.com Margaret Brownley

    I agree with you. My Kindle is fine for fiction but I find it completely useless for non-fiction. I can’t flip back and forth like I can in a book. Writing notes on a Kindle is tedious compared to writing notes in the margin of a book. And I’ve given up trying to read the Bible on a Kindle. Just like there are some movies you have to see on the big screen, there are some books you have to read the old-fashioned way.

  • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

    And reading a good paper book by candlelight…… Makes my eyes hurt just thinking about it. ;)

  • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

    And reading a good paper book by candlelight…… Makes my eyes hurt just thinking about it. ;)

    • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

      This was supposed to be in response to Michael, in response to Carol Bostian. Disqus didn’t thread it for some reason… twice.

  • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org Jeff Goins

    Before reading the post, I was inclined to disagree, but the analogy of the music industry is pretty fascinating. Since we really don’t have many precedents of mainstream industries “going digital” (other than with music), it makes sense that books may follow a similar pattern.

  • http://www.kathink.blogspot.com Kathleen T. Jaeger

    I agree with your assessment. When the digital trend of books was first being discussed, I balked. Slowly, I have realized that the digital transition is happening whether or not I want it to. The music comparison is a strong one and also people being attached to books. You should have seen our discussion about print books going away in our group of homeschool moms. (We buy a lot of books and love books.) They were like me and just didn’t believe e-books would ever replace a book. (I was the one contending that the change will happen eventually but slower than the statistic that had been thrown out about print books going entirely away. I didn’t have as articulated reasons as this but your reasons seem to support my hypothesis.)

    Also, people who adopt technology right away and keep up with all of the changes don’t keep a pulse on those of us who adapt more slowly to technological changes — even though they seem inevitable. At some point, e-readers will become more common and more of the norm. At some point, the change snowballs. When it will happen, I don’t know. Perhaps I am more inclined to agree because I would like it to be slower. But I have accepted that it will happen.

  • http://terripatrick.wordpress.com/ terri patrick

    I agree with this assessment yet also agree with many of the predictions. What amuses me with these studies is that books and ereaders are not interchangeable formats anymore than one consumer is the same as all. I do feel ebooks will replace the greater share of mass-market commercial and literary fiction. This is where publishing houses will need to adjust their business processes if those dollars are what is used to fund less profitable ventures.

  • Jessi

    I think your assessment is legit. I think e-books are convenient, especially for someone who is a traveling book reader, but for me I just love the feel of a good book in my hands. I remember going through my grandma’s old books as a child. Nothing like the smell and touch of an old book. So lovely!

  • http://www.yuzzi.com Rick Yuzzi

    My wife just sent this to me and I had to share it. This may be another solution for those who want to bring a lot of books along as they go. A Gerbil Wheel for Bibliophiles: http://www.readymade.com/blog/readymade/2010/04/26/archive-ii-a-gerbil-wheel-for-bibliophiles

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Hilarious!

  • Diana

    I’m an engineer. I’ve been using computers since IBM launched the PC. I’m also a heavy reader, I read several novels a week. And I agree with you. There is a difference between reading text printed on paper and text printed on a screen. It doesn’t matter how booklike they make the experience, it is still text on a screen.

    When I homeschooled my son, I learned that people have a personal preference for how they take in information: audio, print, video, or computer text. If I took the same block of information and put into those four different formats, he would absorb the information faster and easier if it was on a computer or an audiotape. We would listen to books on tape on long car trips, and I could not follow the story. My attention would wander, but if I had the book to read then I would not have lost interest. He loves his ereader. I will never buy one.

    I think publishers would be better served marketing ereaders and ebooks to people like my son who have a preference for that format. They probably don’t read much, so a different marketing strategy to get their attention would be needed. By converting nonreaders to ereaders, there’s the potential of increasing total book sales.

  • http://www.goodbooksforyoungsouls.blogspot.com Wendyb Braun

    I pray you’re right in predicting there’s more hype than truth in what I’ve heard about e-books quickly overtaking and replacing the sales of our traditional paper friends…I certainly don’t relish the thought of being curled up on the couch with my future grandchildren, firing up a computer, and reading digital picture books – wouldn’t be the same experience.
    E-books do serve a purpose, though, especially for commuters and people who travel a lot. Personally, though, the printed page is easier on my eyes than a glowing screen when I have a lot of reading to do. And there is something about literally (as opposed to virtually) turning those paper pages…I’m old fashioned, and I’m hoping a lot of other people are!

  • Jack III

    I think you’re right on. When he was CEO of Barnes & Noble, Steve Riggio commented that books are “a nearly perfect technology.” They’re compact, durable, cheap, and everyone likes them. So it’s hard to improve upon the book. My sense is that e-books really make three improvements on the traditional book: first and most obvious, portability. It’s far easier to vacation with an e-reader containing innumerable books than to pack even a couple of hardcovers. Second, price. This is still a struggle within the industry, but in the end it’s hard to disagree that e-books should be substantially cheaper than paper ones. And if anything can help solve the problem college students face with textbook costs, it’s e-books. Third, it seems to me that the lowered cost of e-books allows new authors to reach a wider audience for substantially less money. I could be wrong about that last one, but it seems logical enough to me. Thanks for the great post.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think you are spot-on. Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/williemacster William McPherson

    I am a theology student/soon to be church planter. If there is anyone who would benefit from e-books, it is people like me. However, even though my books weigh a ton and I do not have the bookshelf space…I still prefer a paper copy of a book. Now mind you, I probably will eventually get a digital reading device (especially when a lot of my specialty books become more available), but for me, nothing beats a being able to hold a good book.

  • http://twitter.com/somagames Soma Games

    Only 1/3 of music sales are digital? That’s shocking to me! You’re right – based on things I’ve heard anecdotally I’d have guessed CD sales made maybe 10% of total.

    OK – if you convince me that the rate of change is going to be slower than expected (and you’ve done that) – so what now? Is the message that we should slow down our pursuit of pushing the technology forward?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      No, I don’t think so. I think there are two issues. If you are a consumer, don’t worry. Print books are not going away. But you might want to try digital, because it sure is convenient.

      If you are a traditional publisher, don’t panic. You will be running two businesses—one print and one digital—for some time to come. Make sure you are changing your processes to accommodate digital, but don’t under-resource your print business in the meantime. The sky is not falling.

  • Genie4711

    I agree completely, although to be honest, I have no authority to make a judgment either way. I’m just really tired of my writer friends telling me that I have to be prepared to sell my novel as an ebook because paper is on its way out. I especially like your comparison to music — it is not a tactile thing the way paper is. If I may use that when we argue? At most, I think books will come out in both formats for decades. My great-grandchildren may one day think paper books “funny”, but for now, I’m not worrying about finding one to buy.

  • http://modernservantleader.com/ Benjamin Lichtenwalner

    Great points as usual Michael. I agree with your perception and think the comparison and contrast to digital music is an excellent input. However, I do think the assessment of the physical interaction with print books is slightly overstated. To me, this preference for holding the book, turning the pages and even noting in the margins will fade sooner than later, especially as e-reader UIs evolve.

  • http://www.confessionsofalegalist.com Jeremy Statton

    I love my Kindle. I love how easy it is to have access to books both in purchasing them and transporting them. I do miss touching the pages, though. Occasionally I want a book that is not available on Kindle and I have to admit, I am not disappointed to be forced to buy the book.

  • http://fishblogwash.blogspot.com Sean

    My mom and I were just discussing this last weekend at lunch. She says she will always want to hold the book in her hand. I figure this will be a dominat theme with older readers but not so much with a younger crowd that is more adaptable to change these days. I like to have a book case stocked with a few good books but definitely prefer the rest to be digital. The days of moving heavy boxes of books from one new home to the next (and then finding room to store them) are over for me.

    I also found it surprsing that digital music only makes up 1/3 of all music sales. I don’t know anyone who buys CDs anymore. I remember people being apprehensive about the whole iPod thing in the beginning, but not now, which has probably paved a smoother road for ebook sales. I would expect them to start clicking faster than you think. However, I will draw the line at 3D ebooks…

  • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

    I do think it will take some time for ebooks to catch up with print books. It is interesting, though, to compare with other industries. The music industry has already been mentioned. And then you look at the photography industry – in which the digital revolution happened much faster than anyone really expected.

    For me, I so much want to embrace the ebook revolution (I love technology in general). But, there are two things that make it hard for me to jump completely in. First, the technology is still changing a lot and $100+ is still a lot to invest for the reader when I know I will want the each new version – I still have a hard time deciding between current readers because there are unique and incongruent features that I want from a couple of different readers. Second, I really love to pick up a book and flip through the pages – quickly scanning titles, section headers, and my highlights and notes. The experience does not seem completely replicable with an ebook.

  • http://tasramar.com tasra

    I agree and am happy about it. I’m one of those readers who love the experience of holding the print book in my hands. I work on a computer all day so the last thing I want when I curl up in front of the fire with a cup of hot cocoa for an evening of reading is to look at a computer screen again.

    It’s not just the older generation who grew up with “real” books, kids are still using paper books in school and fall in love with the classics the same way we did. Even though my daughter wants an iPad or Kindle, she would never give up holding a paper copy of “Little Women” or “7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.”

  • http://twitter.com/youngshay112 Shannon

    I like how you compared digital books to digital music. People are always excited about new tech, but you put it in perspective.

  • http://www.abeginneragain.blogspot.com Drmomjfc

    I’m sorry…but clicking on a Kindle does not compare to touching and breathing in and paging through a book while enjoying good music, casual conversation and a good cup of coffee in a brick and mortar bookstore. I read and write in “Small Town, USA” where we will go down kicking and screaming if we lose our local bookstores/coffee houses/gathering places. I was encouraged last summer as I walked miles of beach day after day on the Outer Banks and saw NOT ONE SINGLE Kindle the entire time. But books. Lots of them :) !

  • http://www.bretmavrich.com Bret Mavrich

    The stat on digital music seals the deal for me. I thought that digital sales were the majority of music sales these days. That’s shockingly small for an experience that doesn’t change much no matter where you buy it. I think your prognosticators might be exercising their wishful thinking muscle.

  • Christopher Carter

    Michael,

    I agree. I consulted with Ingram and LSI for two years during the POD startup. We were designing and building the admistrative software to run Lightning Source. We always knew the ebook was coming and talked about it a lot. However, its actual appearance has lagged considerably behind what was being touted by many in the biz. This is a “know your customer” issue. People love turning pages… still. It will take a bit more time.

  • http://twitter.com/ThatGuyKC K.C. Pro

    I love point #1. “Who cares what they think?” Sometimes I think that people (myself included) value our own opinion more than anyone else does.

    Thank you for sharing your perspective as a publishing executive. I do care what you think. It will be very interesting to see how the e-book format plays out in the publishing industry. While I own a Kindle and use it frequently I still do more than half of my leisurely reading with paper books.

  • Emily

    Michael, I read the article on the music industry with interest, as my husband is an amateur musician and has been following this for years. The article had one glaring flaw: it discusses PERCENTAGES of sales to start out with; while neatly side-stepping (other than one small mention) that the CD is almost dead, and that revenues industry-wide have been dropping almost as fast as hard-copy music sales. And then the greater part of the article focused on stopping piracy, so that digital music will generate income for the producers. The conclusion is that 90% of music consumption is now digital, but most consumers aren’t paying for it.

    Which is quite a different beast than saying physical music media still have more than half of the market. I also wondered if they music statistics included live performances and ticket sales to the same, which would skew the data in a way that is completely irrelevant to books.

    What I did get from the article is that piracy is a serious problem once you move into e-format. I see the rise of free books as an equally serious revenue-cutter. Even though most of the free books are dreck, if they siphon off enough of the paying readers it can have an impact. And at least some of the free will be good, which will lower the value of the industry-curated product.

    Any thoughts?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think the difference is that music was already digital before it became downloadable. In other words, people can simply rip their CDs and upload the files. This contributes to piracy.

      The same is not true for books. There is no digital equivalent. Books have to be converted first. Then, e-retailers put some form of copy protection on it, making it more difficult to pirate. (I am not saying it can’t be done, only that is more hassle and has, so far, been a deterrent.)

      After re-reading the article, I think you make a fair point. I found another article on Bloomberg that says “Digital music accounted for 46 percent of all music purchases in 2010, up from 40 percent in 2009 and 32 percent in 2008, the researcher said.” This is higher than 33%, for sure, but I think the point is still the same: it took the music business almost 10 years to get to this point. I don’t think the book business will get there in three years, especially when we didn’t start with the product already in a digital format.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      By the way, I went back and edited the post to include the Bloomberg stat rather than the New York Times one. It raises the percentage of total sales, but I suspect it is more accurate. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with what you said. I think part of it is that holding the book is a cherished part of reading, like you said. And part is that an E-book can just be a bunch of random brainwaves from the author. It’s not reviewed or edited as stringently, so it’s often not as high quality. It annoys me that this is the case, since as a new author, I’d love to just pump out a hundred awesome E-books instead of work on the crazy project I’ve got going with an agent. But it won’t be the first time annoying is still best :).

  • Chante

    Great Article, I agree with your conclusion printing is here to stay.

  • http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com Nikole Hahn

    I’m glad that the digital is not growing fast. I like going to a book store. I like the feel of the book in my hands. I like how easy a real book is on the eyes. It gives my eyes rest from the computer as I am on it all day, every day except Sunday. There’s nothing so peaceful as a cup of tea, my favorite chair, my little lamp, and my favorite afghan to make the reading experience fabulous.

    • http://twitter.com/B_Schebs B_Schebs

      I was worried about the eye strain from reading e-books as well. I have tried both the nook and the nook color. With the backlit Nook color, I was getting some eyestrain, but the e-ink on the nook allows me to read for hours like a regular book with no worries

  • Michael

    Well said Mike, I completely agree with you, had this very discussion just the other day. Thanks for summing it up so nicely!

  • http://twitter.com/davidpleach David Leach

    Good stuff, per usual, Mike. On your second point, however, is information that always confuses me in these digital music and book discussions. You say that the BISG study shows that “7 percent of all book purchases” are digital. However, the study actually says that it’s 7 percent of “expenditures,” defined as revenue. This comparison isn’t apples-to-apples and is a constant frustration. If it takes, what 2, 3, 4? more digital units to sell to garner the same revenue as a single print book, aren’t the UNIT sales making a greater progress. You started your post about UNIT sales, but slipped to dollars. You’ll appreciate this…I spoke with a digital distributor the other day who noted that most authors don’t have an eReader. Until authors use eReaders (or their tablet cousins), it’s not a revolution yet.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Good point. From our perspective, it doesn’t really matter, since the margins are the same either way. In other words, the margin generated by an e-book is about the same as a p-book, even though the e-books are generally half the retail price. Thanks.

      • http://twitter.com/davidpleach David Leach

        but isn’t there a huge difference in actual cash? the stuff that keeps people employed..

        what am I missing?

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          No, actually, not. The penny profits are almost identical. We have modeled this out in significant detail.

          You might want to read this: “Why Do e-Books Cost So Much (A Publisher’s Perspective).”

          • http://twitter.com/davidpleach David Leach

            Thanks for the reference, Mike. Excellent and helpful. (We’re facing new challenges here along these lines.) So the jobs change but not the bottom line. And the bellyaching of book and music people is a lesser issue as long as overall units are moving–static or up. Kinda what I thought has been happening. I won’t tie you up in this forum. I know how to find you. :-) You’re still my hero. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/Juanbg Juan

    Hi Mike, I am an avid reader and buyer of books, in the past I used to buy hardcopies, the problem I had was sometimes they could be bulky, and it was difficult to carry them with me all the times. If I wanted to read at home, when you have a family you just donot have all the time you want, resulting on not reading all books I bought. Now with the ebook – particularly the Amazon readerr in my Ipad, I read average one book a week. It is easier as I read while I run in the mornings. I probably read 2 or 3 chapters at that time. If I travel I carry with me ALL the books, I read what I want when I want. This makes it very convenient! For me personally ebooks on Ipad or other readers are the game changers in the whole media and publishing industry.

  • http://twitter.com/jamiepohlman Jamie Pohlman

    Thank you for this post. It seems as if many in the publishing industry are in a tizzy over e-books and the “death” of print. It is easy to get worked up over the numbers if they aren’t put into perspective. While a growth of 300% surely is phenomenal, the fact that digital is only 7% shows that we’re still a way off from being paperless.

  • Rcpaget

    As a pastor, there are certain books I would buy in print and others I would purchase as e-books. I enjoy the idea of technology but also like to actively read some books with a red marker. I know that can be done with an e-reader but you haven’t seen my marking. It can get pretty expressive.

  • Anonymous

    I agree and love this post because I exemplify #4

  • Peter Horn

    I like the fact that you’re stating the facts in the face of the hype. I like my Kindle. I love the convenience of Audible.com. But I still find myself want to hold and mark up a real book. The purpose of the purchase drives the type of purchase for me. I’m a slow reader, so there are times when I will by the book on Audible and hard/soft cover and listen to it on my iPhone at 2X, marking/highlighting as I go. Weird…but it works for me.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

    I left a comment earlier, but it doesn’t show on my Disqus Dashboard, and I don’t see it here, either. Unless I’ve been put on moderation and my comment was adjudged to be in violation of your Comments Policy, I must have hit Cancel instead of Post.

    Oh well.

    Anyway, my point was that another blogger had argued that as a result of the digital revolution, books, on balance, will get shorter—since a short digital book won’t look thin and puny on a shelf, publishers will be less inclined to push their authors to “pad” their works so as to give them a more substantial appearance.

    My counter-argument was that books may actually get longer, since book buyers who are generally intimidated by a 1000-page tome in their hand—because they feel they’ll never read it anyway, so why bother buying it?—won’t have that visual deterrence experience when it comes to that same 1000-page tome in digital format, so they will be more likely to buy it, hence there will be less incentive for publishers to ask their authors to shorten their works so as to appear less intimidating.

    Moreover, I’m guessing that the price difference between short books and long books will shrink, for long digital books require no extra paper nor do they incur increased shipping costs due to being heavier. Therefore, when debating between a long and a short book, many people will be less likely to automatically opt for the shorter one because it’s cheaper.

    So what do you think? Given the impending shift toward digital, irrespective of how long it will take for the shift to run its full course, do you predict a trend toward higher or lower word count?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think you bring up some good points. Honestly, I haven’t thought about that, but it makes sense.

      I suspect, however, that attention spans are getting shorter. Novels may be the exception, where people want a longer, more immersive experience.

      When it comes to non-fiction, I consider brevity a feature!

      Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Clint Byars

    I just wonder if there will be a tipping point hinged upon self-published digital authors not seeking out publishing deals. Did that factor into their projections? I’d be curious to know.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I don’t think so. While there are lots and lots of self-published books, it is rare for them to sell many units.

  • Midge Edmond

    I totally agree with your assessment. I have been taking some college classes recently and have tried hard to adapt to the online format but still find myself printing out the pages because I just need to have that paper in my hand. Another reason I think it will take longer is that the hardware is confusing to figure out what is the best buy. I don’t think the sales folks know have been trained well enough and the options make it easy to put the purchase on hold until they can make a better decision. Perhaps it will be like cell phones and people will eventually decide, just as you say, not quite as soon!

  • Anonymous

    Michael Hyatt is a genius, but I’m going to disagree on this one. My first choice for reading would absolutely be a printed book, but there are several reasons why e-books will continue to grow at greater rates. First of all, the number of devices you can read e-books on is increasing at a phenomenal rate. iPhones alone can purchase and read books from the Nook, Kindle, Google, the iBookstore and more. The iPhone sales are predicted to make a huge leaps moving into Verizon. Now add more and more devices, especially phones that allow reading. Huge numbers for eBooks if the buyer only buys a couple of books. Second, how we read is really changing. While my first choice to read is a paper printed book, I now find myself reading a few pages while waiting to checkout in the grocery store, at the gas station, etc. It is so easy to sync your iPhone with your iPhone to your iPad and make an inconvenient wait into a reading opportunity. I can also carry around a lot of books on that single device. Very handy. Last, my mobile device is my bookstore. No traveling, and most importantly no waiting. I even get a free sample. The mobile book stores are making it incredibly easy for us to make purchases and they can advertise in ways print books cannot. A good book is two clicks away. E-books sales are going to explode. http://www.kellycroy.wordpress.com

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      You might be right. From my perspective as the CEO of Thomas Nelson, I am format-agnostic. I won’t make a difference to use either way. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Paul Pierquet

    I bought my kindle this Christmas. We live in Eastern Europe and find it difficult to get the books I need to scratch my itch. The kindle has proved to be a great convenience. Given a choice I would prefer holding a book in my hand. I like something I can dog ear and underline. I know the kindle allows this, it just is not the same. Convenience is the primary call for the E-reader.

    Vinyl records are coming back. There is a feeling that vinyl is the way it was meant to be played. Likewise, books will always have their place.

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  • http://www.yates2.com/blog Curtis Yates

    Great analysis. I think the most telling point is the stat about digital music sales. Wow, I’m surprised by that. And, as you point out, with the iPod and iTunes and the nature of music, etc., you would certainly expect the music business to migrate to digital much faster than the book business.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Exactly. It was surprising to me, too. It just goes to show you that there is not necessarily a correlation between the hype and the reality!

  • Alan

    I agree but would go further and say that books ( There is no need to add such adjectives as physical, real or paper-based to a term everyone understands.) will be around long after e-books have been forgotten. Last year, Roger Magoulas summed up the reason why you cannot compare reading to listening to music. He wrote: “Books create a uniquely effective reading platform that integrates both storage and a player in a convenient package.” Unlike music players, Kindles, iPads etc. are, for most readers, an unnecessary add-on to the reading experience.
    I’m old enough to remember when portable cassette players arrived and “talking books” were poised to take over the world. Amazon will soon be telling us that e-book sales are outselling book sales by 100-1 but I will only believe them when they announce that they are to stop sellng books because sales have reduced to a level that is uneconomic. It will never happen.

  • James Putney

    I felt like punching the air in agreement when i read this. All the hype you read about e-book sales cannibalising print books is put out there by industry execs with something to gain by it. The Amazon press office must be one of the busiest in the world. They appear to circulate ‘news’ releases on a daily basis claiming that the Kindle is turning authors into million-sellers overnight, or that e-books are now out-selling hardbacks, but they won’t release any detailed sales figures to support such claims. The digital revolution in publishing IS happening and people’s reading habits ARE changing, but don’t believe the spin by so-called industry ‘experts’ who are merely jostling for position in the new market.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Exactly! Note, also that their press releases are very carefully worded. I would love a peek inside their data.

  • UKcommissioningeditor

    Absolutely right. Interesting figures which corroborate my gut feel. Owning a Kindle has helped to convince me that the printed book is far from dead.

  • http://twitter.com/21tigermike Michael A. Robson

    “E-book sales are still relatively small. ” So big growth rates, as iOS and Android tablets come on, are expected? Er…

    “Readers are more attached to print books”

    Ok, this is kind of a qualitative judgement…people who own Kindles love them..surely you can see the HUGE advantage e-Reading has.. you can carry 100 books on a Kindle, something that weighs half a pound. Technology without ‘benefit’ is useless, and eBooks have tons of benefits.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Remember, I am not debating whether e-books are better or worse. (I have a Kindle and use it like crazy.) This post is simply about the rate of change.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Remember, I am not debating whether e-books are better or worse. (I have a Kindle and use it like crazy.) This post is simply about the rate of change.

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  • http://twitter.com/emmittc emmittc

    Price Waterhouse agrees – 22.5 % of US market by 2015….http://www.pwc.com/en_GX/gx/entertainment-media/pdf/eBooks-Trends-Developments.pdf

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks. This is a great resource. I wasn’t aware of the study!

  • Lyndie Blevins

    I agree. I love my Kindle. I like being able to get the book the moment it is released. And for books I really enjoyed, I am usually buying a real book.

  • http://twitter.com/joshmbyrd Josh Byrd

    Wow, great discussion here. I got a Kindle 3 days ago for my birthday and at first I missed the tactile experience of a good book but as I was drawn into the story (like a good book will do) I forgot all about what I was reading it on. I would argue that reading is more like the audible experience of music than you think.

    That said, I’m sure there will be times I’ll buy a paperback book… maybe.

  • Claude Forthomme

    I agree. Personally, I’ve even lived through a sort of “reverse” experience: I got a Kindle over a year ago, enthusiastically bought books then got rather disappointed, as I realized that some books just NEED to be printed on paper. Not just to be enjoyable but to be useful. This is especially true of analytical non-fiction that can be used as reference. But even a good novel, one that you fall in love with and want to read again and share with friends…well it’s so much better in traditional print format! E-books are difficult to share and hard to use as reference.

    The upshot? I think like you that e-use will rise fast, not as fast as many think, and then it’s likely to “plateau” – but in the process, it will have expanded the overall readers market as more people are reached digitally and tempted to read on an amusing device like, say, the i-pad – people who would never read a “normal” printed book. So e-books are a plus and an opportunity for the industry. But too much hype about them is…just too much!

  • David

    I guess most of the sales mentioned are about b/w,text heavy books, so mainly fiction, biography, and some reference.
    It seems to me that there are few four colour illustrated titles available for download…because there are few four colour devices for reading them. This is a fair chunk of publishers output, so how meaningful is the stat of 7% of ALL book sales are ebooks.

  • http://twitter.com/RandyTayler Randy Tayler

    One factor that I don’t see you mentioning here – the increase in book sales that e-books will likely bring. The fact that the Kindle or Nook enable you to hear about a book, and with a few clicks suddenly HAVE the book, means – I would think – a dramatic increase in impulse purchases. Like, a seriously number-skewing increase.

    Is there any research showing the rate of book purchases for e-reader users both before and after getting their reader? (I, for one, am holding OFF getting an e-reader, BECAUSE I don’t want to end up buying more books than I can hope to read.)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Amazon says that Kindle owners buy 3.3 times as many e-books as their conventional customers. But I have a lot of questions about this number. Unfortunately, Amazon is pretty tight-lipped about additional data.

  • http://twitter.com/Milindkher Milind Kher

    It is very true. The feel and smell of a book is great. You can carry it around and curl up withit

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  • http://twitter.com/ruthseeley ruthseeley

    I couldn’t agree with your assessment more vehemently. As someone who’s been buying upwards of 100 books a year for 30 years now, I only took the eReader plunge in December of 2010. And to date I’ve only bought one eBook, and borrowed one from the library (which I never WAS able to transfer to my reader). In the meantime, I think I’ve bought another half dozen printed books.

    Is there demand for eBooks? Yes. Is it a format publishers have to embrace sooner rather than later? Yes, especially given the low production costs to produce. The market WILL grow. But between DRM and the tech challenges the hardware and software still presents, the shift from printed books to eBooks is not yet seamless, and the cost of the readers is still a barrier to market entry, especially since many of the larger publishers are charging WAY too much for eBooks. If you know that your reader will pay for itself within six months via savings on hot new books you can’t wait to read, you’ll invest in an eReader. If you know you’re only going to save $5 on the hardcover price by purchasing the eBook rather than the hardcover, you’re going to look online for a discount and buy the printed book. So I guess the question is: do publishers WANT eBooks to take off or not? If so, they’d better look at their pricing models and factor in the cost of the reader if they truly want eBook sales to take off.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I have thought for a couple of years that Amazon should follow the razor and blade example: Give away the e-reader, so that people by the e-books.

  • http://www.twitter.com/johannmurillo Johan M

    I’m agree with you. I was very interested to buy a Kindle, but a little bit afraid that it won’t work for me. I love to make notes and symbols as higlights. I have my own code. How to replace that in an e-device?.However, some weeks ago a friend of mine gave me a Kindle as a gift. I’m know into it. I love it. For that reason, I think the key for the e-book market is not only about product prices or available electronic editions, but helping the potential consumer to have their first e-book experience. I think something more than just have those e-devices available at stores needs to be done. Also the e-devices needs to evolve in order to encourage the potential consumers to use them. Innovation still being the key for this market.

  • TNeal

    Your second and third statements demonstrate the importance of observing facts as opposed to offering fanciful hype. Speculation gets a lot of ink and air time but often proves of little value. The two weeks between conference championships and the Super Bowl certainly highlights how speculation entertains but doesn’t produce much. It simply serves as filler before the actual event.

  • http://www.ksbrownbooks.blogspot.com KS Brown

    I agree entirely. Contrary to popular belief, a significant majority of the reading public has no interest in purchasing an eReader. Many people still don’t use computers or the internet, so they, of course, are not likely to use eReaders. Many who do use computers, like my mother, for instance, simply do not feel the need to own the latest and greatest tech. They will forgo eReaders in favor of print books. Other segments of society, for whatever reason, will remain readers of print books.

  • http://robert.epictales.org Robert Treskillard

    Michael,

    I wonder, though, if the 50% statistic indicates a predicted amount of growth in the market rather than cannibalizing traditional-book sales. Certainly the younger generation will be more likely to read, and therefore purchase an electronic book if they can read it on their techno-devices.

    I also wonder how much of the MP3 sales percentage is also affected by generation gaps. My in-laws have an MP3 player, but they purchase CDs and then rip them because CDs are what they are used to.

    Part of that might have to do with not trusting digital content due to the possibility of losing it to a hard drive crash. With the “Amazon Cloud” guaranteeing that you can’t lose a book, that might encourage the older generation to jump on board the digital book bandwagon.

    If both the younger and the older have these barriers taken down, isn’t it possible that books could move faster into digital than audio? I’m not saying that 50% by 2014 makes sense, but could it catch up to digital music sales?

    After all … people have already been broken in to the concept … digital music is smoothing the way.

    Just my thoughts. I’d appreciate your feedback, Michael.

    -Robert

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      The 50% number represents a percentage of the total market. It is not incremental to print sales.

      Surprisingly, most of the growth in e-reader sales is coming from those above 50 years old (according to Amazon). My dad is a good example. He is in his 70s, but loves the Kindle because he can make the print size larger.

      While the adoption rate of e-books vis a vis digital music may be faster, I don’t think it will be three times as fast. Time will tell.

  • http://reflectionswithcoffee.com BettyMc

    I agree with your assessment. Predictions about the death of books because of new inventions aren’t accurate. Here’s a quote:
    “Books will soon be obsolete in the schools…Our school system will be completely changed in the next ten years” – Thomas Edison, 1913, speaking about motion pictures.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That is a fabulous quote! Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/OrdainedBarista Barry Hill

    I agree with point #4 too. I have an attachment to my books and have a hard time making the 100% jump to digital. I think the new world will look like a mix between the paper and the new digital reality for some time to come, but the end will come eventually… Just ask the standard light-bulb?

  • Anonymous

    Here’s a quote from the Hunchback of Notre Dame on the death of books…

    “I tell you, sir, this is the end of the world. The students were never so riotous before; it’s the cursed artillery, bombards, serpentines, and particularly printing, that other German pestilence, No more manuscripts, no more books! Printing is the death to bookselling. The end of the world is at hand.”

    The HunchBack of Notredame, Page 50.

    More here…. http://www.larryshallenberger.com/2010/08/31/the-printing-press-will-kill-the-book-and-other-publishing-myths/

    It seems the book has been doomed for a long time.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I love that quote! Brilliant.

  • http://www.irenepeterson.com Irene Peterson

    Thank you for showing us that the emperor is indeed naked….

  • http://twitter.com/mikecane Mike Cane

    >>> e-book sales for the fourth quarter of 2010 were only 7 percent of all book purchases

    And yet for books that were available *only in Kindle format*, those sales were *100%*. Are *those* statistics ever factored in? I don’t think so. And “books” takes in a *lot* of territory. “Shoes” encompasses high heels as well as sandals.

    >>>digital music sales are still only 46 percent of the overall music market

    And yet if I wanted to go buy a Compact Disc today, I wouldn’t really know where to go. Tower Records is gone. Virgin Mega store is gone. A big-box retailer is unlikely to have the large selection those once offered, so I’d wind up getting it from Amazon, where I know it’d be in stock or at least for sale! More important is the *why* of CD sales persisting — are people manually ripping them instead of buying them online with all the hassles that come with downloads?

    • Iris

      There are still independent music stores. Here in Oak Park we have Val’s Halla. Val knows every piece of music, who recorded it, what cd it’s on, etc.

      • Iris

        I forgot to mention that it’s Oak Park, Illinois.

  • Nike Chillemi

    I think your argument is well tought out and balanced, but that’s what I’d expect from you. As a newly contracted ebook fiction author, I’m happy with a 25% projection. Print book authors can also heave a sigh of relief as they’re holding on to the lion’s share.

  • Lduncan512

    I agree, sort of. I think it will break down by age groups. I think those who are under 30 will be quick to change to e-books while us old folks still love the feel of a good book in our hands.

  • Ralph Coviello

    I completely agree with you Michael. Part of my job at Bowker is to talk to publishers about their ebook plans and data. Many are still struggling to get up to speed and are still overwhelmed by the rapidly changing technologies. That is a great point about the music industry, as one would think from the hype that all music sales are 100% digital downloads through I-tunes. Another big difference from the music industry is that books are not one size fits all they way music files are identical digitally with the difference being the content. Books are a very physical touch based experience with best selling novels being quite different from kids picture books and again from glossy photo image coffee table books. Another issue is sales versus revenues, it is questionable whether bulk ebook sales at lower price points can match current print revenues. Unlike a decade ago when the industry had its first embrace of ebooks that turned out to be premature, this time it has definitely reached the tipping point and is hear to stay, but as you say the hype is ahead of reality.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Ralph. It was actually some initial data that I saw from Bowker last week that made me begin to question all the hype. You guys are doing great work. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/anemulligan anemulligan

    I got an iPad for Christmas and love it, but I have to admit I find myself wanting to know how much more of the book I have left to read. That “feel” of where you are in the story is gone. I’ll always love my print books, and most of the ones I get are print. But then, I also take advantage of the free Kindle downloads. ;)

  • http://www.booksofwonder.com Peter Glassman

    I have been saying what you wrote for the past year. The comparison between digital music and e-books is a flawed one for precisely the reasons you give. I think the film industry’s experience is far more relevant. Rather than having alternative formats for watching film (cable, DVD, on-demand, online) bring theater going to an end (as so many had predicted!), it has led to a bigger overall market for film and people wanting to experience it in multiple ways.

    Also, The evolution of books into e-formats is in it’s infancy. The ability to add bells and whistles to digital books — i.e. apps on the iPad — is very likely to produce a whole new form of digital entertainment based on reading, but very different from the experience of reading a book. The result is just as likely to be that e-books that are non-interactive may become the silent films of the digital world and people who simply wish to enjoy the pleasure of having words create images in their minds will stick with printed books, while those who want a more interactive experience will got to the electronic formats. It’s way too early to predict where this is all heading.

    Finally, a large portion of readers love the pleasure of seeing their books on a shelf — I know so many who refer to it as the same as looking at photos of friends. E-books will never give that satisfaction and I feel that the convenience of non-interactive e-books are just as likely to become an add-on to printed books, especially as the interactive e-books begin to thrive.

    Finally, let’s remember that when the mass market paperback was first introduced (at around 50 cents a book!), all those “in the know” predicted that they would kill the market for trade hardcovers. It’s the same old song. TV will kill movies; cable will kill movie theaters, etc., etc. Let’s face it — the demise of something beloved and familiar makes much better copy — and much better attention-grabbing headlines — than the more likely reality that they’ll all survive side by side. But just because something is more dramatic and attention grabbing doesn’t make it true.

  • http://www.booksofwonder.com Peter Glassman

    I have been saying what you wrote for the past year. The comparison between digital music and e-books is a flawed one for precisely the reasons you give. I think the film industry’s experience is far more relevant. Rather than having alternative formats for watching film (cable, DVD, on-demand, online) bring theater going to an end (as so many had predicted!), it has led to a bigger overall market for film and people wanting to experience it in multiple ways.

    Also, The evolution of books into e-formats is in it’s infancy. The ability to add bells and whistles to digital books — i.e. apps on the iPad — is very likely to produce a whole new form of digital entertainment based on reading, but very different from the experience of reading a book. The result is just as likely to be that e-books that are non-interactive may become the silent films of the digital world and people who simply wish to enjoy the pleasure of having words create images in their minds will stick with printed books, while those who want a more interactive experience will got to the electronic formats. It’s way too early to predict where this is all heading.

    Finally, a large portion of readers love the pleasure of seeing their books on a shelf — I know so many who refer to it as the same as looking at photos of friends. E-books will never give that satisfaction and I feel that the convenience of non-interactive e-books are just as likely to become an add-on to printed books, especially as the interactive e-books begin to thrive.

    Finally, let’s remember that when the mass market paperback was first introduced (at around 50 cents a book!), all those “in the know” predicted that they would kill the market for trade hardcovers. It’s the same old song. TV will kill movies; cable will kill movie theaters, etc., etc. Let’s face it — the demise of something beloved and familiar makes much better copy — and much better attention-grabbing headlines — than the more likely reality that they’ll all survive side by side. But just because something is more dramatic and attention grabbing doesn’t make it true.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for this dose of reality. It is amazing the prognosticators have predicted the death of books with every new technology. There’s even a character in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (written in 1831) that predicts that the printing press will kill books.

  • http://www.booksofwonder.com Peter Glassman

    Oh, one more point (and yes, I realize I used “Finally” to open my two last paragraphs — sorry about that!). So far, all the studies of teens, including one just released last month, show that 80% of teens not only don’t read e-books, but don’t have any interest in them. These are the true prognosticators of the future — not the first adapters who buy every new piece of technology that comes out (remember LaserDiscs? Mini-CDs?).

    • http://twitter.com/B_Schebs B_Schebs

      do you have a link to this study. I have noticed a trend that teens don’t seem to read Book in any format much anymore.

      • Peter Glassman

        Actually, as the owner of a children’s bookstore for the past 30 years, I can tell you that teens definitely read — and read voraciously when they’re given or find books that truly engage them. Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series is a perfect example. For the past few years, we’ve hosted a signing event at the store on the last day of the New York Teen Book Festival — and we are overrun with several hundred teenage readers eager to get their books signed by the authors.

        Unfortunately, I did not save the link to the study. But I believe I read about it in Publisher’s Weekly. And when I ask the teens who come to the store — as well as their parents — about e-books, almost every teen is uninterested. Even if their parents are reading e-books and have offered them an e-reader.

        Of course, one of the reasons for this may be that teens love the portability and durability of the paperback book. Though a paperback may look like it’s been through the ringer when a teen is done reading it, it requires a lot less care than an e-reader. And the trend for the last few years has been for teens to want one device that does everything — not separate devices like e-readers. And, as has been discussed in many other posts, reading on iPhones and other devices without e-ink is not very comfortable for longer things like books.

        When you consider all these factors, it’s not surprising that ebooks are catching on much faster with older adults — especially those who travel a lot for work or have lengthy daily commutes. Those issues don’t resonate nearly as strongly with teens.

  • http://theaatkinson.wordpress.com thea atkinson

    I think this is an interesting assessment as I’m fighting the hype as an author of 5 ebooks at the moment. I read about the success of some indie authors who have found their ways onto the front page of amazon in the middle of print bestsellers and am feeling the hype might be real. THen I worry I’m not doing enough to get my stuff out there. It’s a big pond, regardless of whether it’s print or digital. It’s good to see reason rearing its head here in the face of Facebook pages in the half million making it look like the revolution has taken over and latecomers have lost out already. I like that it might build slow. great stuff here. thanks for posting

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1133526657#!/profile.php?id=1133526657 Bobby R. Woodall

    I believe Westerns are making a comeback ie: “True Grit”. I have two westerns, both in paperback and ebook! Very infromative article! Like Soloman says in the Bible ECC 1:9, “There is nothing new under the sun!” Hopefully, people will like my way of telling a story over others.! Bobby R. Woodall

  • Sgold

    Good column but: so many people assume readers will choose either print book or e-books. I know avid readers who do both (just as they both buy books and use the library).

    Second, as you say, it’s readers who will decide, not Price Waterhouse or any other analyst. And on the subway almost every day I see fewer people reading books but more and more reading on Kindles, iPads, and smartphones.

    While it’s true reading on an e-reader is in some ways less convenient (can’t flip those pages), it is still a much better experience that non-users will allow. and I remember my own reluctance to switch all my record-keeping and documents to a computer 25 years ago but love it now. E-readers may not become as ubiquitous as computers, but they will find their way.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yep. I use both myself.

    • http://twitter.com/B_Schebs B_Schebs

      Sgold,

      I too use both ebooks and “real” books. I love the ease and convenience of my Nook, but some books just need to be caressed. Mostly books in series I have been reading for years as well as classics. I am a big fan of the book industry following the movie industry in offering a digital copy along with the Hardcopy purchase. I would gladly pay more for the ability to have both, but not if I have to do it separately.

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com Ed_Cyzewski

    I think this post is spot on, and if I could add one other observation. The word of mouth for eReaders is not quite strong enough yet. I only know a few people with Kindles and iPads, and I’m not convinced that they fit my lifestyle yet. As more of my friends get them, I think I’ll eventually be convinced to take the plunge. As of now, eReaders are one of those things that I and my friends think of as things we wouldn’t necessarily use on a regular basis.

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  • http://www.magictreebooks.com Iris Yipp

    As the owner of a children’s bookstore , The Magic Tree Bookstore, I agree that printed books will continue, especially children’s books. We have so many customers who will reject a book because the cover is slightly damaged/warped, etc. And what if there is no cover, as in e-books. Yes, people care deeply about the beauty of the book and the permanence of the volume. E-books will create more entertainment out of children’s books but the quiet, non-screen-ness of the printed book will be a quality many will still value.

  • Warrenbru

    Home-based print on demand will satisfy my desire to hold a real book AND my need for instant gratification. :)

  • Pholy

    “Ninety-five percent of the books that generate 99 percent of the revenue are available for sale today in all the major e-formats.”

    This doesn’t say much; the books that I want that are unavailable don’t generate any revenue, so they don’t exist in your world… the old mid-list that could make the long tail.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Do you have a specific book in mind? We have almost everything available today that is still in print. We are currently in the process of concerting our out-of-print books. We are doing these last, because there is obviously less demand for them.

  • Jimandlaur

    LOVE my real books- there is nothing like the feel, texture and smell of a good real page turner book. I am not opposed to beginning to see what the digital e-books would be all about but not sure I will ever give up my real books-it goes to something deeper within ourselves.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_DQO7X4AC75TZ5G6OYNGKFXE5YI Steve

    This may be one of the most ridiculous pieces of “opinion” that I’ve ever read!

    First, basing ANY conclusions off of PW articles is like quoting the Pope on if Catholicism will continue to spread. PW is a tool of Big Publishing and Big Publishing is clueless when it comes to eBooks.

    Next, comparing books to the music industry is okay…except when using flawed logic. When a customer buys the CD, she is buying both the HARDCOVER (the actual CD) and the eBook (the ability to upload to electronic devices!). If hardcovers sold digital books included, your logic would be correct. They’re not. Buying an eBook is an impulse buy (when priced BELOW $9.99), buying a hardcover is a planned purchase.

    Better example of the technology conversion: Faxes to Email. Remember that thing called the fax machine? Remember how quickly the transition to email happened? Two years.

    Lastly, all these facts and figures being bandied about are ALL BS. They’re what big publishing is releasing on their eBook titles vs their hardcover titles. They’re not taking into account the MILLIONS of eBooks being sold by small and indie publishers. Indies are still small potatoes, but when ONE indie author sells 100,000 eBooks in one month, they add up. What we’ve still yet to see is the transition of midlist authors transitioning their out-of-print books (or books there are no digital rights for) over to eBooks.

    It won’t even take until 2014 to hit the 50% mark. It will likely be 2013. Who cares what YOU think.

  • Gregory Blake

    My thinking? It depends. If reader hardware goes the way of razors & printers, where the “disposables” (in this case books) are the money maker and readers virtually free, yes. Alternately, if the price of e-books goes the way of Apps where most are $.99, yes. If the current marketing practices stay the same, no.

    I currently buy e-books to have them with me on my phone at all times. Price (sometimes), weight, and convenience of purchase are motivators but are currently balanced against the reading experience of a real book. Ironically, I can see the tipping point occurring when romance trade books can be read in the bathtub. If someone comes up with a “waterproof” e-reader, all bets are off. :)

  • http://www.lindacarlson.com Linda Carlson

    As a writer and someone who works in publishing, I agree with you about sales forecasts. The quantity of e-books sold has been driven in part by the generally lower prices, sometimes as low as 99 cents. Electronic publishing is of great value for niche publications of any kind, and for creating material for the visually impaired. I see it being used by self-publishing novelists who hope their e-books will be picked up by publishers and/or optioned for movies. I love the concept of enhanced e-books with links to web sites. But for all for the reasons you cite, I cannot imagine e-books taking over the total book market.

    • http://twitter.com/B_Schebs B_Schebs

      Linda I agree with you on this. I would truly dig it if my non-fiction books had links for further research and such.

  • Pegg Thomas

    I will be the last person to purchase an e-reader, and even so, I know that within a dozen years it will sit next to my VHS movies and cassette music tapes and be as useless as they are now. Yet I own several books that have been passed down through the generations of my family, and are still readable today. Priceless.

    • http://twitter.com/mrmarkmcdonald Mark McDonald

      There is something pleasing about a library of well read books.

  • Laura

    I don’t own a Kindle yet — but the idea is appealing as I carry a book (a real one) everywhere. I read a lot. I LOVE books. But the idea of a little Kindle in my purse versus a big book is appealing. Then again — I love books. I love the smell of them, the look of them and the feel of them in my hands. And my daughter loves curling up with a real book. She gets bored staring at my computer screen to read – so hard to picture her curling up with a Kindle. The day may come though.

  • http://www.cdenning.com Chris Denning

    I couldn’t agree more. I think that people are anticipating e-books to catch on too quickly. I just recently bought the newest Kindle, and I love it. I can’t believe I like it as much as I do, because I love the tactile experience of a book, as you mention. However, the ease of reading and highlighting anywhere is very desirable. I think as the Kindle store expands, and companies like yours embrace publishing on various formats as a standard, more will begin to explore the electronic venue.

  • jlmwrite

    I am truly impressed by the cognizant, relevant topics presented in the article!

    As the owner of a Nook Color and a Kindle 3 (plus ereader apps on my phone), I’d say I’m a huge advocate of ebooks. I know that ebooks will never completely replace physical books — my own personal collection of beautifully bound and often signed editions of 18th and early 19th century books on Freemasony comes to mind — but for pedestrian reading and reference I’ve actually come to prefer ebooks.

    No worrying about (more) shelf space, no more “now which book did I see that in”, and no “darn, I left that book at home/in the office/in the car”. My entire e-library — which is nearly 900 books composed of classic books that I re-read constantly, the bestseller thrillers I go through at the rate of 2 to 4 every week, and an extensive medical reference collection — is always available on both of my e-readers and my phone. And should I find myself without any electronic device, my entire library is “in the cloud” on my Dropbox account so I can always retrieve any ebook.

    My only two complaints are: (1) ebooks should be priced lower than their physical counterparts (both hard and softcover) to reflect the cost saving over producing and distributing physical books, and (2) I wish publishers would put their unpaid interns and lowly paid junior editors to work scanning and formatting older titles that are still read. (For instance, did you know you still can’t buy all of Herman Wouk’s works in e-format?)

    While my kids won’t avoid lugging around 50 pounds of ghastly overpriced college texts as I did lo those many years ago, perhaps my grandkids will!

    • http://twitter.com/mrmarkmcdonald Mark McDonald

      My kids are attending a school that has done away with text books. Every high school student has an apple Mac with electronic text books. Still this is a pilot high school in our area; most high schools are old school.

  • http://twitter.com/mrmarkmcdonald Mark McDonald

    Two thoughts:

    1. How do I loan out a digital book? The best marketing for books is giving a friend your copy so that they read a bit to see if they want to buy it. How can I do this with an ebook?

    2. Who has an ebook reader? Whilst the publishing industry (no offense Michael) might say it is easy to read ebook, most people think they can’t read e book because they don’t own a kindle. There needs to be a shift in thinking for the general public to know how to read ebooks. Similar to the shift from owning records to listing to MP3′s.

    • http://twitter.com/B_Schebs B_Schebs

      I have a nook and got it around August. Before I bought it though I used B&N’s nook app on my computer to make sure I liked the interface and wanted to drop the $$ to get it. I don’t go anywhere without it. If fact, I bought a coat for winter primarily on the fact that my nook fit in the pocket.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Actually, both Kindle and Nook have the ability to lend books to others who own the same e-reader. Who has an e-reader? Evidently, about 10 million people in the U.S.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Actually, both Kindle and Nook have the ability to lend books to others who own the same e-reader. Who has an e-reader? Evidently, about 10 million people in the U.S.

  • http://www.inteliwise.com VirtualAgent

    Ugh, the event that I’m dreading. I haven’t even attempted on reading books digitally, at all. I love reading books in its physical form, because I always feel a sense of accomplishment once I take out the bookmark and close it after finally finishing its entirety.

  • http://jackr.myopenid.com/ Jack Repenning

    I’m with all the other commenters: I prefer real books. But it does seem to challenge this post’s position to note that Amazon reports that their Kindle-book sales have already surpassed their paperback sales!

    http://www.techspot.com/news/42184-amazon-kindle-ebook-sales-surpass-paperbacks.html

    Maybe it’s just them. Maybe it’s the initial rush. Maybe lots of things. But it’s a data point…

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Keep in mind, that they are driving an agenda, too. Amazon doesn’t tell us much and there’s no way to verify it.

  • http://www.bradfarris.com/ Brad Farris

    Though I agree that the projections you cite are overheated, there is one way in which your comparison to digital music is flawed. When I choose to buy a physical CD I can still burn it to my iPod and enjoy a digital version of it. This is not true with books. This forced choice may accelerate the penetration of ebooks faster than digital music.

    Just my opinion.

  • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

    Fascinating post. Was surprised on the digital music % too. Shows that hype can transform perception of reality. I “assumed” the digital music rate was much higher.

  • http://peterpollock.com Peter P

    I like your comment about industry executives.

    It blows my mind when people survey board-room executives and expect to get a feel for how the average guy (or guy-ess) on the street thinks.

  • Peter Turner

    I totally agree but for somewhat different reasons. People buy different genres of books for quite different reasons in terms of the nature of the interaction with the content. My guess is that the percentage of eBooks/print is going to vary wildly by category for many years. (I heard a senior person at Random House say that their % of e/p was already 50% for a lot of frontlist fiction but as low as 3% e/p for most nonfiction categories. Most of the executives interviewed for this study likely have a disproportionately high mix of commercial fiction and non-fiction–what I call consumption-oriented content. A lot of the books you publish at Thomas-Nelson strike me as valued by your readers in a more intimate way, an experience that one wants to be part of possess, repeat by rereading, etc.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This is an important point. I totally agree.

  • Mfosnot

    I have a library of thousands of print books. I am sure that my kids (some day) are going to wish they were in ebook format so they could just press the delete buttom. I also do not see the love affair with turning pages…i would much rather press than turn. I am a big fan of reading on my nook and my ipad. As a librarian by trade, I am not completely happy with the way libraries are being regarded by ebook publishers. Overdrive is the major vendor and has limited publishers. Libraries also pay full price. Granted costs are saved in other areas. Back to reading, if i want to skim or skip around in a book, print is more efficient but when i want to read each word, I love the ebook format. I especially like being able to control the font size.

  • http://twitter.com/librarythingtim Tim Spalding

    “digital music sales are still only 46 percent of the overall music market” — Right, because, as many people see it, only suckers pay for digital music. In fact 90% of downloads are illegal. The same will, I suspect, happen to books. It will take a while for digital SALES to equal physical sales, but physical sales will fall and fall because digital piracy rises.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Maybe. This is where I think the comparison between books and music breaks down. Music was already in digital form, it just had to be ripped and distributed. Most of the books available now (that aren’t public domain) are copy protected. It can be broken, of course, but it will serve as a deterrent to the masses. Only time will tell.

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  • Don Palmer

    I think the improvement I look for the most is active links in the text or in the bibliography. It would be helpful to have a quick mechanism to record these sought after link in a note for later reference.

  • http://twitter.com/readeatbreathe Patricia Rooney

    I disagree. Ebook sales will grow exponentially because ebooks are easier than print to locate, fast to download, cheaper to buy, and don’t stare at you mournfully from the shelves. If one is going to be able to navigate in this fast-paced world, one has to be streamlined, and ebooks offer no clutter. That’s value.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      The technology is there. The challenge is getting people beyond the early adopters to try it. I have been shocked at how emotionally attached people are to the physical aspects of books.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FGP7WFXTDJ4CAWELXQMAAKKZ2U Scottro

      Agree, but not until ebooks are real books, with the ability to be resold and truly lent without conditions.

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  • Brian Tolliver

    Yes, I agree that the forecast of this market’s share by 2014 is being greatly exaggerated by those who stand to benefit the most financially. But, I will also say that DUE TO such exaggeration, that market’s share is now being guaranteed, whenever such domination occurs. The younger generation, having less exposure to the printed page, has, and will grow to have, less affinity for it. Being a little older, I see the advantages of both medias. In certain contexts, there’s just no substitute for having access to so many titles (portability) as well as the advantages mentioned by other respondents. Still, while I know technology is advanced such that we don’t have to worry AS MUCH about it giving out on us, there’s still something comforting about knowing that a glitch of some kind won’t take out my printed book collection. Each has its merit, but the marketing machine will ensure the ebook market’s eventual domination. I just pray they continue to see the practical merit in keeping the printed page available. Having had a career in a Christian Bookstore for 21 years before becoming a pastor, I’m ALSO interested/concerned to see what the future holds for these “brick and mortar” centers in our communities.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_645XWBKFWNQ5O5SCI4QIFX7WBA TheLeopard

    “Analyst: Apple to sell 100 million iPhones, 48 million iPads in 2011 by Michael Grothaus (RSS feed) on Nov 3rd 2010 at 9:15PM”
    http://www.tuaw.com/2010/11/03/analyst-apple-to-sell-100-million-iphones-48-million-ipads-in/

    IMO, managers in publishing are sometimes slow to see what visionaries in technology see and are accomplishing until well after the curve, so I think they’re wise to think big while watching to see what’s actually happening. The phenomenal convenience and utility of the iPad in particular and tablets in general is something not understood by reading about it, but rather by experiencing it, hence, the old guard publishing execs may wake up late in the morning like Kodak did when it realized (far too late) that people weren’t using film any longer.

    I’m not an Apple fanboy, but the industry has consistently underestimated the public’s desire for and reception of e-reading devices. Yes, there’s something about holding a paper book in your hands that’s familiar and feels good, much like Andy Rooney’s love of his Underwood typewriter, but the fact is that tablets as e-readers are immensely superior in virtually every category to a paper book, and will replace them wherever possible.

    I say the market will grow faster than expected …

    By the way, this very blog site isn’t iPad-friendly. I tried five times to post via my iPad and couldn’t. Even you are behind the curve …

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I am an Apple fanboy, though I gave my iPad away and went to a dedicated e-reader—the Kindle. Interestingly, Apple hasn’t really committed to e-reading like Amazon has. 75% of our e-book sales are via Amazon. Apple is about 10%, though they have access to all the same digital files.

      With regard to my site on the iPad, I am not sure. It works fine with Safari on Mac and Windows, which, as you probably know is the same rendering engine as on the iPad browser. Perhaps it is the third-party commenting system I use, Disqus. This is the first report I have had of a problem. I’ll check into it.

      Thanks.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_645XWBKFWNQ5O5SCI4QIFX7WBA TheLeopard

        You should think about getting your iPad back. Just remember it’s primarily a viewing device, not an input device. You obviously do a lot of data entry, so I understand.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          I think the iPad is great for viewing, but not creating. My MacBook Air is almost as light and has way more power. I am not saying it’s better, just that for me—and my workflow—it is. Thanks.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_645XWBKFWNQ5O5SCI4QIFX7WBA TheLeopard

            With more and more schools, from first grade through grad schools, moving to tablets, I can’t see how this rising generation would opt for anything less than what they see as the best device for reading, which will certainly be ebooks over heavy reading books. I don’t think you appreciate the interactive ability and tactile functionality of the iPad. When you start using one yourself on a regular basis I think you’ll have a moment of revelation. This is a game-changing device. Skim the article but watch the short video.

            Georgia state senator hopes to replace schoolbooks with iPads

            http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/11/02/05/georgia_state_senator_hopes_to_replace_schoolbooks_with_ipads.html

          • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

            I used one on a daily basis for 90 days. I don’t think this is an issue of which device is best. I think it is an issue of which device is right—for you.

  • http://www.BudgetBibles.com Annissa Peavy

    AMEN! Hi there Mr. Hyatt,
    Thank You! Bless You! LOL Your article comes as a relief to me as well as excitement for our companies future growth possiblities. Searched Google for Nelson ebooks and saw posts about the retail classes. My rep sent me links a while back to download Can you share with us any more details, perhaps upcoming plans to help us Christian webstores integrate ebooks into our sales platforms? Is there an APP for that? Ha Ha.
    We are 9 years honoured to be in Thomas Nelson’s “family” as wholesale distributors serving Ministries whom are sacrificing all to give away Bibles both near and far. Praise God Nelson is on top of technology trends. Impressive the massive digital content already published by TN!
    I admit I didn’t realize the statistical extent or doomsday “wolfcry” dates on our beloved print libraries. I have been alarmed somewhat while browsing into announcements of Ebook sales boasted online as up 130% as well as reports of Kindle ebooks outselling paperbacks and on and on. Your insight is brilliant and valuable to us. Makes so much sense to me. (Now) Your point about 10 yrs of iPod wraps the issue up for me. Even chuckled as I shook my head in agrrement. No longer alarmed, just THRILLED to grow with Nelson Minisities! Just imagine what God has planned. e-Bibles to spread His Word to the World easier, less cost means more and whole lot lighter than Bibles by the case don’t you think?
    Every Blessing to you and all your readers. By His Mercy and Grace, Annissa MissionsBibles.com

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Annissa. Right now we don’t have our own plan to help retail stores sell e-books online. However, we are cooperating with CBA and ECPA. My understanding is that they are working on something. Kind regards.

  • http://purplemotes.net Douglas Galbi

    I estimate that e-books accounted for about 20% of large U.S. publishers’ net domestic sales (units) of adult trade books for Sept. to Nov. of 2010. Here are the data and details:
    http://purplemotes.net/2011/02/06/e-books-will-soon-be-more-important-than-print-books/
    Looks to me like the effects of e-books will be rapid and large.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Bowker has a new study they are releasing shortly, based on a huge consumer panel. I have already seen the data. There is a significant difference between fiction and non-fiction—and what Amazon and publishers report.

  • Kicks64

    Good article. One aspect of book industry going e-book…how will they handle ‘book signings??’

    • Ralph Coviello

      I recently saw a demonstration of a product called Autography that addressed this very issue. It was pretty nifty as it allowed for personalized signature and even a signed photo image to be inserted into the ebook. They claimed it would work on multiple platforms, but they had not gotten any of the big players to agree to work with them. Not sure if a digital signature will have the same value, but it is clearly an aspect that will benefit everyone, publishers and consumers.

      • Kicks64

        Don’t like that at all!!! I want the paper book along with the ‘real’ signature in it!! :-) That electronic device will never equal or even come close to the book siting on the shelf.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I am not sure, but book signings are one of the least efficient marketing tools available. It is really hard to justify the cost, even in the print world.

  • http://www.annkbrandt.com Ann Brandt

    I was talked into offering my books for sale in eformat. They are definitely NOT “flying off the shelves.” My print books are still selling.

  • Karl Mealor

    Random: I comment on your blog from time to time. When I come back a day or two later, I would like to be able to find my comments so I can see if there have been any replies. Is there an easy way to do this? Without reading through all the hundreds of comments?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      If you sign up with Disqus and log in using that, you can then go to their page and see all your comments and replies. Thanks.

      • Karl Mealor

        I’ll give it a shot. Thanks.

  • http://stainedglasspickup.blogspot.com/ Cathy Messecar

    My books have underlining, dogged ears, highlighted paragraphs, notes in the margins. I’m requesting an electronic reader for my birthday and enjoy my grandson’s color Nook and see multiple benefits. But, I still want the industry to offer recyled paper in book form. Cut down trees and reforrest. I still don’t mind papercuts from books.

  • http://www.printhead911.com/ new print head

    Its very informative post. thanks for the great information.

  • http://www.motleyhealth.com/ Jon @ Motley Health

    I received a Kindle the other day (a prize). I have an OU book now on Kindle, on my PC in pdf and in paper form. I still only read the paper book, so much nicer, easier to read, does not need battery, do not mind dropping it anywhere either. Books are just better in so many ways. But, having 1000 books to chose from on a tablet device is a handy thing when on the move too.

  • Lynne

    Many authors are making money by self-publishing via kindle (which has also led to print contracts and movie options). Self-publishing in print has carried a stigma. Will doing so electronically be a viable option for authors and wannabes?

  • http://twitter.com/paulfrancisnrs paulfrancis

    Now a days the people doesn’t buy the E books.They used to borrow the e books.We can see the many of the sites have pirated the E book.That’s why E book customers are so less t buy it.
    I have agreed that the four reasons of the which the E book has less percentage to buy it.
    _______________________
    Paul
    Ebook

  • Angelica

    I love to hold a book and would be saddened if the shelves in my house that are currently filled with all kinds of books were replaced by an e-reader. On the flip side of that though, I was hard pressed long ago to believe that one day my vinyl record collection would be obsolete.

    Personally, I wouldn’t want to take a Kindle on the beach and I don’t have to think about recharging a book. If a paperback falls out of my purse, well, I pick it up and there is no screen to break. I don’t want to have to worry about an e-reader AND my phone, AND my iPod. Books are easy and smell good and feel better.

    That being said, I think e-readers will grow faster that is being predicted here. Why? A large percentage of voracious readers are savvy and smart. Savvy and smart people tend to move with the times, and times are a moving…

    In addition to electronic readers taking over the world, I predict that POD publishing will also. I think there is less potential industry waste- there is a dollar savings in addition to reducing our footprint on natural resources.

    The shakeup is here and hopefully the fallout to the industry staples will be minimal. Randall states, and I do concur, that some companies, are run by old school slow to change publishers. That being said, just look at what happened to Blockbuster because they didn’t keep up with emerging technology.

    E readers and POD is here to stay and growing by the minute.

  • Walter Petticrew

    Hello Michael, I concur with your hypothesis regarding the rate of change in the transition to digital books and it is based upon 30+ years in high-tech product development. Back in 1997 at a conference I presented the notion of the High-Tech Slinky …. yes that original toy from Hasbro. My assertion was and still is that high-tech developers and marketers are at the head of the Slinky and they are pulling and stretching forward and assume the entire Slinky is with them. The reality is that the opposite, the Slinky gets tangled in people’s lives, behaviors , business models, ecosystems that are not living in the same reality as high-tech developers. I could site several real life examples of where I have seen this same scenario play out in many very successful and respected companies. We need developers pulling the Slinky forward, and in almost all cases the “Slinky” goes forward WHERE they thought it would, but not WHEN they expected. Much of the over optimistic transition date hype comes from industry publication writers/blogs because they reference and enjoy the notions of high-tech developers. They become a powerful and fairly accurate guide for the roadmap but they should not assign dates, that is not their forte.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That’s a really interesting concept. I’d like to see someone write a book about it.

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  • http://www.rockbridgeseminary.org Daryl Eldridge

    Michael,
    I believe you are correct in your forecast of the growth of e-books. However, as a president of an online seminary with students around the world, we are glad that you are foresighted to provide this medium for our students. Digital libraries and e-books have made it possible for our students to have access to materials that before was very difficult to obtain. I encourage you to make 100% of your books digitally available.

  • Nancy D.

    Maybe somebody already brought this up, but a big obstacle for the growth of ebooks is the standardization of format. I have a Kindle and was dismayed to learn that I had to buy the books (I’m a librarian). The lending program on the Kindle is very limited, to say the least. Overdrive software, purchased by some public libraries, doesn’t work on Kindles. I work at a University and we purchase thousands of ebooks that can only be read on computers. Not everyone has an iPad, though I guess people could read the books on 3G enabled Kindles. Am I missing something?

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  • Bradenton322

    I think that you are correct in your assumption that about 50 percent of books being sold in E-book format. I do not think we are close to achieving that number by 2014. I think the number may be higher than 25 percent you predicted. We are at a crossroad. The large bookstores that we once knew are struggling to survive (even when the economy is good). Being able to have a brick and mortar store dedicated to books alone is something that may not last.

    One problem is technology is still evolving for the E-Book. Younger people are tied to smart phones, e-readers, and other devices in which an E-Book can be easily read. Middle Age to Older People are adopting new technology but not fully embracing it. The “Nook” or “Kindle” devices are now getting better in their design to allow for those with vision issues to view text or other content.

    Even so, great strides in technology allow words to be published everywhere. Another problem is that we are moving to a generation of the instant. Right now we have instant news, instant sports, and with e-books technology, instant authors. It is really easy for someone to sit down and prepare a manuscript in an E-book format. What is contained in that manuscript sometimes in not really able to meet publishing standards.

    Books are published today almost instantly after a major event. Sometimes the events are still unfolding when the book hits the marketplace. Even worse, the facts published in the book may be completely wrong. This can be a major issue for a reputable publisher. Do they publish the book in E-book to get it out or do they wait and possible loose sales.

    Thankfully publishers like Thomas Nelson wait for the truth and make sure publishing standards are being met. Technology will continue to improve as we get more affordable devices and devices that will allow you to read books right from your large screen television. When we do so, then we will get to the large number of E-Books replacing printed word.

    God Bless and Thank you for all you do at Thomas Nelson.

    Mike Bragg (Bradenton322)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Mike. That was a very thoughtful response. In terms of the percentage of books being digital by 2014, I might be way off. Time will tell.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with your overall conclusion, but I think it is more of a generational thing. Once the older generation (that grew up without the digital world) becomes less and less of the majority that is buying books I think we’ll see a radical change. Here are 7 reasons why I think it’s better reading digital:
    http://tomorrowsreflection.com/7-reasons-you-should-use-a-digital-reader/

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  • http://twitter.com/jchatraw Jason Chatraw

    I couldn’t disagree with you more, Michael. http://bit.ly/hqPTHS

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your comments. I disagree with you, but that’s okay. We can come back in a couple of years and see who was right!

      • http://twitter.com/JasonChatrawDCJ Jason Chatraw

        The joy of being a futurist! There is a big different from what I’m seeing between the increase of sales in fiction and non-fiction. Either way, it’s an exciting time in the industry.

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  • RamMohan Narasimhan

    Already there are a lot of complaints that Amazon is charging more for ebooks as compared to paperbacks for many titles.  This would certainly dampen the ebook sales.  As far as India (my country) is concerned, the physical books are available at a fraction of the cost as they are priced lower to take care of lower purchasing power in India.  There is no such preferential pricing for Indian customers for ebooks for obvious reasons.  Therefore, I doubt if ebooks will ever take off in a big way in India