The Shift Toward Digital Continues

Still not convinced that the world is going digital? Today, USA Today ran a story about U.S. music album sales. Get this: 2005 album sales were down 7% from the previous year while digital downloads of music doubled!

The article goes on to note that this isn’t particularly bad news for recording companies, but “it doesn’t bode well for music retailers.” Why? Because digital downloads bypass them entirely.

As I pointed out in my first and second posts on the future of digital book publishing, I believe that the music industry, while different, is a harbinger of things to come in the book industry. Before you post a comment that “digital books will never replace traditional books, blah, blah, blah,” keep in mind that that’s not my argument. I am simply arguing that a shift will occur once the right device appears. Like it or not, digital books will take a slice of the pie.

If 5–10% of book sales go digital, it will have a significant impact on the industry. There will be winners and losers. The winners will be those companies who see digital books coming and prepare accordingly. The losers will be those who stick their head in the sand and refuse to acknowledge that the world is changing.

I didn’t spend any time in my previous posts about the impact on book retailers, but that is clearly something that needs to be addressed. Music retailers are already feeling the impact of digital music downloads. Book retailers are in a good position to begin thinking about this issue before the tsunami hits them.

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  • FMF

    Mike —

    Check this out for a possible impact on the book industry:


  • Jim Seybert

    Keep banging the drum on this issue – it’s a reality and vital that the publishing industry pays attention.

    I think the place many in publishing get stuck is the physical practice of putting ink on paper. The digital age has much more to do with mindset and attitude than it does with the medium over which content is delivered.

    Digital is more about user generated content and user managed content than it is about reading text on a screen versus a page.

    Success in the digital age will be enjoyed by those who allow consumers to alter products to fit individual lifestyles.