Analysis

The Book Is Not Dead: Infographic

The media has focused a lot of attention recently on stories about the death of the book. We’re told how successful the Kindle has been, how independent bookstores are struggling, and how e-books will be like digital music: they will completely replace their physical counterparts. Our new infographic explains why the book is alive and well.

The Book Is Not Dead - Infographic by License Direct

Infographic by License Direct

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E-book growth and the flawed comparison with digital music

The rate of adoption of e-books has slowed; there has been, as Nicholas Carr describes on his blog, a surprisingly rapid decline. After increasing by 154% in 2010-2011, the rate of increase went down substantially in 2011-2012 and so far in 2013 has increased by only 4.8% on the same period last year.

Many people have thought that e-books would ultimately account for as much of the book market as MP3s do of the music market. That now seems unlikely. Digital music sustained a high rate of increase for much longer, and as the infographic shows, the rate of increase started to decline only when digital music accounted for over 50% of the total market.

Books are different

The reason, of course, is that e-books are not as good substitutes for hard copy books as digital music is for CDs. E-books will surely become better substitutes as technology improves; but they will retain certain qualities that people will continue to value. That’s why 70% of consumers say that by 2016 it is unlikely that they will have given up on printed books, and why hardcover sales are going up, not down.

The “independents”

The story of the struggling independent bookstore is, in our view, largely a myth. The number of independent bookstores has actually increased recently. Independent authors are also doing well. Amazon recently released figures showing that one quarter of the top 100 bestselling Kindle books in 2012 were self-published.

The future & the e-book plateau

E-book sales will probably plateau, at least in the medium term, at around 25% of total sales. Many e-book sales will not cannibalize physical book sales, and so publishers will overall be selling more than before. E-books will eat more into certain categories than others; the pinch will be felt the most for some types of mass market paperbacks, especially genre fiction, which people don’t really care about owning in physical form but which they report that they like reading on their Kindles. The book will not die, and hardcovers and independent bookstores will continue to do brisk business.

- Posted December 16, 2013