Nicholas Carr’s Will Gutenberg laugh last? notes that
(a) the growth in e-book sales has slowed substantially and (b) print sales are holding up pretty well.
The Association of American Publishers recently reported that annual growth in adult e-book sales dropped to 34 percent during the first half of 2012, a sharp falloff from the triple digit gains of the previous few years. As of August, e-book sales represented 21 percent of total sales of adult trade books. While e-book sales seem to be eating away at mass-market paperback sales, which have been falling at around a 20 percent annual clip, hardcover sales appear to be holding steady, increasing at about a 2 percent annual rate.
The article cites many other sources to the same effect, including David Streitfeld’s Little Sign of a Predicted E-Book Price War which suggests a paradoxical result of the e-book’s initial success: the decline of brick & mortar book stores actually damaged e-book sales, because that’s where people used to browse for books they’d later buy electronically…
Be that as it may, e-books don’t seem to be destroying traditional codices anytime soon. That suits me just fine, as I still have numerous misgivings about the current electronic formats and reading devices. Carr and some of his commenters have voiced similar complaints. Perhaps slowing sales will finally entice the industry to tackle some of them.
2013-01-05: The follow-up post Containers and their contents quotes a spirited discussion between Clay Shirky and Nicholas Carr in the comments on the original post, on whether books are merely accidental content delivery systems. Recommended reading.