Once again exhibiting his uncanny ability to read my mind (or simply read the same news sources), Nathan posted yesterday about Mike Shatzkin's post on the future of book stores. I largely agree with Shatzkin (his original article can be found here), and Nathan's assessment (though bleak) is pretty spot-on. To quote:
These last few years have been incredibly tumultuous for the industry. The recession and the Great Digital Transition combined forces to wallop the industry, and the effects are everywhere: shrinking lists, closing imprints, shuttering indie stores, a vanishing mid-list, and belt-tightening across the board.
However, whereas Shatzkin seems to have relatively little hope that publishers will be able to adapt to the massive transformation entailed by the "Great Digital Transition," I think Nathan and I are in the same, slightly more optimistic boat. People will still buy (possibly even more) books. The paper side won't disappear completely. A lot of things (writers writing, agents agenting, editors editing) will remain the same.
Thus, in the one, the only, Bullet-o-Vision™:
· In my opinion, e-books will comprise 50% of the market by 2015. I wouldn't be surprised if it were more (up to 70%).
· In my experience, e-book consumers are never "between books"; that is, unlike with physical books, they don't finish a book and take any sort of break. Even if they take a month to read the next one, they generally start it as soon as the previous book is finished. I think this behavior, along with the lower cost and greater convenience of e-books, is behind the booming sales numbers we're seeing.
· As the cost of e-readers decreases (read: falls to around the $100 mark across the board), e-book sales will sharply increase.
· The vast majority of e-book readers also buy physical books (and more of those who are "physical books only" are making the transition every day), so I think publishers would be wise to bundle the two products together at a discounted rate, at least for now.
· I don't think the transition to e-books will democratize publishing any more than Gutenberg's press did 560 years ago.
What do you think, mes auteurs?