Books: Not Dead Yet
By Jonathan Poet
Amazon.com announced this week that sales of e-books had outpaced hardcovers. And the company offered some seemingly startling stats: Over the past three months, Amazon has sold 143 Kindle books for every 100 hardcovers. In the past month, the ratio is 180-to-100. The news reports were generally measured, but it was hard not to conclude that books are going to die. ("Monday was a day for the history books — if those will even exist in the future," The New York Times joked.)
It would be naive to think that publishing won't continue its march toward electronic distribution, but there are some important caveats. The biggest one is that Amazon was talking hardcovers, not all printed books. As NPR points out, a lot of e-books are cheap and Kindle's convenience factor is much bigger when the device is compared to hardcovers.
It's also worth noting that there are a lot more paperbacks out there. The wildly popular "Eat, Pray, Love," for example, sold 200,000 copies in hardcover and more than 6 million in paperback. Also consider: Amazon is selling about 2,000 hardcover titles that were released in the last three months, compared with about 14,000 paperback titles.
No doubt, the trend lines point to e-book sales increasing by leaps and bounds — something tells me those $189 Kindles are going to be big this Christmas — but it's going to take a while for them to surpass paperbacks. Even when they do, I am not sure the printed book will be on its death bed.
Or, to put it another way, you'll undoubtedly have to explain to your grandkids what a "video store" was, but you probably won't have to worry about the concept of the library.Support Retro Thing when you contribute to the death of the printed book by buying a Kindle.