Electronic books have been around a lot longer than most people think, dating all the way back to the late 1960s when the concept of the Dynabook (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynabook) was first mooted. It’s only been in the past few years, however, that there’s been real traction for the eBook concept, speeded along by devices such as Amazon’s Kindle and Kobo’s eReader and the willingness of publishers to come on board with electronic publishing.
Formats come and formats go — it’s somewhat hard to buy a cassette tape outside of roadside truck stops, for example — but will the rise of eBooks put paid to the format they’re supplanting, namely the printed book? Amazon certainly seems to think so, and to give them credit, they’ve got some impressive stats to back that up. The company is already one of the world’s leading book sellers, and it recently announced that sales of Kindle eBooks had overtaken its sales of both hardcover and print books combined. For every 100 physical books sold, Amazon’s stating (http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1565581&highlight=) that it sells 105 Kindle eBooks.
Impressive figures, and I’ll admit that I’ve been doing a bit more Kindle (and iBook and Kobo) reading than print reading of late, but that’s largely been due to some (but not all) digital books that I’ve been after being cheaper in digital format. That’s not a given, and that in itself is a barrier to adoption; most consumers, no matter the economics of the argument, will baulk at paying more for a digital eBook with minimal transmission costs than they will a physical book. There’s still also the challenge of lending. If I want to lend my mate a book I’ve enjoyed, I simply pass it to him. For him to borrow a Kindle book, I’ve got to pass him the entire Kindle, or authorise my account on his device — at which point I’ve got to trust he won’t start buying books on my credit card!
What do you think? Are print books likely to go the way of the LP, assigned simply to dusty specialist stores?