Here comes the Borg — E-books

Did you see this?

McCosh is part of an unprecedented surge in e-book sales that’s changing publishing and challenging traditional bookstores.

It’s reflected on USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list, which tracks combined sales of e-book and print editions. The latest list, based on sales data from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, shows a remarkable burst of digital book sales after e-readers were unwrapped as gifts — for 42 of the top 50 titles, the e-book editions were the most popular format. The previous high, in July, was 25 of the top 50.

For e-books, “the two weeks after Christmas is what the two weeks before Halloween is to pumpkins,” says Michael Norris, an analyst with Simba Information, a market research firm. After the post-holiday surge, he predicts, e-books will increase in “short bursts and slow trickles” the rest of the year.

Norris estimates that one in five U.S. adults are reading e-books on a variety of devices, from dedicated e-readers to tablets (like the Kindle Fire) that can be used to download movies, music, video games and more.

Forrester Research estimates that Amazon has sold 5 million Kindle Fires, priced at $199 each, since the device was released Nov. 14. Archrival Barnes & Noble has sold an estimated 2 million Nook Tablets ($249), released Nov. 17.

Both devices are designed, in part, to compete with Apple’s iPad (the latest versions are priced from $500 to $830), which sold about 40 million units last year.

But even as the sales of e-books doubled from 10% of the overall market to 20% in 2011, print books still account for about 80% of the market.


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  • Kenny Johnson

    I wonder how much the sales figures are skewed by all the deep discounts. I’ve bought lots of ebook titles because I’ve got them for $1-2.

  • Amazon, at least, also includes the free public-domain titles as “sales.”

  • DSO

    How interesting. I wonder how many use devices like these from the pulpit.

  • I am not sure Amazon does include free public domain titles as ‘sales’ in these figures. What this is saying, is that of the 50 most sold books 42 of them sold more ebooks than paper. But the 50 books start by adding paper and ebook together. So I don’t think any public domain titles would get on the list. Very few public domain titles sell many paper copies.

    What I know from my circle is that the vast majority of readers that I know, now are primarily ebook readers. I know a few hard core holdouts. But most have shifted to ebooks over the last couple years.

  • Robin

    I’ve been wanting to start reading in Church History and Classical literature (Think apostolic fathers, plato, and aristotle) and I got a Kindle just so I could get these titles for free or $2-3 instead of paying full price for physical copies. It really makes reading much more convenient. The only thing I keep hard copies of now are things I want to use as references or write and take notes in.

  • Robert A

    Ebook technology is getting better and better. Yet I find myself, often, buying regular books. Right now it’s a buyers market IMHO.

    There are all kinds of problems with these numbers about ebooks. One is, as others have mentioned, most I buy are either deeply discounted or free. On the iPad I’m typing this reply my kindle app is full of about 50 titles and I’ve yet to pay more than $10 for any of them, and the vast majority were free. I like free for ebooks.

    We’ll see where it goes but I’m not paying $500 for the Word Biblical Commentary on Logos (an example) when I can get the physical copy for the same price. When ebooks and physical are within the same price point, I’m buying physical.

    @DSO, I use my iPad for my notes on Sundays but still use a physical text to preach from. It works better for me this way. Besides, it keeps the physical text in front of people.

  • That’s great advice about the two weeks after Christmas being huge for ebook sales. If I would have know that, I would put a lot of effort into a publicity campaign right around Christmas time. I’ll know for next year though.