Monday, August 12, 2013

[Link] E-book sales are leveling off. Here’s why.

By Neil Irwin

Nicholas Carr parses some new data to show a fascinating trend: Sales of e-books are no longer rising at extraordinary, double-digit rates. In the first quarter of 2013, sales were up only 5 percent from a year earlier, compared with 28 percent in the same period of 2012 and a whopping 252 percent in 2010.

It’s evidence that e-books (whether for Kindle, Nook, tablet computing devices or any other device you might wish to use to read many thousands of words) are starting to become a more mature technology. They seem to be through their explosive growth phase.

It was inevitable, of course. The question was always “at what share of the book market will e-books settle,” not “when will print books cease to exist.” Old technologies never die, they just fade into a smaller, niche offering; television supplanted radio as the dominant mass medium in the middle of the last century, for example, but radio is still a big business.

But the fact that that leveling off is already happening with e-books suggests that the ratio of printed books sold to electronic books is going to stabilize at a higher level than it had seemed likely a year or two ago in the era of extraordinary e-book growth. Carr has a number of good ideas for why; I find his first most compelling.

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