Traditional Bookstores and the E-Book Revolution

Bookstores have feared that e-books would decimate them, but it hasn’t happened. Why?

E-books made up just about 1.5% of the overall book market according to the Oct 09 YTD Association of American Publishers stats.

Unlike music, where audiophiles have historically gravitated to smaller, more portable devices, the average book lover is not constantly on the hunt for the smaller more portable book. The high-speed transition to downloaded music does not guarantee the same thing will happen with books. In fact, it has not happened. There is certainly a lot of growth in the area, but it is not going to devastate the publishing industry as music downloads did the music industry. Anyone who travels a lot still sees very few e-readers, especially compared with iPods/MP3 players. Who are the key buyers of e-books and PDF books?

Primary customers for e-books and PDF books:

  1. Scholars (seminarians, for example) in a certain field and need a whole library with cross-referencing capability at their fingertips
  2. People who need to have cutting edge moment-by-moment information on the latest trends (for example, some software developers; news hounds).
  3. People who want to read a certain book they don’t want to carry around or store. Travelers fit this profile. So does my high school son. He has a lot of required books that he needs right now, but he’ll never pick up again.
  4. Large print book buyers.
  5. The new generation of e-book lovers. People who don’t buy any physical books. This group is small but growing and has a voracious appetite.

Bookstores cannot compete for these customers (and probably haven’t been able to for many years already). For everyone else, there is still a big demand for books, and retailers need to get out there sell. Make people aware of titles. Promote authors and topics. Find out what book local influencers recommend.

In short, be where our customers are and understand the dynamics of demand and change.

If you are an author, how can you encourage your publisher to release e-book and PDF versions of your works?

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