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The future of hardcover books?

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Amazon announced today that for the last four weeks their digital books have outsold their hardcover books by 80%. Further, for the last three months, sales of books for its e-reader, the Kindle, outnumbered sales of hardcover books (including hardcover books for which there is no Kindle book). Does this portend the future of hardcover books? Click here for article.

 

-Thoth

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I doubt it. Nothing beats the feeling of going to a bookstore and searching for a good book.

 

Plus, for other retailers, the results are probably a lot different (Sam's Club, Costco, BJ's and other stores have novels at the roughly the same price as the Kindle version). There's also no set standard that works with all e-readers yet.

 

The upfront cost of buying a Kindle or e-reader is expensive, unless you know you're going to be reading enough to justify the cost.

 

Although, with every e-reader having an iOS or Android app and better designed multi-media devices, I do think that may play a major role. For most people, it's about convenience. I know people who commute using public transportation are traditionally drawn to an e-reader instead of lugging a book around, where as someone who only reads books at home prefer the actual book.

 

Then you have the group that would never pay for the book and will borrow it from the library, but now you also have "online libraries" where you can borrow e-books that lock up after a set time.

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...Nothing beats the feeling of going to a bookstore and searching for a good book....

Agreed. (Unless it's a holiday and the place is packed and the lines are impossible.) And let us not forget the physical sensuality of a good hardcover book. (You can cuddle with an e-reader too but it's not the same.)

 

For most people, it's about convenience.

I suspect that's true. But let's not forget the technophiles and the bleeding-edgers.

 

Then you have the group that would never pay for the book and will borrow it from the library, but now you also have "online libraries" where you can borrow e-books that lock up after a set time.

So it would seem that we are moving in that direction. But I don't think hardcovers will disappear from the shelves anymore than horses disappeared from the streets of cities after the automobile became popular. They became rare but they're still around.

 

Thank you for your input, emoKid.

- Thoth

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Amazon announced today that for the last four weeks their digital books have outsold their hardcover books by 80%. Further, for the last three months, sales of books for its e-reader, the Kindle, outnumbered sales of hardcover books (including hardcover books for which there is no Kindle book). Does this portend the future of hardcover books? Click here for article.

 

-Thoth

Ah, but how many of those "Kindle" books were read on an iPad or iPhone, I wonder? Amazon.com says Kindle sales tripled, and maybe they did, but it's hard to say what that means, when Amazon has never actually said how many Kindles it sells in any given quarter.

 

Amazon.com has done something very smart: it has, effectively, cornered the ebook market. Only temporarily, maybe--or maybe not. It could be hard to catch, if it gets sufficient lead. It has 630,000 ebooks, not counting freebies; Apple has 60,000 (?). I often check the iBookstore first but end up buying from Amazon.com because Apple doesn't have the book I want. Amazon.com doesn't need to sell Kindles to sell Kindle books.

 

As for hardcovers, it doesn't surprise me that their sales are less than ebooks. Libraries will continue to buy them (unless they switch to ebooks, but they won't do that entirely until there is a single ebook standard), because they last longer.

Other people increasingly will not. But until ebooks replace paperbacks, I don't think we need bemoan the fate of the book.

 

So says an avid ebook reader (who nonetheless loves print books),

Best,

M

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P.S. Until I bought my iPad, I tried, I really did, to shop at my local Borders. I would go in there with coupons and scour the shelves for titles on a list of books that interested me. Nine times out of ten, I ended up ordering the books from Amazon.com because Borders didn't stock them. Sure, they would special-order them (for full price, because the coupons then did not apply), but what was the point of that? These days I download the books electronically whenever I can and order them online when I can't. If the local Borders goes out of business, is that not how capitalism works?

M

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If the local Borders goes out of business, is that not how capitalism works?

 

It is. And to be honest, I'm surprised Borders has lasted as long as it has. From an "inside" point of view Borders has made a number of truly terrible business decisions (which I wouldn't mention in public) and frankly I'm amazed that they're still hanging on.

 

Hardcover books, however, I'm sure will hang on. ;)

 

Orren

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...is that not how capitalism works?

Nope. That's how the marketplace works, whether capitalist, socialist, mercantile or barter (or amongst pre-capitalist Tartars). Capitalism is where the businesses are privately owned rather than publicly owned, and profits are reinvested into the business. That's all that's required. (Note that no country's economy is purely capitalistic or purely socialistic, or purely anything.)

 

But the marketplace does not always produce the best solution--best being defined as what I (as an individual) want. The marketplace just produces the highest sustainable price that will maximize sales, even if it means putting the other guy out of business. Of course, once you do put the other guy out of business the price goes up (and then, maybe, competition resumes).

 

E-books have both a price advantage* and a convenience** advantage. This makes me wonder if hardcover book (and even possibly paperback books) are long for this world. (Look at what has happened to newspapers!) The only real advantages to hardcovers, IMHO, are the durability of their physical ownership, and their physical beauty. Two things e-readers have yet to reproduce.

 

Once again, this is IMHO.

- Thoth

 

* Discounting e-reader cost.

** Although I've never had to worry about the batteries in my paperbacks running out.

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...But until ebooks replace paperbacks, I don't think we need bemoan the fate of the book.

So says an avid ebook reader (who nonetheless loves print books)...

So say we all (or at least me).

 

Not yet bemoaning the fate of the book.

- Thoth

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... to be honest, I'm surprised Borders has lasted as long as it has...

I've heard that too. But what mistakes did they make?

 

Hardcover books, however, I'm sure will hang on. :)

The key phrase here is, "hang on".

The question is, for how long?

- Thoth

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I've heard that too. But what mistakes did they make?

 

Well, one public mistake they made is deciding early on that web sales weren't worth pursuing. For years they licensed Amazon to be the online retailer for them. It was nice from a consumer point or view that your Borders gift card was good for anything on Amazon.com for a time, but that was a lot of revenue they were kissing away.

 

Other mistakes have to do with private relationships with publishers. Those are, well, private. :)

 

The key phrase here is, "hand on".

The question is, for how long?

- Thoth

 

well, look at vinyl LPs. They are having a resurgence. In many (most?) cases people blog that they don't even own record players; they are buying the vinyl as a "souvenir" if you will. The art is better, the physical product is beautiful and has intrinsic value, etc. I don't know how long paperbacks are going to hang on once they are surpassed in sales by eBooks. But I believe that hardcover books, even if they cease to be major streams of income, will hang on as souvenirs for those who want the luxurious feel of a well crafted physical version of selected works.

 

Orren

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...well, look at vinyl LPs. They are having a resurgence. In many (most?) cases people blog that they don't even own record players; they are buying the vinyl as a "souvenir" if you will. The art is better, the physical product is beautiful and has intrinsic value, etc. I don't know how long paperbacks are going to hang on once they are surpassed in sales by eBooks. But I believe that hardcover books, even if they cease to be major streams of income, will hang on as souvenirs for those who want the luxurious feel of a well crafted physical version of selected works.

It never occurred to me is that people without record players saw LPs as collectibles in their own right (like action figures that never leave their plastic display box). I guess if people can collect bottle caps for their own sake then why not LPs?

 

You've reminded me of another advantage of e-books and MP3s over books and albums: they save space. I have a lot of books--probably a fully stuffed walk-in closet's worth--and I have to wonder what I would do with all that space if they were all in my computer (or the "cloud"). The same goes for music but I've already put all my CDs on my iPod and only buy music downloads now. (I long ago bought CD versions of my LPs and gave the LPs to a 501c3 charity.)

 

Thanks for the info about Borders.

I was curious.

-Thoth

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A strange strategic statistic, according to NewsWeek (issue for 7/26/2010):

Books published in 2000 - 282,242;

Books published in 2010 - 1,052,803.

 

The Back Story article doesn't mention if this figure includes e-books but I imagine that it does.

- Thoth.

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I still collect Vinyls and Stamps... I usually buy music off of amazon and send stuff through e-mail though, but nothing beats receiving a hand-written letter in a custom made envelope (except for my more "mature" friends who think it lacks practicality).

 

I used to own a vinyl record player, until a lightning storm struck and it got fried somehow... I still buy vinyls though, in hopes of finding a record player at a thrift store someday... Not because I think they're worth something or sound better, but because I like the look on people's faces when you do things that seem out-of-date. Like when I have a party, we always have the Sega, SNES, or other cartridge based games (and then we blow on the game before putting it in the system :)). People tend to appreciate the unexpected (if the outcome is normal or positive).

 

A strange strategic statistic, according to NewsWeek (issue for 7/26/2010):

Books published in 2000 - 282,242;

Books published in 2010 - 1,052,803.

 

Is there an online version for reading? I have heard that more authors are being published, but at the same time, self-publishing has also increased. There are also sites where people can "publish" or post their own e-books for free and have them made freely available to others. The word "published" is a bit vague now when you look at all the ways it's used today.

 

I tried, I really did, to shop at my local Borders. I would go in there with coupons and scour the shelves for titles on a list of books that interested me. Nine times out of ten, I ended up ordering the books from Amazon.com because Borders didn't stock them. Sure, they would special-order them (for full price, because the coupons then did not apply), but what was the point of that?

 

Same here, but our Borders, you could call them, and they will order it, and you can use coupons (most of the time). I think it only applied to previously stocked titles or if you got a nice Border's Employee.

 

At the local Barnes & Nobles, and Books-a-Million, they usually suggest to the customer to try online retailers if it's not in stock in store. If you're persistent, they'll order it for you.

 

I do think that some books probably won't fit the e-reader scene, like how-to books for certain subject (like drawing, automotive, etc.)

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I still collect Vinyls and Stamps...

I think it would be a shame if that's the only physical books could survive. But better that than nothing.

 

I used to own a vinyl record player, until a lightning storm struck and it got fried somehow... I still buy vinyls though, in hopes of finding a record player at a thrift store someday... Not because I think they're worth something or sound better, but because I like the look on people's faces when you do things that seem out-of-date. Like when I have a party, we always have the Sega, SNES, or other cartridge based games (and then we blow on the game before putting it in the system :)). People tend to appreciate the unexpected (if the outcome is normal or positive).

My friends would just laugh at me. I think they tend towards the less whimsical than yours.

 

Is there an online version for reading?

The free online version of NewsWeek Magazine runs about a week behind the paper magazine and contains less. For more you have to subscribe.

 

I have heard that more authors are being published, but at the same time, self-publishing has also increased. There are also sites where people can "publish" or post their own e-books for free and have them made freely available to others. The word "published" is a bit vague now when you look at all the ways it's used today.

Yes. Without a breakdown it's hard to evaluate the numbers. (Anybody have a breakdown?)

 

At the local Barnes & Nobles, and Books-a-Million, they usually suggest to the customer to try online retailers if it's not in stock in store. If you're persistent, they'll order it for you.

I'm surprised you need to be persistent. Why would they forgo an easy profit? Do a lot of people order books and not pick them up?

 

I do think that some books probably won't fit the e-reader scene, like how-to books for certain subject (like drawing, automotive, etc.)

The graphics on e-readers are getting better (e.g., the iPad). It's probably just a matter of time before the entire 39 volume set of TIME-LIFE BOOKS: WORLD WAR II is available with all its maps and schematics in glorious color in a single download for $19.95. Next year?

 

-Thoth

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