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Book Trade; eBook sales v. Hardbacks – Hype or Tipping Point?

July 20, 2010 15 comments

Update; Friday 23rd July – Further facts emerged today concerning the sales performance of eBooks.  The Bookseller.com reports that June saw further Kindle eBook sales growth with the ratio rising to 180 eBooks for every 100 Hardbacks sold in that month.  Authoritative figures from the UK’s largest publishing house, Hachette UK, stated that ‘digital formats’ now represent 8% of their sales by volume – this is five times higher than in 2009. Clearly, the gap is closing fast.

Nielsen figures (for Jan to Mar 2010) show that hardbacks are just over 20% of the UK market (by volume).

The Bookseller.com goes on to say that the first mass market author to exceed 1 million eBook sales is James Patterson with 1.14m in total.  Most publishers in the UK seem to be seeing fairly rapid growth in their eBook sales.  

Nielsen also announced today that they would launch a UK eBook sales chart ‘within a matter of months’, another sure sign of a rapidly changing marketplace.

Perhaps the jury is still out but it would be a brave person who suggests that this is all going to die away and come to nothing. We shall see!

 See www.thebookseller.com/news/124094-uk-e-books-grow-to-amazonian-stature.html

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July 20th – according to a report on The Bookseller.com today (see http://www.thebookseller.com/news/123655-amazon-sells-more-kindle-books-than-hardback.html), Amazon are now selling more Kindle eBooks than physical Hardbacks. In the three month period – April to June 2010 – for every 100 hardbacks sold online, 143 Kindle eBooks were downloaded.

This was picked up in an excellent piece on BBC Radio 4 tonight and the question posed to a couple of guests, ‘Do these sales figures represent a tipping point and does this mean the demise of the case-bound book’?

There followed a mixed but measured response. Two points stood out in my mind; first, that the physical book really can be an ‘escape’ for people who spend all day, every day on a screen and therefore do not want to have to read on-screen in their leisure time. Secondly, earlier parallels were noted with radio v. television and cinema v. video.  The newer technologies represented a threat to the old but in both these cases, radio and the cinema have survived and indeed are thriving.

However, the argument breaks down when you compare CD’s and downloadable music. In this case, online music is clearly winning against the physical CD. I buy much of my music online and just occasionally I will buy an actual CD.  I enjoy reading the inside cover notes and admiring the photographs and the design but that still is not enough to prevent me from buying my music online.

 

I was lent this lovely casebound book at the weekend and I truly appreciate the physical ‘feel’ of a beautiful book. I’m just not sure, that at this stage, I’m quite ready to give up that pleasure to buy online and read on-screen. On the other hand, do I really want to ‘lug’ all 600 hardback pages onto a plane when it can reside so easily on an eReader?

So does this latest report from Amazon represent simple marketing hype or is this really the tipping point in the seemingly inexorable rise of the eBook?

Discuss.

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Book Trade: CWR Annual Review 2009

The CWR Annual Review for 2009 has been published.  This is a public document as required by the Charity Commission (UK).

You can access the full text at www.cwr.org.uk/about/fr

The Annual Review covers the Publishing and Training activities of the Charity plus Financials and the Plans for the Future. Despite the recent economic downturn, the CWR Ministry is in good shape and has much for which to be thankful.

One important update is that we have just gained University validation for the Counselling courses. CWR will be offering a BA in Counselling via Roehampton University with effect from November 2011. We continue to explore ways of developing our facilities on the Waverley Abbey site and the process of expanding the work via the new CWR Asia entity in Singapore continues.

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