Recently, I was shocked to receive a Kindle from a good friend for my birthday. This amazing device has impacted my life in multiple ways. First, I very quickly became an e-book reading convert: the reading experience on a Kindle is, IMO, superior to that of a printed book. Some of the advantages:
- e-books are generally less expensive than printed books (they should be, since they cost nothing to print, ship, or store)
- portability and convenience: I can download books instantly, wirelessly, and carry thousands around anywhere
- the built-in dictionary is invaluable; I would miss the ability to look up or double-check words with a flick of my finger
- I actually find it easier and more natural to hold the Kindle (which is lighter than a hardcover) and turn pages with one hand
- I enjoy being able to set the font size to something more comfortable for my eyes
There are other advantages, but those are the main ones for me. After using the Kindle for a while, I do not at all miss the “feel” or “smell” of paper books. And I can see how a wide variety of people, once they give e-books a chance, will come to depend on these features. Not to mention that, in the next few years, I expect e-book readers to offer:
- color screens that play video
- perhaps flexible or foldable screens that are unbreakable and allow for larger screens that can fit into a pocket
- even lighter weight and more memory
- greater selection of e-books (essentially every book in or out of print)
- improvements in text-to-speech
- much easier lending capabilities: email a title to your friend to borrow, and it automatically reappears on your device in 2-4 weeks
I expect more and more people will fall in love with e-book reading. I spend a lot of time on e-book reader forums, and lots of people already love their e-book readers. Love. Most of them say they will never go back to printed books, and that they are reading more than ever before. Not to mention that the last of the paper book converts will die off and the newer generations will consume everything electronically.
So, it comes as no surprise to me that the e-book market has tripled in 2009, after doubling in 2008. Or that it is on pace to double or triple again this year. Or that Amazon, the world’s largest bookseller, sold more e-books than printed books last Christmas. E-books made up 3.31% of all book sales in 2009, and that number will likely increase to 6-10% this year. By 2015 or 2020, what will that percentage look like? 25%? 50%? 75%?
What does this mean for printed books, and the future of publishing? I’ll get more into that in my next post. But I fully expect the acceleration of e-book sales to continue. The reading experience is just too good, and they just make too much sense not to.