In Sept. 2010, Amazon.com debuted a new commercial that poked fun at the iPad’s inability to provide a good reading experience outdoors. In the TV spot, a sexy woman claims she spent more on her sunglasses than on her Amazon Kindle. Sunglasses are not necessary in the book market, because that outlook is not that bright.

The elephantine battle taking place between Amazon.com, Apple and Barnes & Noble is ironic, because the book market has been shrinking for decades now, under continuous assault from reality shows, videogames, the internet and, now, social networking.

Amazon adAmazon.com’s latest Kindle spot pans the iPad for its weak daylight performance. But Apple has sold 40 million iPads in five quarters. It remains to be seen if Amazon can light a fire under Kindle sales with the Kindle Fire.

Consider these sobering statistics:

By yearend 2012, digital books will represent 20% to 25% of unit sales, predicts Idea Logical CEO Mike Shatzkin. “Add in another 25% of units sold online, and roughly half of all unit sales will be on the Internet,” Shatzkin tells The Wall Street Journal. That shift to e-books was first reported by Amazon in July 2010 and then Barnes & Noble in December 2010.

E-books are rewriting the rules of book publishing, forcing retailers, publishers, authors and agents to reinvent their business models. Future e-books could well give the publishing industry a shot in the arm once e-readers are actually able to help consumers absorb information faster, while helping them retain more data.

I would raise my electronic comic book to toast such a device.