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.
Consider these sobering statistics:
- Declining market — The book market has shrunk about 20% since 2002, when sales totaled $29.4 billion. While U.S. consumers purchase one-third of all books sold around the globe, 1.6 billion in 2001, 70% of Americans have not visited a bookstore in the past five years. Still, 175,000 new titles were published in 2003, a 19% gain from the prior year, R.R. Bowker estimates.
- Time compression – The Time Compression Ubertrend has made our daily lives far more hectic, a lifestyle does not lend itself well to finding quiet time to read a book. Startlingly, most consumers don’t get past page 18 in a typical book purchased. Our intentions are good, our time limitations not so.
- Reading less — In 2001, people spent 109 hours reading, down 12% from 1996. In 2007, the National Endowment for the Arts reported that 65% of college freshmen in 2005 said they read little or nothing for pleasure, while 30% of 13-year-olds in 2004 said they read for fun “almost every day,” down from 35% in 1984.
- Digital ascent — U.S. print book sales fell 23% in first six months of 2011, while e-book sales soared 161%, according to the Association of American Publishers. E-book sales comprise about 25% of certain adult book categories. Tellingly, the hardcover, trade paperback and mass market paperback categories registered the biggest declines, with sales down by more than 20% in first half 2011. GigaOM estimates that the U.S. e-book market will reach $2 billion in sales in 2011.
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.