The Falcon | Volume 83, Issue 53
e-book sales continue to rise while print sales slowly wane
By , Staff Reporter
Published: October 17 2012
Phonograph to iPod, dog-eared map to GPS, film to Photobooth – time-wrinkled book to words on a screen? During the past few years the popularity of digital e-readers such the Kindle and Nook has climbed dramatically. In August, two years after the Kindle was first presented, Amazon.com announced that customers are now buying more e-books than all printed books combined.
Though these (unaudited) figures represent sales in the UK, the trend is unchanged on this side of the Atlantic. An annual survey called BookStats, conducted by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Group, revealed that sales of e-books reached $2.07 billion in 2011, more than double 2010’s $869 million—and the numbers are still growing.
Many bemoan the loss of traditional books, and it is true that the sale of physical books is suffering. Though print sales still accounted for $11.1 billion in 2011, this is a drop from $12.1 billion of 2010. The book business is changing and will never be the same. However, the convenience of e-readers, and the consequentially snappy availability of reading material, has caused a leap forward in overall consumption of books of all formats, leading to what New York Times opinion writer Timothy Egan termed “the Reading Renaissance.” According to a study by the Pew Research Center, consumers with e-readers buy a substantially larger amount of reading material per year than those without.
“Adding e-book sales to print book sales, overall readership has increased due to new readers taking advantage of the technology and lower prices of e-books. E-books are here to stay,” said John Teall, the National Account Manager of book distribution company Midpoint Trade Books.
Whatever can be said of the practical benefits of e-readers, there will always be traditionalists who cry against the change, and for good reason! Smooth-screened Kindles can hardly compete with the charm of the sweet-smelling pages of a book. Dr. Luke Reinsma, SPU Professor of English and fervent bookworm, did not mince words when asked for his opinion.
“I loathe the very thought of e-books, which simply seem to me to cheapen the sacredness of the written word, to say nothing of detract from the sensual experience and pleasure of holding, thumbing, book marking, carrying, smelling, mylar wrapping, loaning and even (sorry) fondling real, solid written texts – it seems to me that it further distances one from the written word, the way that the supposed efficiencies of e-mail and Facebook distance us from human contact,” said Reinsma.
Even Reinsma, however, cannot deny the inevitability of the e-book revolution.
“The advantage of having a library at one’s fingertips is obvious…It’s my hope as well that, after some time, e-textbooks might shave hundreds of dollars off students’ quarterly budgets. And make more books available to more people – all to the good! Finally, I write all of this as a medievalist and a student of the History of English, fully and utterly aware of the fact that the printed book was regarded with every bit as much suspicion as the e-book is these days. It, too, seemed to cheapen the sacredness of the (literally written) word. It, too, seemed to make all kinds of books, including banned English translations of the Bible, available to nearly everyone. Now everyone can read Fifty Shades of Grey or its equivalent on Kindle while sipping a latte at Starbucks – none the wiser. Whether that’s progress or not, I dunno. But it’s clearly the future.”
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