Business is Booming for eBooks

Discussion
Sep 22, 2011
George Anderson

New research from Harris Interactive shows that 15 percent of Americans now own an iPad, Kindle, Nook or some other device for reading eBooks, up from eight percent last year. The research also shows that a similar percentage are likely to purchase some type of e-reader in the next six months.

Harris also found that people with e-readers are much more likely to buy books than those who don’t own the devices. While 32 percent of Americans have not bought a book in the past year, only six percent of those with an e-Reader have done the same. Thirty-four percent of people with an e-reader bought 10 or more books in the past year compared to 17 percent of those without the devices.

The Harris findings came just ahead of an Amazon.com announcement that Kindle books can be borrowed from more than 11,000 libraries across the U.S.

“Starting today, millions of Kindle customers can borrow Kindle books from their local libraries,” said Jay Marine, director, Amazon Kindle, in a press release. “Libraries are a critical part of our communities and we’re excited to be making Kindle books available at more than 11,000 local libraries around the country. We’re even doing a little extra here — normally, making margin notes in library books is a big no-no. But we’re fixing this by extending our Whispersync technology to library books, so your notes, highlights and bookmarks are always backed up and available the next time you check out the book or if you decide to buy the book.”

Discussion Questions: What do you see as the growth prospects for eBooks? Will making eBooks available for free through libraries help or hurt retail sales?

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22 Comments on "Business is Booming for eBooks"


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Steve Montgomery
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

There is no question that eBooks will continue to grow, but I think the statistics quoted contain some bias. It is logical that those who own an eBook are more likely to buy books or to buy more of them. These are individuals who purchased a devise with a primary — if not single — purpose to read books. It stands to reasons that they are readers.

Think it is too early to tell if free books from the library will hurt sales of eBooks. Some of that will depend on the ease of the checkout process and the time the book can be “borrowed” for.

Dick Seesel
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

Availability of ebooks from public libraries may hurt retail sales but can only help drive sales of e-readers themselves…especially the Kindle. And there is still plenty of mileage left in this category, when you consider the potential to convert (overpriced) textbooks to ebooks on a much broader scale.

J. Peter Deeb
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

eBooks will continue to grow as convenience-minded consumers enjoy the ease of transport and the large selection of books and periodicals available. Eventually we could see over 50% penetration as the selection and availability continue to grow.

Libraries have to offer the service in order to continue to be a viable service to people in communities. Just as they now are a source of computer access for people, they must embrace all forms of information availability to remain relevant.

Tony Orlando
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

The technology today is mind boggling, as ebooks will continue to flourish. The new kids today love mobile apps, and it is a matter of time before most colleges will start leasing ebooks for most classes, as new versions can be downloaded each year, without having to purchase new hardcover books, thus saving money for the students, and the schools. That should leave more discretionary money for the kids to tailgate at the football games. Win – Win for everybody.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

The future for eBooks is a function of the continued use by younger generations of digital technology. College texts are now available online and there is a move to mandate the use of eTexts paid for by a reasonable fee imposed by the Universities. For students and colleges, the issues are costs and environmental concerns. My students are very comfortable with eTexts.

Whether they help or hurt will be a function of whether or not the library program attracts new buyers of the Kindle reader. If yes, then help. If all it does is substitute current Kindle book purchases with library loans, then hurt.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
9 years 7 months ago

When you consider the demographics and the extension of e-reader capabilities to other platforms (iPad, mobile phones, etc.), my sense is that printed books will, over time, be found only in small, community bookstores.

Not a good time for Barnes & Noble and the big publishing houses.

Bob Phibbs
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

Is anyone as smart as Amazon when it comes to marketing?

Phil Rubin
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

The growth prospects for eBooks, particularly via Amazon, is significant. Amazon developed the category and with its Kindle and is going to further assert its leadership not only through the library program but also through its new Kindle tablet.

More reasons that Amazon should be considered by not only retailers but by publishers and other content producers. They are formidable and only going to be more so in the future.

David Biernbaum
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

eBooks have a bright future with almost no limitations on their full potential. Libraries will never hurt skillful retailing and marketing. Consumers love choice and consumers love to shop. Amazon always delivers the better mouse trap and the consumers always bite. Good stuff.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
9 years 7 months ago

Now that tablets have finally taken hold and are hip, the possibility for eBooks is endless. I like the library idea but there is a downside to retailers. A question that immediately comes to mind is libraries usually have limited copies of best sellers and hot titles with long hold reservation lists. Does going electronic mean unlimited copies are available? And what about renewing? Are there unlimited renews or is it a one time thing? Allowing libraries to ‘rent’ out books for a one time thing only for a limited time is a great way to ‘tease’ the reader into buying the book (if that’s how it works).

Matt Schmitt
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

Cross platform support is really fueling the upside potential for eBooks. Kindle is really a software and services strategy. Hardware sales were just a way to seed the market. Now we can pull up the Kindle app on our phones, tablets and laptops. And the abilities to preview books and to maintain synchronization with last page read, notes and highlights change the dynamics of usability and adoption.

As far as eBook library loans cutting into eBook sales, this is really a matter of keeping in mind the big picture, which is all about volume. As the market of the active reading population begins to grow again, the market for book sales can only benefit from the ability to borrow books.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

I am parroting most of my fellow Brain Trust associates; but the answer does not seem to change. I too think it is too early to know if the availability of eBooks at libraries will hurt eBook sales. But, for sure, it will continue to drive the sales of the readers. I still am convinced the iPad models will be the sales winners.

Ben Ball
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

The first question is whether readers simply prefer e-readers to fit their lifestyle and other e-habits? Or is the availability of a cool device like the e-reader reigniting interest in reading books period?

If the answer is that readers are simply shifting their preferred medium, then the sales of books shouldn’t be affected one way or the other. People who go to the library for free content now will presumably just do that online. And folks who want the latest “how to” or “political bombshell” will continue to buy — simply buying the e-version. So no net impact on e-sales would be expected.

If the answer is that e-readers are causing new/lapsed readers to reenter the market, sales should certainly go up for e-books, and library viewing could potentially go up as well.

Either way, the future looks bright for both device and content sales.

Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
9 years 7 months ago
The way that the library lending works (we have it here at our local library), there are enough constraints on it that you either have to be really determined (and ready to read it when it becomes available), or you have to have so much free time that the constraints are not issues — like, there are no renewals allowed, so if you haven’t finished when your time is up, you have to get back at the end of the line and wait for a copy to come up again to finish reading the book. So, it’s enough of a hassle on its own that if you have the money, you’re still probably just going to go buy the book — as long as publishers realize that they have still not priced eBooks right, as fiction authors like Amanda Hocking have proved. The growth prospects are still huge. The challenge will be weeding through the enormous amount of low-quality stuff to get to the good stuff. At some point, more than just the wisdom of… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

I think eBooks are just a fad that will fade away, along with the internet in general; newspapers and magazines will come back and RW will become a weekly newsletter that’s (snail)mailed…well, perhaps not. Obviously eBooks will continue to grow, the only question is whether or not it will be completely at the expense of paper. It’s also probably misleading to extrapolate this early group of users to the population in general; I’m frankly dubious that 17% of people bought “ten or more books in the past year.” (Maybe comic books were included?)

Gene Detroyer
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

eBooks for free from the library will hurt retail sales no more than free hard cover books from the library have hurt hard cover book sales over the last 100 years.

Kai Clarke
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

Businessmen and students are the greatest users of eBooks. Making eBooks available for free through libraries will only help retail sales, since each copy has a limited exposure, but still invokes greater sales. The same rule has been seen throughout the history of book sales, even though libraries have been growing through the years, so have the sales of books (until the onset of true electronic book media…).

Mark Burr
Guest
9 years 7 months ago
There is no question that the growth for eBooks is exponential. Having recently received a Kindle as a gift in July and having completed my sixth book, I can say from my view it’s increased my reading. From a library’s point of view, it can’t do anything but help bring traffic to libraries and just like with a retailer, traffic can (and I repeat can) improve sales. It doesn’t guarantee it. Libraries will have to earn their survival just like a retailer by offering new and innovative complementary services to their communities. The Kindle books alone won’t do it. In fact, they may not even help if there is nothing besides them to offer. Keep in mind that B&N and other sources offer hundreds of thousands of books for free. The expansion of these devices is certainly increasing the opportunity and convenience of reading for those who read frequently. It also provides the opportunity to access other options for reading such as newspapers, magazines and periodicals that they normally would not have been exposed to… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

This is the natural evolution of a 1000+ year-old technology, called paper books. A great sci-fi short story, “The Fun They Had” (a 5-minute read, actually) written by Issac Asimov in 1951 tells of “telebooks.” It’s amazing that this 60-yr-old idea has come to fruition. Retailers need to be agile enough to ride whatever current technological/cultural wave there is and take advantage of the opportunities they present. eBooks are the next revolution in reading. After that comes a mental download, like in “The Matrix.”

Matthew Keylock
Guest
Matthew Keylock
9 years 7 months ago

I think it’s all good! E-readers, eBooks and e-libraries. Good for consumers and good for the institutions.

I only question what the antique eBooks market might look like in 50 years?

Larry Negrich
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

eBooks win. Paper loses. Publishers may need to investigate some alternate pricing model for eBooks that are intended to be loaned out to multiple individuals (libraries) once it’s understood how eBooks affect sales volumes.

Ronnie Perchik
Guest
Ronnie Perchik
9 years 7 months ago

As the world heads towards digital hardware like smartphones, tablets and eBooks, it’s entirely possible that traditional products could be rendered obsolete in time. I think it’s still to early to tell whether eBooks will stick, as many people still value the experience of reading printed books.

But whether or not eBooks become the standard, the relationship between retailers and libraries wouldn’t change, would it? Only the vehicle (technology) to consume the content. As Doron Levy points out, if there are digital capabilities that retailers can’t compete with, there would then be a problem.

From a marketing standpoint, we think about the implications of strategy aligning with new technology. In this case, will new agencies emerge specializing in promoting brands on eBooks? Would an ad for discounted tickets to Africa pop up while you’re reading a book about the continent? As hardware and technology creep into standard usage, marketing strategy needs to shift to include these new forms of nontraditional marketing.

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