Kindle sales will surpass Paperback sales, according to Amazon
Growth in digital book sales will siphon dollars away from the sale of bound books. And that will gradually undermine the economics of printing, binding, warehousing, shipping and retailing dead-tree editions of books. Fewer dollars means a smaller economic base against which to amortize these costs. And that will erode profitability. Since most books don’t make money today, it’s logical to surmise that in the future most of these books won’t be printed: they will only be issued in digital form. So it’s easy to envision the future of the printed book. Printed books will become rare and special, exactly as I predicted, instead of cheap and abundant.
Ultimately, the printed version of a book will survive as a specialty item, a collector’s edition, akin to the special commemorative box sets of music CDs and DVDs of TV series. The switch to mostly-digital book publishing will happen gradually (inexorably) over the next ten years, but the collapse of the print business will seem quite sudden when retail stores go out of business all at once. Remember the example of the music business: it took 10 years to migrate most of the audience to digital devices, but then suddenly within one year most of the record shops disappeared. Already, huge retailers like Wal*Mart and Target have siphoned the most lucrative segment of the book business: mass market paperbacks. They don’t mess around with the long tail of print books: they let the speciality booksellers cope with that.
Next, as Apple and Amazon and other tablet makers siphon more of the book buying audience away from bound editions, watch and see the bookstore chains vanish. As an avid book reader, it saddens me to see the demise of a form I truly cherish, but it seems inevitable at this point.