The Ebook Conspiracy

There is an ebook conspiracy going on out there, I’m sure of it. Engineered by Apple and Amazon (notice that both company names start with A?), they have been quietly kidnapping publishers and brain-washing them before releasing them in front of alarmist journalists to squeal, ‘10% of our sales this year have been ebooks’ or ‘Our ebook sales have multiplied by 300% just in a year’ and ‘we could never have predicted this kind of increase a couple of years ago.
Its quiet simple really. A couple of years ago there was one ebook reader doing the rounds in Britain, the overpriced Sony ereader. Anyone who didn’t own one was reading their ebooks on laptops and netbooks. Then suddenly iPhone and the legion of Android smartphones marched out into the market, followed closely by the iPad and the Kindle. Next came the Android tablets, the improved iPad 2 and a number of other third-party ereaders to drive the prices of devices down to a more affordable ticket. It doesn’t take a genius to work out then that people would use their device of choice to download books, whether just to give the app a whirl, taste the flavour of ebooks or because that’s how they prefer to read their books.
The question however is this; ‘will the ebook market share continue to grow?’
Normally with tech, you have a lifecycle of a product in regards to its customer base, i.e. the innovators who are willing to pay the high prices just to be the first to have the new tech, the early adopters who want to be ahead of the pack, the pragmatists who want to stay current with the market trend, the conservatives who wait until the price comes down and the laggards who won’t adopt it until they don’t have a choice (e.g. people who still watch tv out of a cuboid box). What publishers need to think about, instead of scaring themselves senseless, is which stage in the lifecycle ebooks and enabled devices are. It’s fair to say that a great deal of people have smartphones and tablet devices, but that doesn’t automatically equate to the number of people who would download and read ebooks. Still, I would think with the prevalence and options in devices we are currently in the ‘pragmatist’ stage where people who want to read ebooks will have purchased or are considering purchasing a device and that those who have, have decided whether they prefer the benefits of the ebook over the tacit pleasure of reading a regular book.
Bearing that in mind, there is still a way to go before everyone has access to a device that reads ebooks, but even then you have to take into account that some will simply refuse to read ebooks as opposed to printed books and that a great many others don’t read books at all. So the market will grow a while yet, perhaps not at the same inflated rate as before, but eventually it will stabilise and possibly form a significant percentage of overall book buyers, it will be down to preference of medium and not a battle between good (the printed book?) vs evil (the ebook?), as some would have us believe.
Personally, I would like to see publishers/booksellers give the ebook at a heavily discounted rate to people who buy the hardback version, the latter to read in comfort and the former to read on the go. So how about it Mrs Publisher and Mr Bookseller?

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