The Economist has an interesting article about the growth in e-publishing, with views and comments on Amazon’s Kindle and the threats and opportunities offered by Apple’s iPad.
The Economist quotes two predictions about the future scale of e-books, PriceWaterhouseCoopers things e-books will be about 6% of the North American market by 2013 (compared with 1.5% in 2009). By contrast a spokesperson from publisher Simon and Schuster thought the USA figure might be 25%.
This got me thinking, what do I think is likely to happen, and how quickly do I think that it is going to happen.
I think my gut feel is that I would go with the lower figure in the short term, i.e. about 6% in 2013, in markets such as the US. I think this for several reasons. At the moment the book format has several advantages
- Great battery length.
- When reading in a risky situation (e.g. bath, train, in rucksack one is only risking the cost of the book, not the reader).
- Does not look odd or daft.
- Great for impulse buys (might require reading glasses for some of us, but not the reader).
In the longer term (4 to 8 years) I expect to see three changes:
- Growth in the number of people listening to audio books.
- Growth in people comfortable reading e-books, perhaps more on their iPhone than their iPads, in the way Japanese commuters read keitai shousetsu (mobile phone novels).
- New formats of books, much shorter, or sold one chapter at a time (perhaps similar to the way Charles Dickens initially published his books weekly or monthly and later compiled them into books).
Net, I expect people to spend people to spend fewer hours reading in 8 years than they do now, regardless of format.