The Association of American Publishers has reported that e-books are on the rise, bringing in more revenue during the month of February than any of the other categories the AAP monitor. Dollar for dollar, more money was made by EPUBs and Nook Books and Kindle editions, in cumulative terms, than by either hardcovers, paperbacks or mass market editions.
Add to that the landmark percentage growth e-book sales have demonstrated year on year: this February e-books earned more than $90m, a triple-figure rise of 202.3% versus sales in February 2010.
Yet hand-in-hand with every rise, a fall, and traditional dead tree texts have borne the brunt of the increased demand for e-books this February. The combined adult trade categories - to reiterate, that's hardcovers, paperbacks and mass market PBs - are down more than a third compared to sales from the same period in 2010. And we wonder why the likes of Borders and Waterstones are in such hot water...
However all is not lost: though printed literature has taken a substantial hit - another on top of another, in fact - such products still handily outsell e-books at a ratio of 2:1, a relatively comfortable margin for the moment. Certainly it will seem a comfortable margin a year from now if these trends continue, as indeed they appear set to.
But all told, it's not game over just yet, and the AAP's report included a certain something we might take heart in, for though combined earnings from the children's and YA market have fallen, they've only fallen half as much as in the adult market: a dip of 16.1% as opposed to 34.4%. Tech savvy children, it seems, aren't quite so quick on the e-reading uptake as us 'dults.
...either that or they're reading adult e-books. Or else they're waiting for e-book readers to drop in price: even the cheapest Kindle would set them back in excess of $100, after all, and that's a fair bit of pocket money.
But enough doom and gloom. This is meant to be the cheery bit! And there are bright sides to all this miserable news - you just have to squint ever so slightly to see them:
- Our children still like a good paper book.
- Books fashioned from dead trees still outsell e-books 2:1.
- And in total, the amount of money flowing through the publishing industry has held relatively steady - it's just that the proportions spent on this versus that are shifting rather significantly.
So. Good news? Bad news? Or not news?
I'd cast my vote for option four: all of the above. Way to take the diplomatic tack!