Mike Shatzkin of the Idea Logical Co. has written a fairly long article about how the book market is evolving in ways that were hard to foresee a year ago. After all, last year people were worrying that Amazon might somehow “take over” the e-book market. Those fears seem a little silly in retrospect now that we’ve got the Nook, the Kobo, and, of course, the iPad.
Shatzkin points out that there is still a lot left to do, however. He includes a litany of points explaining why DRM’s promulgation of the Tower of e-Babel (though he does not use this expression) is such a problem, but reflects that dropping it altogether is probably “a non-starter for the big houses because it will be a non-starter with most big authors and most big agents.”
He points out that the sales of 700,000 e-ink devices was dwarfed by the reported sales of 2 million iPads—so iPad readers only need to buy a third as many e-books to equal the sales revenue from those e-ink devices. (Actually, as of June 22, Apple announced that it had sold its 3 millionth iPad. Of course, the e-ink sales are estimated, since most e-reader sellers are keeping their real sales figures close to their chest.) And he mentions the recent round of price cuts on e-readers.
In short, Shatzkin says, “a much more diversified marketplace is developing for ebooks than publishers would have dared hope for a year ago.” And even more diverse options are coming, which will give consumers more choices in how and where they read their e-books.
Shatzkin concludes by bringing up the “Untethered” conference I mentioned in my last two posts:
There was a conference called Untethered last week. I didn’t go because it was an “all publishing” conference about technology, and I am skeptical about any horizontal approach. But there was a panel of publishing CEOs asked to estimate how much of book sales would be ebooks five years from now. The high guesses were 40-50%. I think they’re low. And if the question is what percentage of the books that are narrative writing are ebooks by five years from now, I think they are way low.
If he’s right, e-book readers and publishers alike may have some exciting times ahead.