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.


  1. Firstly iPad sales may be 3 million, but it is mistaken to even suggest that most of those buyers bought their device mostly to read books. The iPad is a far more rich device for consuming images, video and audio as well as generally consume web driven information. Purchasers of e-readers on the other hand purchased their device ‘specifically’ for the purpose of buying ebooks.
    Secondly Mr Shatzkin’s vision, last year, of an Amazon dominated future wasn’t taken seriously by anyone with an ounce of imagination. His vision was a short term knee jerk one.
    Thirdly I fully believe that ereaders and iPads etc. will expand the market for books/magazines significantly so that the percentage game is a misleading one. Hard copy books will be hear for a long long time to come and the 50% mark will be a long time a coming.

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