Sunday, 17 April 2011

E-book sales out number paperbacks

Friday's press was littered with stories of how the US e-book sales have overtaken the sale of paperbacks. Sales of e-books trebled to $90m, exceeding the corresponding adult paperback sales figure of $81m. It's certainly a milestone, and one that throws further doubt on the future of high street booksellers and local authors.

Martin Latham, manager of Waterstone's Canterbury, when writing in this week's edition of the Bookseller, argued that it is not actually the increasing e-book popularity that is causing so many problems for bookshops. Instead, he states, local booksellers are finding themselves in trouble because of "delayed paperbacks".

As quoted in the Bookseller, Latham writes:

"Customers have interrogated me for 25 years about why, when they want to buy a product, its publisher will not sell it at a man-in-the-street price until many months later. When I explain that the actual date is unknown, and depends on how long the publisher can milk a dwindling minority for the hardback price, well, the customer backs away with an expression that says "get me out of here and back to a normal retailer" or even, "when your planet exploded, how many of you survived?" Now that the book can be downloaded on publication day, this Dance-of-the-Seven-Veils journey to paperback seems even madder.

E-reader buyers are mostly older people fed up with holding up that new Clive Cussler hardback in bed, or, at holiday-time, paying EasyJet a fortune in baggage allowance. Ironically, hardbacks, or rather, delayed paperbacks, are helping to kill bookshops."

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