We are tipping right now

Blog post by publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

But it has seemed clear to me for a long time that ebooks offered compelling advantages over print — portability, ease of purchase, and a lower cost basis that must inexorably lead to lower prices — that would increasingly sway many of the inevitably growing number of people who had a readable handheld screen in reach most of the time. And my long experience dealing with bookstore economics made it clear to me that the consequent sales subtraction from brick-and-mortar stores would lead to closures, which would lead to longer travel times for customers to get to the stores, which in turn would drive more people to purchase print or digital books online. And that would lead to more closures. This is a virtuous circle if you’re in the ebook business or sell print online. Or if you want to see Americans consume less gasoline.

It is a vicious cycle — a death spiral — if you’re a bookstore. - Full article

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Printed books will never disappear though

What about people who don't have a computer, don't have an iPhone or Kindle, in fact don't have enough to eat?
It's like with any technology, there is a point where you get the people who can get something don't want it, and then theres the large number of people who just can't afford it.

>which would lead to longer travel times for customers to get to the stores<

Totally depends on where and the stores are. Maybe you are buying your books from places that you would be going to anyway, like Walmart or a mall. There are no added driving costs to be taken into consideration there. There could be though if your library isn't a place you go to normally, or indeed if you don't have one nearby as it's been closed down.
It is certainly a vicious circle, but I can't see that helping American's consume less.

The point about 99c ebooks is a very good one. But the majority of ebooks don't cost that much. They can cost virtually the same as the print edition, or indeed in some cases, more. In fact as we all know and was mentioned in that article there aren't the printing and storage costs that you get with print. So it becomes harder to justify the profit margin that is being 'maintained'. Customers don't stand for overpriced products online, just as they don't in their stores. If the trend for online books increases, then, just as with music the market starts to dictate changes. Either through changes in sales or piracy.
It took a fair amount of time with music but eventually it changed and you can now get decently priced mp3 albums, or indeed the physical cd's themselves for a much more realistic price than used to be imposed by the record companies.
There are no storage costs, and the server costs are often borne by the retailer (if you take Amazon as an example) who fund that from their cut, if they cut down on the ridiculous amount of promotion, the prices could go down even more.
Books need to be like mp3's, like app's, cheap enough to be an impulse buy on your smartphone. Because nothing is so easy as clicking a button to get what you want instantly.

This is the US. No one care

This is the US. No one care about people who don't have a computer, don't have an iPhone AND a Kindle, or don't have enough to eat. Of course print books will disappear, just like health care and jobs.

content access problems

The reason I won't switch to ebooks is that when you purchase one you're only buying a license to access it. First sale rights are not available from Amazon, so if they want to yank your right to read something, they can just flip a switch and it's gone. They've already done this to others; I won't let them do it to me.

But .....

they can't do that if you didn't get it through Kindle, so if you've, for example, illegally downloaded some ebooks that can't happen.
Another plus for piracy then!
When you have to commit an 'offence' to have control over your books it shows a major problem doesn't it.

Tipping in terms of perception maybe but nowhere near (and will never be) at a tipping point of more ebooks being sold than paper. And don't forget that the Amazon claim was based on hardbacks, not all books.

"will never be"?

Interesting. I expect that print books will still be a multibillion$ business for the rest of my life, almost certainly more than $10 billion/year in today's dollars...but I would be reluctant to say "and will never be" for ebooks selling more, at least in number of copies, than print books. Never is a very long time...

I say 'will never be' as

I say 'will never be' as there will always be a proportion of any society, let alone the poorer parts of the world who do not want or cannot have the equipment required to read electronic media.
Kind of hard to be buying ebooks if you are starving to death in an African refugee camp.

Unless we find a utopia and all the worlds problems are solved, then I'd be happy :) But even then the print industry would exist for those people that prefer 'real things'.

Difference between a proportion and most

But you (if you're the same anonymous) said there would never be a time when ebooks outsold print books--which is very different than saying a healthy print book industry will survive.

I believe the latter to be likely, at least for generations and in the absence of total world economic collapse. But I'm unwilling to suggest that print books will always be in "the majority"--particularly since the definition of book keeps changing.

Print Books Disappear? I don't think so....

I don't own a Kindle, a Kobo, or a Sony ereader. Nor do I want one. I have seen them, played with them a bit and it absolutely does nothing for me. I'd rather own the physical book. Besides, I don't mind going to the bookstore to buy my books. On the way there, I get fresh air. Everyone has their own reading format and that's fine, but to say that the book will disappear is pure nonsense. Not everyone feels that they have to jump on the latest technology bandwagon.

Horses disappear? I don't think so.

I don't own a SUV, minivan, or car. Nor do I want one. I have seen them, played with them a bit and it absolutely does nothing for me. I'd rather own a horse. Besides, I don't mind going to the farm to buy my horse. On the way there, I get fresh air. Everyone has their own travel method and that's fine, but to say that the horse will disappear is pure nonsense. Not everyone feels that they have to jump on the latest technology bandwagon.

Think about it? Did you use a horse to get to work today? Did you still know that there are buggy whip manufacturers? Sure there will be physical books around in a 100 years but it will be like the horse is to the car now. 100 years ago the horse was the primary mode of transport and cars were an infant technology. Now the car is the dominant way to go. Same will happen with the book.

The ultimate hybrid?

With all the recent discussion about sustainability, living "green", etc. I'm surprised there aren't more initiatives to have wagon-trail type carpools, goats as lawnmowers, etc. Could fit especially well in the Heartland! Heck, some Midwest campuses even have earthworms to help with the composting!

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