The first e-book readers (Rocket eBook & SoftBook Reader) were launched in Silicon Valley in 1998. November 2007 saw Amazon release the Amazon Kindle (Cost: $399). It sold out in 5 1/2 hours. Today, 7 generations of Kindle later, there are 3.6m e-books (including my 2 novels) on the Amazon Kindle Store.
Approximately 30% of books are now sold as e-books. However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the demise of the paper book is not imminent. Nielsen BookScan (tracks what readers are buying) revealed that the number of paper books sold went up 2.4% in 2014.
The book industry continues to be in a state of flux. Amazon’s war with the publishing industry (c.f. Hachette) has been well-documented. Amazon (controls 67% approx. of the U.S. e-book market) emerged victorious from the ‘Ebook Wars’, its heavily armed Kindles decimating Barnes and Noble’s woefully under-equipped Nooks. In the UK Amazon’s continued dominance has been challenged by supermarkets (Sainsbury & Tesco). The most likely challenge to Amazon’s domination of the e-book segment of its business in the foreseeable future is from Apple, who are rapidly closing in on 2nd place in the US market.
Whether the future (paper books) will see Amazon delivery drones surging through the sky above the ruins of former bookshops, only time will tell. With regards e-books, there seems no doubt that subscription services will increasingly come to the fore over the next few years. Bloomberg View columnist Leonid Bershidsky declared last year that the ‘… future of book ownership will soon be an anachronism.’ He claims that the future of books will be ‘an enormous digital library in the cloud, …’
Last year, Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited, a service that entails subscribers paying a monthly fee in exchange for access to around 700,000 books. It has been frequently hypothesised that Apple are poised to enter the fray. This seems likely, considering the manner in which we are now increasingly consuming media content (c.f. music, Netflix etc.).
Another recent innovation, that will inevitably become more popular, are ‘books’ that span different forms of media. In 2014 Rosetta Books published Find Me I’m Yours by author, artist & digital innovator Hillary Carlip. Described as a ‘Click Lit Novel’, it is a blend of words, images, videos, links and interactive elements, which enable the ‘reader’ to participate in polls as well as give their opinions. The story is about an L.A. based artist, employed at a bridal website, who has a predilection for cutting up 2 different cardigans and then sewing them together again (Why? – I don’t know why). 1 day she purchases a camera, which contains a video from a man (hunky/cheesy type) requesting to be her soul mate, but only if she is able to find him in time. A
trashy nauseating delightful pursuit ensues.
In the future there will be ‘books’ that will entail reading, watching, hearing and no doubt a tactile virtual reality element too. Each and every 1 of the consumer’s sensory desires will be satisfied. One imagines that this approach will prove to be beneficial in encouraging reading-reluctant children.
Mother calls down from upstairs to young son, ‘Darling, if you read up to page 30, you can play the rest of the book.’ ………………………….. ‘Yes, there’s a monster’ ………………. (sighs) …. ‘Yes, you get to decapitate and disembowel the monster at the end.’