Even if a substantial majority, say sixty percent, of the supply gap is captured by Amazon, B&N, or by a conversion to digital reading, there remain tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars of annual book sales up for grabs in towns like Southbury scattered across the United States. Our own ongoing consumer research, conducted by Verso Digital, provides additional reason for optimism. The data consistently point to a hybrid print and e-book market that will persist for decades. E-reader owners who classify as avid readers ten or more books bought per year are splitting their purchases between print and e-books in nearly identical numbers. Moreover, there is a sizable majority of readers, over 70%, who express strong resistance to the idea of screen-reading as a substitute for print, a percentage that has remained steady across multiple surveys over the past two years. The resistance is strongest among older 45-plus readers, who already account for more than two-thirds of the consumer books purchased in this country. As these readers downshift into retirement or more flexible work-leisure lifestyles, their proportion of the book market is likely to increase, further making the case for print’s durability.
I’ve been struck by how many booksellers are doing well by selling ebook readers. A casual comment hit me over the weekend when someone mentioned that the falling prices of non-branded ereaders was impacting overall revenues. That goes to show the value of owning the device as well as the channel to sell content on the device. On the other hand, it must be painful for bookshop staff to be selling devices that will ultimately close the majority of bookstores!
E-book-news.de recently reported that Thalia’s e-reader, the Oyo sold unexpectedly well in stores, not online. People wanted to touch and try out the readers. But once those Oyo readers are in use, their sales will be exclusively online, and it’s hard to imagine their e-books won’t cut into store sales you don’t have to go to a Thalia store to pick up your online purchase, which cuts out an important opportunity to buy stationary and a toy!, or that a more e-reader-educated generation might not be comfortable buying the readers online in the first place.