The Kindle, the iPad, and the future of ebooks!

Globe of the Earth

Is the Kindle changing our world? That’s a question I ask myself every day. But someone’s actually contacted 6,250 frequent book buyers to find out exactly what’s going on. Their research generated some startling statistics – and led to a disturbing prediction about the future. Yes, it’s a picture of our world as it is today – but it already contains the seeds for the world of books tomorrow.

26% of adult book buyers are already reading digital ebooks, according to the survey, while 34% more said they’d be willing to try them. In fact, only 14% swore they would never, ever read an ebook. The biggest thing keeping people away from the Kindle was probably the price, according to their analysis. After Amazon lowered the price of the Kindle, it saw a surge in four different age brackets. The percentage who reported a Kindle doubled between June and November for people between the ages of 18 and 24 (from 3.2% to 6.5%). By November, 8.5% of the adults between the ages of 35 and 44 now reported they owned a Kindle — and 9.6% of the adults older than 65!

But how is that affecting the world of books and the way people buy them? First, how many iPads are there in the world? 15 million (according to Apple). That’s in only nine months, since it was released in April. But ironically, when people buy an ebook for their iPad, 40% of the ebooks are bought through Amazon’s Kindle store! Apple doesn’t have a deal in place with Random House, according to Publisher’s Weekly, which means Apple’s iBookstore can’t offer popular titles like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, John Grisham’s The Confession, or even former president Bush’s autobiography, Decision Points. In fact, iPad owners bought just 29% of their ebooks from Apple’s iBookstore, according to a November survey by a research firm called the Codex Group.

But those researchers discovered an even more amazing statistic. Before buying the Kindle, shoppers bought 14% of their books from Amazon — but after they bought a Kindle, that number jumped to 37%! “It’s the most amazing retail share growth strategy I’ve ever seen,” says Peter Hildick-Smith, the research firm’s president (who previously had developed retail growth strategies for Wal-Mart.) “The increase in market share came entirely from book buyers’ added purchase of e-books,” Publisher’s Weekly noted, and yet amazingly, Amazon barely lost any of its share of the print book market! “While e-book purchases do not appear to be cannibalizing print sales at Amazon, the Kindle store has to be taking sales away from somewhere, and Hildick-Smith believes it is from bricks-and-mortar stores.”

And then he makes a prediction. Currently the vast majority of people discover their next book through a bookstore. (I even know several people who’ve reported browsing through the books at a bookstore — before downloading a digital version to their Kindle or Nook!) But if the Kindle’s popularity continues, it’s going to hurt some local bookstores — and that’s going to make it harder for publishers to advertise their newest books. “What has Hildick-Smith really worried, however, is whether publishers have concrete plans to protect their bookstore base.

“If not, they need to quickly find an alternative primary source for the discovery of new books, especially for nonfiction, debut, and midlist fiction titles that, at present, sell in much fewer numbers as e-books than fiction does….”

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