Daily Archives: January 8, 2013

Mr Carr rides his hobby horse to the book-store

Of course the world is flat 
and ebooks are finished

THE flat-earth priests from the Wall Street Journal have joined their counterparts on The Guardian in pre-emptively performing the last rites on ebooks.
Nicholas Carr in a recent WSJ article  made this quite extraordinary prediction: 
…‘the initial e-book explosion is starting to look like an aberration.
‘….E-books, in other words, may turn out to be just another format—an even lighter-weight, more disposable paperback.
Of course, the WSJ lives and breathes hallowed statistics and this is what Carr’s argument rests on.
‘Sales of e-readers plunged 36% in 2012, according to estimates from IHS iSuppli, while tablet sales exploded.
As with much internet news, you get the opinionated background in the main piece and the real story, succinctly put, in the comments.
In this case, Michael Fawkes wrote:
The 36% reduction in stand-alone e-readers is irrelevant. The question is how many e-book reading devices (including tablets) were sold in 2013?
Major etailers such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble this year made FREE ereader apps readily available for tablets and smart phones. In other words tablets (with explosive  sales) became ereaders as well as retaining other functions. 
Carr admits ebook sales increased by a third last year but he puts it in such a convoluted way it sounds like failure.
‘…the annual growth rate for e-book sales fell abruptly during 2012, to about 34%.’ 
Bugger me, the industry is in crisis because ‘it is a sharp decline from the triple-digit growth rates of the preceding four years.’
Most industries would kill for a 30+% sales increase. I still completely agree with the prediction of Joe Konrath and others that print books are the ones headed for a niche in book sales.
There is a problem with real ebooks (to distinguish them from dead-tree books) but it is not about the cliché Carr recites: ‘The fact that an e-book can’t be sold or given away after it’s read also reduces the perceived value of the product.
The ebook critics like to toss around that one about pass-ons  because they know the ebook commercial model cannot sustain private lending in the digital world. But the fact is being able to pass on a dead-tree book barely informs the reader’s buying decision. 
Commenter Steve Shelton nailed the real problem with ebooks. ‘I prefer printed books because I have found so many spelling and formatting errors in e-books.
That is it in a nutshell. Publishers are using automated programs to create books for eReaders and the programs just do not work properly. This is a technical problem which will soon be solved as with the header/ footer and page numbering omissions.
When these drawbacks are overcome and a cheap dedicated 6in X 9 inch ereader, capable of storing 1000 books is created, we will all want one.
Move on, Mr Carr. Run if you will.