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Are Bookshelves Becoming Obsolete Due to E-Books?


"It is difficult to tell . . .if someone is reading a bodice-ripper or Dostoevsky on their Kindle."

If you thought that people were holding out still for the traditional printed and bound novel, think again. In the first five months of the year, as reported by The Economist, sale of consumer e-books was more than that of hard cover adult books, according to the Association of American Publishers.

And the shift to e-books is affecting sales and other aspects of the book industry in ways you may not have expected. Here's a look into a few of the aspects The Economist covered.

  • Bookshelves as glorified coffee tables? The Economist reported that, next month, IKEA is introducing a new version of the "Billy" bookcase. Its shelves are deeper and glass doors are being promoted. The shelves do serve a purpose for:

. . . ornaments, tchotchkes and the odd coffee-table tome—anything, that is, except books that are actually read.

  • Anonymity of what your reading in public means books like romance novels have increased in popularity:

. . . perhaps because it is difficult to tell from across the aisle of a bus whether someone is reading a bodice-ripper or Dostoevsky on their Kindle. Donna Hayes, chief executive of Harlequin (which owns Mills & Boon), says digitisation has given new life to old books. Serialised romance novels generally have a shelf life of just four weeks. Now many are easily available: Harlequin has digitised more than 13,000 of its books. The firm has begun to publish some romances as e-books only, gauging customers’ appetite for them before taking some into print.

  • E-books are giving no-name authors a chance to self-publish and put their name out there without a publishing company or agent.
  • Some publishers give discounts on books, even making them free:

As a result, Amazon’s list of 100 best-selling books has become a pricing free-for-all. This week 21 books were selling for just 99 cents. Others were priced at $4.98, $7.59 and $8.82. The most expensive single book, at $16.99, was Dick Cheney’s memoir.

  • Marking books has taken a different turn. Books stores used to be the primary driver to promote readership of certain books. Publishers are turning more toward social networks. aNobii, a British company, launched this week as a Wikipedia-style community that gives book lovers an option to buy.

Although the book industry is just catching up on the heals of other print media that has been forced to go digital to meet consumer demand, The Economist reports it is happening more rapidly and presents some more difficult challenges.

[H/T Gizmodo]

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