The Digital Apocalypse, Delayed
The New York Times (9/22/15) reports slowing e-book sales as the “digital apocalypse” that didn’t happen. “Five years ago, the book world was seized by collective panic over the uncertain future of print,” reporter Alexandra Alter writes. “Publishers and authors feared that cheaper e-books would cannibalize their business.”
But the metaphorical cannibal apocalypse has failed to materialize, as “digital sales have instead slowed sharply.” What’s the explanation for the “surprising resilience of print”? Consumer preference, is the main story the Times tells: “Young readers who are digital natives still prefer reading on paper” and “e-reading devices fell out of fashion.” Thank goodness for people’s undeniable love of good old-fashioned real books, is the underlying tone.
Then, three-quarters of the way through the lengthy piece, the real economics of the publishing industry appear:
Higher e-book prices may also be driving readers back to paper.
As publishers renegotiated new terms with Amazon in the past year and demanded the ability to set their own e-book prices, many have started charging more. With little difference in price between a $13 e-book and a paperback, some consumers may be opting for the print version.
On Amazon, the paperback editions of some popular titles, like The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, are several dollars cheaper than their digital counterparts. Paperback sales rose by 8.4 percent in the first five months of this year, the Association of American Publishers reported.