A Print-Free World

The world is going digital. I recently had to have my heater fixed. The repair man came out to my house and fixed the broken part. He then went to his truck to “write up” the invoice. Back into the house he came holding an iPad with my invoice in PDF format on the iPad. He showed it to me and I paid him. He then asked if I wanted my receipt emailed. The company no longer gave out paper receipts.  The whole process was digital—except the check I wrote to pay the bill (did I ever feel out-of-fashion).

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Everywhere you turn, businesses are pushing digital over paper. Banks and credit card companies are asking their customers to accept digital versions of their statements over printed, mailed versions. Associations are doing away with print newsletters in lieu of digital newsletters. Even many churches are now putting their announcements online and no longer handing out Sunday bulletins.

So, the question lingers in my mind: How long until paper books become an antiquity?

Recently, some statistics were showing ebooks as high as 50% of all book sales. However, when I dug deeper, I discovered that this was a misleading statistic. In actuality, ebook sales do account for 50% of all sales for fiction titles, but for nonfiction, ebooks account for only 25% of sales. Overall, ebooks still only represent about 20% to 25% of all trade book sales.

Each month, Bowker conducts a survey of 6,000 book buyers. One of their recent surveys revealed the following:

  • 23% of all books purchased were ebooks
  • 24% of all book buyers purchased an ebook
  • 29% of ebooks purchased were bought by people under 30
  • 35% of all romance books bought were in e-book format

This leaves two questions:

  1.  When will ebooks outpace print books? In 2014? In 2016?
  2.  Are you ready?

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