So yesterday I was catching up on older Scientific American podcasts. Back on May 19 the host, Steve Mirsky sat down with MacWorld editor Jason Snell to discuss the iPad vs the Kindle. Both were aboard a cruise ship during MacMania (oh to be invited to that!). The reason I bring this up has to do with what Snell called “product killers” and how this phrase really does not apply to e-books and the death match supposedly between the iPad and the Kindle and e and print books.
Snell argues that e-books are not killing print books, though publishers seem to believe this to be true. Instead e-books are complementing print books and boosting sagging book sales. According to the US Census Bureau there are 309,418,642 people living in the US. Though Amazon will not tell us how many Kindles have been sold, we can almost safely assume it is nowhere near this number. Apple says there has been two million ipads sold; this is a drop in the bucket compared to our population. Even if only half of us read that still leaves a lot of people who do not own an electronic reader so Snell’s argument rings true with me.
Snell also points out that Amazon is going to unveil an application that will allow iPad users to download books from their sight. This means Amazon not only sells its own e-reader, but is willing to sell e-books for its competitor. Snell says Amazon had to make a decision; does it want to sell Kindles or sell books. It seems this new application show us Amazon is more interested in selling books than competing in a death match with Apple.
E-books may be hot sellers right now but they are not in a death match with print books. As I was researching material for this post I came across an interesting interview with bestselling author M J Rose. She tells the story of how she became published. First she sent a manuscript out the old fashion way. This only garnered her rejection letters. Next she published it herself as an e-book and tried to advertize it on a website. She put the word out asking if people would kindly read it in exchange for a review. Many more people responded that they would prefer a print copy than wanted to read it in e form. She decided to pay for some print copies and ended up selling 1,500 in a year. A publisher saw a review of her book and asked for a copy. The rest is history; M J Rose became a bestselling author. It was only after she was known that e copies of here- books started to sell. Rose says she feels e-books can be helpful to new authors, but will not replace those who want print books. It seems from her story the two types of books can complement each other. I noticed over at Librarything’s Early Reviewer site requests for print books far outweigh requests for e-books. This backup what Rose says about book requests.
So death matches and product killers may not apply to the publishing world as Snell argues. Perhaps what all this new technology means is that as consumers we will have choices on how we read and what we read on. The death matches the publishing world is yelling about may just be hyperbole; the sky is not falling on print books after all.