It's the end of books as you knew them: E-books out-sell hardbound for the 1st time

Summary:Get ready to bid adieu to your local bookstore -- if you're lucky enough to still have one! -- as e-books sales surpass hardcover book sales for the first time.

EBooks out sell hardbound for the first time.

EBooks out sell hardbound for the first time.

If you follow the book trade, you knew this was coming. E-books, no matter whether you read them on an Amazon Kindle, a Barnes & Noble Nook, or your iPad are selling like crazy. We may complain about their high prices and even take eBook publishers to court for their prices and hardware lock-in, but we love our e-books. In fact, we love them so much that for the first time adult eBook sales were higher than adult hardcover sales.

It wasn't even close. The Association of American Publishers reported that in the first quarter of 2012, adult eBook sales were up to $282.3 million while adult hardcover sales came to only $229.6 million. In last year's first quarter, hardcover sales accounted for $223 million in sales while eBooks logged $220.4 million.

So where are the eBook buyers coming from? The answer is trade and mass-market paperbacks. Trade paperback sales fell from $335-million to $299.8-million. That's a drop of 10.5%. Mass market paperbacks sales had it even worse. They plummeted $124.8-million to $98.9-million in the same quarter last year. That's a fall of 20.8%.

The conventional wisdom had been that e-books would eat up hardbound book sales. That's not happening. Instead, while e-books will certainly by year's end be the most popular book format, it's paperback books that are really taking a hit. Perhaps that's because when you're buying a hardcover, you're buying not just a story, but an artifact, an object with more value than just as a way to get to the story.

Be that as it may, e-books are clearly the wave of the future. As someone who loves bookstores, libraries and has a few thousand physical books of his own, this is one wave I'm not entirely happy about. After all, e-books can be deleted, locked away by Digital Rights Management (DRM), or even edited from afar.

Don't get me wrong. I love the ease of purchase and use of e-books. My Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet goes everywhere with me and I have e-book applications on every device I own. Let's not forget though, as we rush to e-books faster than a bored housewife running to buy her copy of Fifty Shades of Grey--the soft-porn novel which has accounted for over 50% of all trade paperback book sales in recent weeks—that we're also going to lose such simple pleasures as lending a friend a good book.

Related Stories:

Antitrust enforcement gone wild, eBook edition

Why e-book DRM will die, and why this will make no difference to Amazon and Apple

Should the DoJ investigate e-book DRM and hardware lock-in?

DoJ sues Apple, publishers in e-book price fixing antitrust suit

Good-bye Encyclopedia Britannica: Good-bye to the printed record

Topics: Hardware

About

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, aka sjvn, has been writing about technology and the business of technology since CP/M-80 was the cutting edge, PC operating system; 300bps was a fast Internet connection; WordStar was the state of the art word processor; and we liked it.His work has been published in everything from highly technical publications... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.