E-Book Sales Outstrip Hardbacks in 2010

The most arresting news in publishing this week is that Amazon.com in the US, sold more e-books than hardbacks. Apparently 143 digital books for every 100 hardbacks were sold in the last three months. No wonder this happened with the release of and use of the iPad and everyone looking for practical purposes for their investment. More than that, e-books have finally been noticed by the general public. Up to now, e-books were a mystery to most people because they did not know how to access them except through their usual laptops and desktops. Nothing seemed different from the basic website. The general public did not have the feeling of holding an iPad, Kindle, or Sony E-Reader because they had not experienced them through the media. Holding the media, the apparent appeal of paperbacks had not been realized in the e-readers.

Noticing is the key to the change in sales. Only last year, I was talking to a group of teachers about the Kindle and many of them did not know what they looked like. Questions such as: Do they display colour? Are you able to download any book? Isn't this just the same as a netbook?, and How much does an e-book cost? were being asked. Everyone was curious because the media buzz had finally reached everyone. Then came the purchase of the hardware followed by the software, the e-book.

I am fond of a quote from William Gibson, an American sci-fi author: "The future is here, it just hasn't been widely distributed yet." Up to now, I've not been ready to get excited about all this e-book hype. After all, a bit more than 15 years ago I, too, was excited about e-readers. They fizzled out because the support structures were not around to publicly embrace them into the culture of literacy. However, the current availability of e-books, attention in the public eye, and the counterculture to paper (perception of being green) have finally, I think, made a paradigm shift in literacy culture. Wide distribution is here.

It is all something to watch when it comes to investing our literacy dollars in education.