have tripled since last year, and the trend shows no sign of slowing down, comparing January-February sales to last year's. It looks like the wave of ereaders and tablets sold over Christmas resulted, not too surprisingly, in a wave of ebooks sold in the first quarter. With tablet sales alone expect to be triple sales of last year, not to mention how many e-readers will be sold (and smartphones!), you can expect ebook sales to continue their headlong growth.
At the same time, paper book sales are declining, helped along (no doubt) by the closure of many bookstores. Not just a little; adult books dropped 34%, while children's books dropped 16%. No wonder bookstores are hurting. I think it's pretty clear readers are switching to ebooks as fast as they can.
Not without some hitches, though. As this case shows, when the Hachette Group decided to price Michael Connelly's latest best-seller The Fifth Witness at $14.99 for the e-book... and it was selling for $14.28 on Amazon as a hardcover. Not surprisingly, Amazon reviewers savaged it for the pricing, giving it a slew of one-star reviews. The ebook price later dropped to $12.99... but it still shows a stunning disregard for reality. It sure reminds me of the cluelessness of the music industry, which was still trying to sell CD's for $18 when people could buy the tracks for 99 cents. How's that working out for the music industry? About as well as it's working out for the book industry, which is to say not well at all.
Savvy authors who are self-publishing are making a mint with ebooks priced at $4.99 or $2.99 or even 99 cents. There's no sure bet on pricing, except that readers aren't dummies and realize that an ebook should cost less than a printed book. So if paperbacks are $9 or $10, readers expect an ebook for a lot less. And hey, they might even buy more books... or be more likely to take a flyer on an author they don't know, or a genre they haven't tried.
OK, but printed books still have advantages... like you can get one autographed. Can't do that with an ebook, right? Maybe, but not for long. A new company promises to provide a way for authors to sign ebooks... and authors can do book signings from the comfort of their own homes, and even put pictures into the signature of themselves with their fans. That's going to be really cool when it arrives... a terrific tool for self-publishing authors.
I'm sure the book publishing industry will figure all this out someday... maybe a few years after the industry collapses.