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Could E-Books Out Sell Print Editions By 2015?

by Sean P. Aune | June 6, 2010June 6, 2010 4:18 pm PST

It seems you can’t get on the Internet any more without seeing an announcement about another e-reader being released.  The Amazon Kindle, the Barnes & Noble Nook, Sony Reader, the iPad and on and on and on.  This is of course not to mention all of the applications that are showing up on smartphones, desktops and more.  E-readers and e-books are clearly the the most talked about technology these days.

That’s leading some at Sony to predict that by 2015, just as digital music is surpassing the physical CD, so too will e-books surpass their print brethren.

sony readerSpeaking about the new Sony Reader Award for Unpublished Writers to be included in this year’s Dylan Thomas Prize, Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading division shared some thoughts on the subject with the Telegraph.  “Within five years there will be more digital content sold than physical content. Three years ago, I said within ten years but I realised that was wrong – it’s within five.”  (Does anyone else catch the math that means its only two years sooner than he thought?)

To further this thought, Sony commissioned a study by Marketing and Research Resources, and they found that 11 percent of iPad buyers purchased the device primarily to be an e-reader.  Mr. Haber added “You have your multifunction devices – like a tablet – that are available for reading and then you’ll have devices that are immersive.”  He concluded that, “People will choose different devices for different experiences.”

But will they actually surpass the physical versions?  That’s a tough call.  Perhaps I’m old school, but while I have been downloading numerous classics of literature, I have yet to download an actual book I have to pay for.  There is something very disconcerting to me about reading a book I don’t at least know the story on such a way, it makes me feel disconnected from the material somehow.  Don’t forget, students aren’t exactly flocking to them either.

Books printed on paper may be “old school” now, but it is going to be difficult to break literally hundreds of years of conditioning to expect to read material in that format.  There very well might come day where e-books surpass print, but I don’t think it’s going to be as soon as 2015.  I do think we will see an occasion or two where a specific title does it, but a whole?  No.  not yet.

What say you?  Do you think e-books will bypass print editions by 2015?


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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