walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

A Change in the Narrative of eBooks

Well, it was all kinds of fun to take a poke at Dvorak for accusing Amazon, but the real story here is that a press release saying Amazon sold 105 ebooks for 100 pbooks appears to have not just generated significant buzz (surely a major goal of the press release) but also to have dramatically changed the narrative of ebooks. While the book huffers have been gone for a while, the it's-only-some-tiny-fraction-of-the-market storyline replaced it. You can see it in Dvorak's dismissive "niche" remark at the end of his column. You can hear an echo of it in some of the older researchers being quoted saying the ebook market is still "only" 14% or whatever of book sales.

The new narrative is very different. It isn't, I like paper. It isn't about not being impressed by a minority share of the market. It is, we are in the middle of a transition from pbooks to ebooks, and this announcement by Amazon was inevitable.

Inevitable. Wow.

Here's a very succinct version of it:


"It had to happen sometime,"

Now, instead of ebooks being the niche, pbooks are being depicted as the niche: "But when it comes to childrens books, reference materials, and serious use in academia, I think that print books will be dominant for a long while." That's from Alex Knapp at:


FWIW, he's completely wrong. I totally agreed with him on childrens books a little over a year ago, for exactly the reasons he gives (drooling and chewing), but a year of buying ebook apps on the iPad for a couple of preschoolers has completely changed my mind. I quit buying reference materials in book form long before the kindle arrived on the scene; online databases were much more likely to have what I wanted and be kept up to date (I personally pay for access to some of them and others I access using my library card, if they aren't available to the general public). "Serious use in academic" is a tricky assertion, because it's hard to know how to interpret. What I do know is that a lot of the details he gets into for why textbooks are tough in eform will likely seem very, very funny in a matter of a small (single digits) number of years.

But regardless of the details, the shift in the narrative is striking. The punditry now seems to be viewing ebookery announcements through a lens of "industry in transition, e-form will predominate inevitably", rather than a lens of early adopter/gadgetry/the annoyance of format changes.
Tags: e-book coverage
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