Via Gizmodo, we learn that Amazon.com has made an intriguing announcement.
Amazon's Kindle hit an important and startling milestone yesterday: On Christmas, the company sold more Kindle books than physical books.
Yes, this is obviously the result of everyone who got a Kindle for Christmas (lots of folks) firing it up and ordering a bunch of eBooks on a day in which most physical-book readers weren't shopping. But it's still important and impressive.Amazon's Kindle 2 e-book reader (image courtesy of Wikipedia)
Amazon's strategy is clearly to drive "ubiquity," and based on stats like those above, it is succeeding. The more Kindle books Amazon sells, the more leverage it will have over publishers when it tries to force them to cut wholesale prices. If Amazon's Kindle momentum continues, the day publishers have to capitulate will come sooner rather than later.
And, despite publishers' cries, this is not necessarily bad for publishers: If publishers cut wholesale prices, Amazon will be able to cut retail prices. If the retail prices are cut to nominal levels—$2.99 or $3.99 per copy—sales velocity should soar. Publishers and writers will make less per unit, but the increased volume should make up a lot of the difference.
There's more at the link.
This is an important milestone for many reasons, but most of all because the publishing industry's business model is clearly unsustainable over the long term. It consumes massive amounts of paper and other resources, costs too much per book to print, store and distribute their product, and shuts out too many authors because publishers feel (probably rightly) that they couldn't sell enough of their book(s) to make a profit, given their existing cost structure. By moving to an electronic format, all these problems could be addressed.
It's so convenient to have one's library in electronic form that more and more people are bound to move to that format over time. As an example, I've just moved house, carrying with me a dozen six-foot-high bookcases and thousands of volumes. I'm going to be moving again sometime in 2010, and as a result of my recent experience I'm planning to drastically cut down on the size of my library - I simply can't face the thought of moving all that weight and bulk again! If I could have most of those books in electronic form, rather than on paper, moving my entire library - and quadrupling its size, for that matter - wouldn't faze me at all. If I could buy those additional books at a reduced price, I'd be spending a great deal of money on them, and the publishers would benefit from that (not to mention that their costs per book would be drastically reduced by cutting out printing, storage and distribution expenses). Everyone would win.
I don't like Amazon's Kindle in its present form (particularly its proprietary format, which binds users to Amazon to buy more books for it). Competing products have their own shortcomings. Now, if someone would bring out an open-source e-reader device, where one could buy books from the retailer of one's choice, and if that e-reader could address the shortcomings of present devices . . . they'd make a mint. I'd be first in line to buy it!