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What If Amazon Bought Borders?...

The Kindle Will Reduce Book Sales?!

Reject I just read this post on the Publishing Frontier blog by Joe Esposito and I couldn't disagree with him more.  His premise is that e-readers offer more of a "just-in-time" content model as opposed to the "just-in-case" model that applies to print books.  He believes the latter causes us to buy a lot of books we don't need whereas the former will fix that "problem."

Joe, Joe, Joe... I'm probably not the only Kindle owner who's bought a few books and has yet to read them.  That's right.  They're just sitting there collecting digital dust on my e-reader.  Why did I buy them?  Because I know I want to read them and, in most cases, I thought I would have the time to start on them before now.  I was wrong, but that's not going to stop me from buying my next Kindle edition.

Actually, most Kindle owners report a concern about buying too many books, not too few.  The darned one-click purchase option makes buying irresistible.  I've tried backing off and only downloading free samples but that still hasn't caused me to buy less.

Then there's the pricing factor.  Most Kindle editions are $9.99 or less.  I think a lot of Kindle owners feel they need to justify the $350 device price by getting as many "deals" on the $9.99 books as possible.

I do believe the browsing and buying process will change considerably as e-readers grow in popularity though.  One obvious example is how they'll help all of us purchase fewer duds.  Thanks to Amazon's free sample option I've already avoided buying at least 4 or 5 books I thought I'd like; after reading the samples I changed my mind.  That doesn't mean I bought 4 or 5 fewer books though!  It just freed up those dollars for other titles.

So while e-readers most certainly won't cause fewer books to be sold, they'll definitely cause fewer bad books to be sold.  That's a good thing though, right?


Scott Walker

No fooling! I just shifted part of my reading to the Kindle, but/and my bad book habit went with them. The good thing about unread books on the Kindle is that I don't need to feel guilty about the unread books wasting trees and energy, sitting by the bed unread.

Liza Daly

The Kindle 'samples' feature doesn't get enough credit.

I can remember buying music in stores that I had never heard, just because the cover looked interesting, or I had faint memories of a recommendation, or because the store had a little titlecard explaining what the band sounded like.

The availability of online samples has totally changed that. It wouldn't even occur to me to buy music without listening to previews first, even if it was a band I loved. Why take the chance on a dud when I can speed through the tracks online first?

I usually skim the first page of a potential purchase in a bookstore, but I don't have the patience to go through a whole chapter or two like I will with a Kindle sample. Again, even if it's an established author I like, I download a sample first before every Kindle purchase, and I rely less on Amazon reviews than I used to. That's a good thing for publishers -- I'm much more confident about my purchases and therefore more likely to make additional ones.

Dave Taylor

I'm with you, Joe, I roll my eyes at these kind of predictions. I think that book sales will reduce because of people reading less, but to compensate, the breadth of available work is dramatically increasing as print-on-demand is hitting its stride.

Book Calendar

I like to think, that if you are given a chance to read the first few chapters of a book, it will let you make a decision on whether or not to buy a book. This is why there are cafes in bookstores. It encourages you to read the first few chapters of a book, once you do that it is much more likely you will buy the book. This would follow with Kindle. It almost guarantees the sale of at least one item whenever you go into a bookstore or look at a sample on a website.


Couldn't agree more, Joe. I'll ignore the JIT aspect because you and others here have that pretty well covered and my ebook reader is likewise full of books that I haven't read yet - unlike my bookshelves.

Esposito's views are somewhat similar to those prevailing at one time or another in most other media industries move to digital formats, and I think it is a result of lack of familiarity with the new product. Or, to put it bluntly - he doesn't know what he is talking about.

Esposito's other points relate to the browsing and social aspect of book buying, and here he likewise misses the point. Instead of just putting the customer in a room full of books and letting them browse by themselves as happens in paper bookshops, or receive recommendations from a few close friends, the new media almost requires that sellers and publishers get involved in making social aspects of browsing happen; allow others to easily rate, recommend and review books online and in public. This might be new to them and they might not like it, but that's what they'll have to do to be successful.

Esposito conveniently forgets to mention that a recommendation to read a paper book by a friend often involves lending or passing their copy of the book on.

And finally, online ebook sales, by their very nature allow individual pricing and discounts, and short duration promotions and rebates in ways that paper book stores can only dream about. They can be intimately connected to their customers by email. RSS and web sites, know their purchasing history and preferences, and can present compelling inducements to buy more books if they do this right.

Ebooks have about as much chance of killing publishing as videotapes had of killing Hollywood.

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