Here’s a slightly edited excerpt from an e-mailing by Peter Osnos, ex-Washington Post reporter, founder of PublicAffairs Books, and a commentator for the Century Foundation:


The emergence of digital books will be a significant factor in the future of book sales.

Last week, Barnes & Noble announced it would have an e-reading device in stores for the holiday season, and Amazon again dropped the price of its standard Kindle. Forester Research predicts total sales for e-book devices will be three million units in 2009 and double that in 2010. Most remarkable of all, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said that for books available in hardcover and Kindle, the digital sales now make up to 48 percent of book sales. Last spring he said the percentage was 35.

A New York Times story about the sales of The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown’s new blockbuster novel, never mentioned e-book sales in its estimate of how the book was doing under a headline that said "Book Sales Are Down Despite Push." Well, maybe not as much as you think.

The book has sold close to three million hardcovers in its first three weeks. And The Lost Symbol was released simultaneously as an e-book, so the total sales are somewhat higher. All these assessments may well sound like insider palaver to most readers, so let me reduce all the trade talk to a simple fact: You are going to be able to buy books in newfangled ways with prices that will bounce around a bit.

The five-hundred-year-old era of the printed book is definitely not over, in my view, or even especially endangered, aside from the impact of the brutal recession we’ve been through. But the digital age has now, really, unequivocally, arrived. And that, for the publishing community as well as readers, should be a plus.

(TeleRead regularly carries Peter Osnos’s writings, with permission.)


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