How eBooks and Digital Publishing will Disrupt Traditional Book Publishing

Recent launches of Amazon’s Kindle 2 eBook reader and its Sony counterpart, the Reader Digital Book, have satisfied the wants and needs of bleeding edge consumers with longer battery life and enhanced text readability. But how much are they expected to disrupt traditional print-based media like books and newspaper? More importantly, will they significantly influence the way the majority of consumers consume printed media?

I’ve read a couple of analytical pieces, including a recent post Kindling an Interest in eBooks by Revenews writer Barry Silverstein  comparing the potential  revenue generated by an eBook  to a paperback and a hardcover.

The Great Paper Waste

While on a per unit basis it appears that hardcover books and their limited editions/first edition counterparts give better returns than eBooks, the writing’s on the wall that digital printing will outperform and likely supplant traditional media. The factors  are pretty overwhelming and the question is when this will happen.

According to a post by Dave Taylor in response to how much of a book’s print run remains unsold  or destroyed, the industry estimates are between “as little as possible” to about 55%. Having worked in the publishing industry before, I’ve seen as much as 90% of the print run of a book remain unsold.

Similar to how CDs,  DVDs, and other physical goods are produced, you might expect 5% of product produced to be bestsellers, going into a 5th or 10th printing, another 30-50% to break even and possibly generate marginal profit, while the balance is relegated to the bargain bin section of your bookstore or online and direct mail specialty book clearinghouses. If said stock, whether CD, DVD, book, magazine, newspaper, remains unsold, it’s either recycled or ends up in a local landfill.

What this means is  with half of all books printed not sell the  viability and bottom line  for traditional publishers is brought down. Printing a string of dud books could be financially fatal for niche and specialty publishers.

The Digital Publishing Paradigm Shift

How digital publishing disrupts the established business model is by allowing authors the option to choose to self-publish.  This is feasible if they’re confident in promoting their books themselves outside of the book catalog  and book tour avenue of publishing publicity.

Publishers  can also benefit since by being  able to avoid printing an excessive amount of inventory, reduce production and storage costs and channel their efforts more towards promotion and less on the production element of the business.

But the biggest payout for digital book readers could potentially be the environmental impact.

Step into your bookstore and imagine that half of the books you sell will be unsold and relegated to a paper mill for shredding or burning.

When you take that example and multiply it by all the bookstores in the country, the potential is there for digital publishing to supplant not just the business model for brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also positively impact the environment.

Overcoming The Final Barrier

Cost, however, remains a barrier at this point. At the current $350 to $400 price bracket, eBook readers will appeal to the tech set  and remain out of the hands of the masses for some time.

If the industry trend in MP3 players is similarly replicated in the eBook reader industry, we might eventually see these devices drop to the $100 price point or better. When that happens, we might see printing presses become a thing of the past.

Andrew Wee blogs about blogging, affiliate marketing and social traffic at Who is Andrew Wee.

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8 Responses to How eBooks and Digital Publishing will Disrupt Traditional Book Publishing

  1. […] How eBooks and Digital Publishing will Disrupt Traditional Book Publishing ( […]

  2. […] Recent launches of Amazon’s Kindle 2 eBook reader and its Sony counterpart, the Reader Digital Book, have satisfied the wants and needs of bleeding edge. Read more from the original source: How eBooks and Digital Publishing will Disrupt Traditional Book … […]

  3. Dave Taylor says:

    It's an interesting marketplace. if you think of the introduction of the iPod, the cost was at least 20x that of a CD (I recall they were a few hundred dollars, versus $12 for a CD), so while it's hard to think about eschewing the paperback for $7 in favor of a multi-hundred-dollar device, it is a trend nonetheless.

    But then again, where I live in Boulder CO, the public library is extraordinarily popular and when I see new books (like the book I'm reading now, Agincourt, by Bernard Cornwell) I put a hold and it can take weeks – or months – before I can get it. But when I do, it's free. Good economics. 🙂

    Me? I don't have a Kindle though I'd love to get a review unit. Not to be tedious, but I love the kinesthetic experience of a book, including seeing that bookmark slowly progress through the pages as you enjoy the world that the author has created.

  4. […] How eBooks and Digital Publishing will Disrupt Traditional Book Publishing from my good friend Angie Haggstrom at Freedom Freelance. It’s a great article that explores how digital publishing is impacting the traditional route. […]

  5. Brook Schaaf says:

    We have a client called CourseSmart that sells digital textbooks for half the price of a normal textbook. This company (and affiliate program) does well. While digital downloads have clear advantages in terms of price, conservation, and storage, it will be a challenge to replace the experience of holding a paper book so it's not clear how much of the marketplace digital downloads will take but it certainly seems like there is a LOT of room for growth.

    • Book Guest says:

      this is only a challenge to those of us who grew up with paper books. wait for the next generation that grows up with these e-readers, ipads, etc. For them it will be reversed. Holding an actual book will seem tedious, not to mention all of the features traditional books lack, like the ability to quickly search the text for a particular subject matter or connect online to additional reference info. The writing is definitely on the wall for the printing press as we know it.

  6. […] that eBooks are the wave of the future.   Publishers saw that by switching to eBooks they could reduce the overhead involved in the printing, distribution and marketing of print […]