Have e-readers already reached a peak in popularity?
The advent of the electronic reading devices sent shockwaves through the publishing world.
“Will nobody think of the books?” screamed journalists and authors everywhere, as though pyres were being prepared by Amazon-branded henchmen.
But the anticipated dystopia of screen-only reading is not yet upon us. In fact, though sales of e-readers grew initially, sales are now falling sharply.
According to Waterstones, sales of the Kindle have “disappeared to all intents and purposes”, the Financial Times reports.
Over the Christmas period, sales of the devices nose-dived, while demand for physical books grew by 5% over the same period.
Of course, during the Christmas shopping season it might be expected that more physical books are bought as gifts than a much more costly gadget.
However, Kindle sales have been falling steadily, suggesting the popularity of such e-readers may have peaked.
The Kindle was launched in 2007 and sales peaked in 2011 with 13.44m sales, according to Forbes.
This was followed by a decline in 2012 when sales reached 9.68m. The following year roughly the same number was sold. Forbes estimates that in total 30m Kindle e-readers are currently in use.
Books do furnish a room
In 2013, consumers spent a total of £2.2bn on physical books, but just £300m on ebooks, according to market research company Nielsen.
Meanwhile, the bookshop chain Foyles has reported a surge in sales of physical books, and in America, Barnes & Noble, the country’s largest book retailer, is looking to spin off its Nook e-reader business, the Telegraph reports.
Waterstones itself is also planning to expand. The company has announced that it will open at least a dozen new shops this year, flying in the face of a growing number of consumers buying books online.
Video is yet to kill the radio star, and perhaps a similar co-existence will emerge where e-reader devices can live in peace and tranquillity alongside physical books.