Sleepy E-Books Sales Over “Digital Fatigue”

Andrew AlbaneseWhat entertainment medium can possibly resist the online, digital tidal wave? The hope that books may stand where others have fallen lies in declining e-book sales; yet publishers are left pondering what is the underlying cause.

This week, a respected industry analyst has put forth a theory that goes beyond the obvious suspects of pricing and access. According to Peter Hildick-Smith of the Codex Group, so-called “digital fatigue” is the hidden e-book killer.

“Hildick-Smith’s conclusion is that e-book sales erosion is a combination of  ‘digital fatigue’ and the limitation of the reading device user experience,” reports Andrew Albanese, Publishers Weekly senior writer, on the curious diagnosis.

“I’m tempted to say print is the vinyl of the book business—it is just a better experience. Moreover, Hildick-Smith believes that, based on the data he has seen, rather than rebounding anytime soon, e-books sales will likely continue to fall.

“While book buyers stated they spent almost five hours of personal time on screens a day, whether using a smartphone, tablet, e-reader or computer – 25% of book buyers, including 37% of 18 to 24 years old – want to spend less time on their digital devices. Since consumers have the option to read books in print, that’s what they are doing,” Albanese tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally.

Every Friday, CCC’s “Beyond the Book” speaks with the editors and reporters of “Publishers Weekly” for an early look at the news that publishers, editors, authors, agents and librarians will be talking about when they return to work on Monday.

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