Sorry to be so quiet for the last few days, but I'm on deadline for my next military history book and busy planning my trip to Ethiopia.
Anyway, I've come across a couple of important articles on ebooks. The first is a USA Today article noting that in the first week of 2011, 19 out of the top 50 bestsellers sold more electronic copies than print copies. All of the top six did this. Various industry pundits weighed in on the significance of these figures. The main reason for the spike was that about 3 to 5 million ereaders sold over Christmas. Will people tire of their new toy or will it become a regular part of their reading experience? Only time will tell. The article also noted that while ebooks sales are going up, so are print sales. People are reading.
For some predictions on ebook development in the coming year, check out publishing CEO Michael Hyatt's Six E-book Trends to Watch in 2011. I won't steal his thunder, but if you're a writer or a reader (and I assume you fall into at least one of those categories) then you should check it out. He disproves the common mantra in writing newsgroups that traditional publishers don't "get" ebooks.
While it looks like ebooks have a bright future, I don't think print will die as quickly as some people are saying. Print sales still outstrip ebook sales by a considerable margin, even though that margin is narrowing. A sizable percentage of buyers are over fifty (a group less likely to embrace new technology) or only buy a few books a year, making them less likely to cough up more than a hundred bucks for an ereader.
The thing that will really save print, however, is POD. Print on Demand machines are getting faster and cheaper. They're already appearing at retail outlets and it's not hard to imagine them showing up in malls, train stations, airports, or other locations. If connected via the Internet to distributors, they could print just about any title. Some people will always prefer print, and POD machines make it cost effective for the publishing world to provide them.