eBooks Outsell Hardcovers For The First Time In The U.S.

eBooks Outsell Hardcovers

Digital publishing is a wholly magical thing in its own way. It allows us to read dirty books on the train without getting stares. It lets us carry forty books to the beach without a wheelbarrow. And self-publishing, in particular, allows plenty of talented authors an opportunity to get their work in front of more people.

That's why I'm going to do my best not to sound all "you kids get off my lawn" about this despite my inherent biases toward all things analog. I go to tech conferences (I have an online startup) and use the glow of the laptops surrounding me to illuminate my spiral notebook enough to jot notes with a pen. If you call me when I'm at home, odds are I'm talking to you via a retro telephone handset connected to my iPhone. I wear a wrist watch. And I have never read any book in digital format if it is also available in dead-tree format. It's not that I'm old, just that I'm old-school.

Now that you know where I'm coming from, you don't even have to guess how I reacted to the American Association of Publishers' latest report indicating that adult eBooks outpaced adult hardcovers in sales for the first time ever, $282.3M to $229.6M, in the first quarter of 2012. It sort of made me want to go chop down an old-growth forest then stand on the stumps screaming, "Long live paper!" That urge has not completely faded.

The good thing about the numbers, no matter which side of the digital divide you stand on, is that both categories saw an increase from last year—up 28.1% for eBooks and 2.7% for hardcovers. Adult paperbacks had the highest sales overall, even above eBooks, at $299.8M but are actually down 10.5%, which means that if things continue as they are, eBooks are winning this race by the end of the year.

Do you prefer eBooks or hardcovers? Is this a major milestone in publishing or just inevitable evolution? What are bookstores and libraries going to look like in ten years—heck, even five years? So many questions. What say you?

Image via Why Not eBooks?

Image of The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future
Author: Robert Darnton
Price: $14.99
Publisher: PublicAffairs (2010)
Binding: Paperback, 256 pages
Image of Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century
Author: John B. Thompson
Price: $13.39
Publisher: Plume (2012)
Binding: Paperback, 464 pages
Image of The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age
Author: Sven Birkerts
Price: $12.34
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2006)
Binding: Paperback, 272 pages
Kimberly Turner

News by Kimberly Turner

Kimberly Turner is an internet entrepreneur, DJ, editor, beekeeper, linguist, traveler, and writer. This either makes her exceptionally well-rounded or slightly crazy; it’s hard to say which. She spent a decade as a journalist and magazine editor in Australia and the U.S. and is now working (very, very slowly) on her first novel. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics and lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, two cats, ten fish, and roughly 60,000 bees.

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Comments

James Storie's picture
James Storie from Alabama is reading The Fireman June 18, 2012 - 11:37am

Hardcovers all the way!

JamieMarriage's picture
JamieMarriage from Sydney, Australia is reading Spider, Spin Me a Web - Lawrence Block June 18, 2012 - 2:03pm

Hardcovers; no doubt.

But I'm an everywhere-reader; every location needs a certain medium for me.

Hardcovers at home, eBooks while travelling & at work, paperbacks if I'm at a friend's place or pub.

Kandi Kirk's picture
Kandi Kirk from East Tennessee is reading The Questions that precede these empty boxes. June 18, 2012 - 2:27pm

I love books, I love the smell of paper, I love the way it feels when you turn the pages, and I love browsing bookshelves.  But I'm a total geek, and I love being able to not only carry multiple books, but have a dictionary and thesaurus at my reach when needed.  I enjoy seeing my friends that were unnoticed and unpublished, building a fan base. I received my degree in off set printing and people constantly tell me,  "PRINT IS DEAD."  Well so is parchment and feather pens, but it hasn't kept the written word from spreading like wild fires all these years.  I am writing this now, and although I may be doing it with a keyboard, my words are no less meaningful then if I wrote them with a ballpoint pen in a mead notebook with scratch marks all over the cover.  The times they are a changing my friend but the literary world lives on.

Jack Campbell Jr.'s picture
Jack Campbell Jr. from Lawrence, KS is reading American Rust by Phillipp Meyer June 19, 2012 - 5:57am

I hate hardbacks. They are uncomfortable, too big to carry around with me, and get in their own way. I love paperbacks. I love the smell of books. But I am also becoming a big fan of the convenience of an e-book.