I'm writing this post to clarify what I consider the tipping point. Why now? I think we are past that point for some sub-groups. It is only going to spread...
What is a tipping point?:
Wikipedia describes an... 'old example' of how on to many creates a sudden shift. I'm referring to as the 'ebook tipping point' as to when there will be a sudden shift out of p-books sales to e-books sales.
The discussions were originally in 2012. OK, last year At the Frankfurt book fair it was proposed to be 2018. Obviously it will happen before then. ;) But that doesn't narrow down when there is a shift from p-books to e-books.
The Publisher/Amazon tiff certainly delayed that tipping point. Probably by six months. In the long run, it will just result in more ebook piracy". Higher prices always slow adoption. In the digital world they also provide incentive to find 'free alternatives.' Didn't mp3s teach the publishers anything? Sigh...
Thankfully, indie authors have filled the gap. I'm trying to find a quantifiable metric to blog the shift to indie authors. Any suggestions for something that wouldn't take more than 15 minutes to collect each month's data?
When? (trigger event):
Some of speculated that it will occur with as little as 10% market share. I've been adamant that it is 20% market share. But what if it is 20% by genre or other sub-group? That is almost certainly the case!
We've briefly discussed on JA's blog" how in certain genres an 'old guard' was limiting the variety of sci-fi available. (: If you didn't click on the genre link, please do so. There is a huge variety that readers desire.
long tail theory" definitely applies to Sci-fi, Romance, mystery, and basically every novel genre has an 'old guard' keeping out too much of the variety.
When the readers from those genres go e-book, they'll pull their friends. For some it has already happened.
I'm one of those readers that once I fully went ebook, I'm done buying p-books. I have a bookcase and two boxes with about 200 unread p-books. (Mostly 'finds' at the local library used book sale or gifts.) While a few ebook readers truly prefer pbooks, most of the reader I know make the switch and do not look back.
A big sub-group that has made the switch are those that travel. Pbooks are just too bulky. However, Amazon must do a better job of 'converging' devices. e.g., I'd love to see an 'Android' cell phone with an LCD screen on one side and e-ink on the other.
The types of books that the 'I love turning pages' crowd love will be available at independent book stores or the checkout isle of Walmart/Costco. I really see little space for the current style chain bookstore.
I see a huge potential for POD coffeeshops. It might be another business where the POD is not a huge profit center but rather something to attract customers. Please expand LAX and put a few of these POD coffee shops into the airport! :) I'd actually buy a pbook just for the experience...
But as far as I can tell, Scifi&Fantasy and Romance are past the tipping point. 'Road warriors' are at the cusp. Mass transit commuters are there in some cities, but not in others. So in some ways, this will be blogging a 'rolling tipping point.' That will be fun! :)
I personally think Google editions" will rock the market. While it might (or might not) reach significant market presence, I expect the media attention directed to e-books due to Google editions to shift the book market.
I know of quite a few people worried about Kindle and ePub... With multiple ePub applications under development, one will work. Probably one developed by Google. ;) (I see no advantage for Google developing their own hardware a la the Android where they had to.)
Some book covers generate snide comments from the 70% of the population who doesn't read much. Those snide comments are pushing those readers to ebooks.
I'd love to know the true fraction of ebooks being read on smartphones. Among my friends it is about 10% to 20% and growing. Mostly among the "20 books a year crowd." The 100+ books a year crowd have mostly gone all Kindle.
Out of curiosity, do you know a significant number of friends or relatives who still read 100+ books a year in pbooks? 50% of those I know are Kindle readers. 10% other ebook readers. 10% to the IPad/Laptop. All of the above groups have a fraction that use smartphones 'here and there' to read. Only about 20% of those I know refuse to go digital. But I tend to travel in 'tech friendly' crowds. Note: The missing 10% are 'tech friendly types' trying to 'read through' their pbook library before going to an e-reader.
E-readers are now at an ideal gift giving price point. Judging by the large spike in ebooks sales volume at the start of 2010, we could hit the tipping point post Christmas due to the generosity of readers' friends.
Smartphones will also grow tremendously at Christmas. I still expect smartphones to be the primary 'gateway device' to ereaders. I do not consider them competition, but rather 'augmentation' (the cell phone is there to read) or to give readers a tast of ebooks. :)
Conclusion and Prediction:
Some people will not convert. I see a bright future for POD and used book stores. In some cities, independent book stores catering to a literature crowd will thrive. But not in most cities. :( Perhaps 20% of the pbook market will survive a la vinyl records in specialty stores for connoisseurs.
But for SciFi and Fantasy readers... the old guard kept out too much as well as snide comments from the techno-phobic. I think that market is past the tipping point. Same with Romance for similar but slightly different reasons. Please let me know if you've seen any other genres make the switch.
We're in the rolling tipping point for ebooks. Enjoy. :) By January 2013, I expect 50%+ of the trade book market (including mmpb) to be ebooks. Text books will lag, but not for very long.