Bestselling and Pulitzer-nominated author Nichoals Carr kicked off this year’s IDPF Digital Book conference with a keynote presentation on the future of reading. This is a topic that has headlined presentations since the digital revolution began, but interestingly, we still don’t have the full picture of what reading will look like in even one year, let alone ten, fifty, or one hundred years.
“I’m suspicious of the ever increasing role that the computer has come to play in society, but as a writer I’ve gained enormous benefits from the computer. It’s also a subject that my own opinions and perspectives on have changed over time.”
Carr spoke to the trends that have been unfolding in the marketplace for books, more specifically which trends have halted.
“When ebook sales were exploding and print sales were stagnant, it seemed a given that ebooks would do to books what MP3s did to discs. The ebook seemed to become the dominant form of the book.”
Carr spoke to early projections that print books would be dead within five years. “Today, that prediction sounds crazy…I don’t know much about what will happen next year, but I’m pretty confident that people will still be buying and reading print books.”
“The ebook juggernaut provoked considerable unease about the future of the book.”
Carr examined the sales reports of his own titles, and found a disconnect in what was reportedly happening across the publishing industry. While ebooks did account for a substantial portion of his sells, he was still vastly outselling in print. Ebooks “rocketed” up to their highs, but then seemed to stabilize.
“The contours of a new equilibrium have emerged. Ebook sales growth has not only slowed, it’s acctually flattened out.”
Carr’s statement reflects what he refers to as a maturing of the ebook market. Where initial growth was based on the momentum of device penetration, what we’re seeing now may be more of a realistic look at digital consumption.
“I’m not downplaying the incredible success of digital books. They have become an essential part of the book market. But they haven’t taken over. The print book and the ebook are compliments. Each form has its strengths, its weaknesses, and its place.”