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Whither the E- Book: What Do These Charts Mean?

          March 16, 2016. New Post Goes Up Every Wednesday by Jack Dziamba

What is Happening to E-Books?


The percentage of readers who finished reading each chapter of three specific e-books.

                 A successful U.S. novel …                                                                                   A not-so-successful one …                                                                one that had its marketing scaled back.
An analysis by Jellybooks of how readers read e-books found that once most people make it past the first 50 to 100 pages they usually finish the book. But not everybody gets that far. (Source: Jellybooks via the New York Times, 3/14/16.)

“On average, fewer than half of the books tested  [by Jellybooks, a reader analytics company based in London.]were finished by a majority of readers. Most readers typically give up on a book in the early chapters. Women tend to quit after 50 to 100 pages, men after 30 to 50. Only 5 percent of the books Jellybooks tested were completed by more than 75 percent of readers. Sixty percent of books fell into a range where 25 percent to 50 percent of test readers finished them. Business books have surprisingly low completion rates.” (Source: Moneyball for Book Publishers: A Detailed Look at How We Read by New York Times, March 14, 2016.)

E-Book Sales Slip


“Five years ago, the book world was seized by collective panic over the uncertain future of print.”

“As readers migrated to new digital devices, e-book sales soared, up 1,260 percent between 2008 and 2010, alarming booksellers that watched consumers use their stores to find titles they would later buy online. Print sales dwindled, bookstores struggled to stay open, and publishers and authors feared that cheaper e-books would cannibalize their business. Then in 2011, the industry’s fears were realized when Borders declared bankruptcy.”  (Source: The Plot Twist: E-Book Sales Slip, and Print Is Far From Dead by Alexandra Alter, New York Times, September 22, 2015.)

And Now:

“E-book sales fell by 10 percent in the first five months of this year, according to the Association of American Publishers, which collects data from nearly 1,200 publishers. Digital books accounted last year for around 20 percent of the market, roughly the same as they did a few years ago.”

“Digital books have been around for decades, ever since publishers began experimenting with CD-ROMs, but they did not catch on with consumers until 2008, shortly after Amazon released the Kindle.”

“But those double- and triple-digit growth rates plummeted as e-reading devices fell out of fashion with consumers, replaced by smartphones and tablets. Some 12 million e-readers were sold last year, a steep drop from the nearly 20 million sold in 2011, according to Forrester Research. The portion of people who read books primarily on e-readers fell to 32 percent in the first quarter of 2015, from 50 percent in 2012, a Nielsen survey showed.”  (Source: New York Times, September 22, 2015)

Whither and Why?

Some analysts conclude that the popularity of e-books has faded along with the popularity of e-readers themselves. Others, see the decline in e-book sales as a sign that readers are actually returning to print books, with all that means for book publishers and independent book stores.

But, what’s the real reason?

Value vs. Price

In 2102, in our Purpose Page, we wrote:

“THE BOOK, both print and even current versions of the electronic reader, are already near artifacts. Book publishing is in the death throes of the last century, bound up in static, linear publications. At the same time, the technology of the new media has developed to such a degree of creativity and innovation that Alice Rawsthorn commented in the New York Times of November 28, 2010 that,

“‘These devices offer thrilling possibilities for us to do much more than read words on a screen, and it is deeply disappointing that so few designers and publishers are embracing them.”

In IS THE E-BOOK DEAD, OR JUST ASLEEP? PART 2 , we wrote, “The End. Until e- book publishers add value by content which enhances an e-book, the digital book will be regarded simply as reading a paperback with a light behind each page. This is not worth the price.”


“In a prior post we wrote about the enhanced e-book, “e +,” as a new genre which requires the incorporation of many disciplines and technologies. Now, Penguin Books has published an enhanced e-book by Jack Kerouac’s novel: On the Road. Both Penguin editors and the Kerouac estate curated this digital edition of On the Road. The book includes valuable features that show what can be done with the enhanced e-book novel, and is an excellent example of the use of New Media digital technology to enhance the value of the e-book, and the reader’s experience.”

What is to be Done? 




“… the Musée d’Orsay and Artepublishing have produced an Impressionist Exhibition book exclusively in digital format, Great Impressionist and Post Impressionist Paintings The Musée d’Orsay.” 

“A further and great feature of this enhanced e-book is that there are between 10 and 30 curated links for each artist and featured painting. These include biographies of the artist, articles about the artist, works by the artist in other museums, artist quotes, videos and even free e-books about the artist. Following the featured works are other paintings by the artist in the d’Orsay.”

We think without the enhanced value as exemplified by such enhanced e-books such as On the Road, and Great Impressionist and Post Impressionist Paintings  the e-book will be regarded simply as reading a paperback with a light behind the page. It is not worth the price.


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