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eBook Sales Growth Dives Despite Explosion of eReaders; Interesting Culprits

An eReader Slumming

MarketingPilgrim's Cynthia Boris connects some interesting dots, pointing out that in the face of rapidly slowing ebook sales (34 percent growth in 2012 versus more than 100 percent in each of the past four years), people with ebook readers may be spending more of their content budgets on periodical content.

Several factors may be at work in this transition, including a surprisingly non-competitive pricing environment in ebooks, despite a successful Justice Department lawsuit breaking up a budding book pricing cartel.

But one would think, with the profusion of ebook reader sales, along with tablet sales, that the multiplying of the available ebook audience would generate greater content sales growth. In the course of that growth, though, the ebook readers, like Amazon's Kindle Fire, became more tablet-like, providing functionality beyond merely reading ebooks. Other worlds of content, applications, and - particularly - periodicals now compete for the same attention and content budget.

Boris points to a theory that the ebook customers from previous years have bought their aspirational bookshelves of volumes they'd like to get around to reading, and that this may constitute a stuffed channel, perhaps partly explaining some of the slowing of sales growth. Another idea, perhaps a stretch: that the passing of the bricks and mortar bookstore business now prevents the showrooming activity that in the past has helped ebook sales.

A more obvious factor is the notion that with better internet integration, ebook readers are now used to browse the web, where readers find many periodicals that are free because they are ad supported, thus not contributing to the sales growth figures.


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