eBooks, some of them free eBooks, outsold print books this Christmas. On December 26, Amazon announced that, for the first time ever, they had sold more eBooks than physical books on Christmas day. In an interview Jeff Bezos was also quoted as saying that he believes that the print book will eventually disappear.
And how much money is Amazon making? How much money are authors and publishers making? When GalleyCat examined the Kindle Store bestsellers, they found that 64 of the 100 bestselling eBooks, the majority, were, in fact, free, including the number one bestseller, "Midnight in Madrid", by Noel Hynd.
Responding to this, Carolyn Kellogg at the Los Angeles Times Jacket Copy blog, wonders:
If customers at Amazon continue to "purchase" e-books at a rate that rivals traditional books -- but the majority of those e-books are free -- what does that mean for e-books, and the publishers that make them?
The Washington Post this weekend went further, arguing that the low -- or non-existent -- prices that customers are demanding for eBooks are not going to go away, and that publishers will have to embrace the low prices or become irrelevant. Says the Post:
Amazon's customers have made it clear that $9.99 is still too high for their taste. Most titles in the company's list of top 100 Kindle bestsellers are priced below $9.99, and the most popular price point is $0.00. But publishers can't hear this, because they're a little distracted right now.
The Post argues that publishers have had success over the past few decades as the quantity of books they have been able to supply has risen exponentially. Now, however, eBooks make distribution as simple as a click. This doesn't have to mean the death of publishing, though. The Post suggests:
Publishers can no longer be vast containers of intellectual property distributed in paper form to bookstores, supermarkets and warehouse clubs. But they don't have to be: They can become highly selective distributors to bookstores, supermarkets and price clubs. That's the lesson of the television, music and movie businesses.
For now, it's clear that eBooks are only going to become more popular, and the publishing industry will have to figure out where its place will be as the way that people read changes dramatically.
Publishers are clearly still struggling with how to fit into the world of new media. In a Washington Post blog, Kevin Huffman notes how many "traditional media gifts under the tree turned out to be new media knock-offs" this year, citing the blog-to-book phenomenon and a new book based on the blog "Cake Wrecks" in particular.
"We don't need a lot of additional evidence that the media world is changing by the day," Huffman says, "But if Christmas at my house was indicative, change is coming even faster that we think."