There's no activity more popular among industry analysts than predicting the future, and the ebook market is no exception. Whether it's Price Waterhouse Cooper, GigaOm, or what have you, there's endless speculation on the endlessly rising ebook market.
One thing that a lot of the predictions assume is a market that continues to increase, but what if the ebook market is not going to keep going up? According to Matt Blind, that's what could happen, and the all the market stats so far suggest that he could be correct.
At the very least, he has the best model I have seen so far.
Back in June of 2011 Matt, a bookseller with one of the major US chains, proposed a new model to chart the growing US ebook market. He took the then current data, plotted it, and then started looking for an equation which best fit the current data. After some work, he came up with this chart:
That's the early part of a sigmoid function, and if you extend the graph to include more of the function, you get a brief period of increase followed by a flattening out in the not too distant future.
Matt has been continuing to plot the sales data as it was released by the AAP, and this is what he has now:
He posted that graph a few days ago, and it includes the latest stats from the AAP. The growth seems to have slowed down, does it not?
I think so; at the very least we're no longer seeing the triple digit increases from 2008 to 2010. The 2012 ebook market also looks nothing like what PWC predicted in 2009 based on the stats they had then; it's much smaller.
I'm not saying that this chart is the word of Ayn Rand, but it does present some interesting possibilities. What if the growth of the ebook market really has slowed down?
The thing is, that might have happened already. If the current model is correct, the US ebook market hit the inflection point back in May of 2012. If that's true then all these charts on Pinterest predicting the infinite growth of the ebook market are wrong, not that I ever took them seriously. What's more, this prediction suggests that the current players and any newcomers in the ebook market are going to have to fight for a slice of the pie which might not be getting a whole lot bigger.
I believe that is what is called a mature market, and it could happen in as little as 5 to 6 years.