The Telegraph is reporting that Waterstone has predicted that ebooks would decline:
The so-called e-book “revolution” will soon go into decline, the founder of Waterstones has said, insisting that the traditional physical book is here to stay.
Tim Waterstone, who founded the bookshop chain in 1982, argued that the printed word was far from dead and Britain’s innate love of literature had made books one of the most successful consumer products ever.
He added that he had heard and read “more garbage about the strength of the e-book revolution than anything else I’ve known”.
“I think you read and hear more garbage about the strength of the e-book revolution than anything else I’ve known,” Mr Waterstone told the audience in Oxford.
“The e-books have developed a share of the market, of course they have, but every indication – certainly from America – shows the share is already in decline. The indications are that it will do exactly the same in the UK.”
I don’t know what’s the worst about this, Waterstone for making a questionable claim or the Telegraph for backing it up by selectively reporting market stats.
If you go read the original article you’ll see that the Telegraph mentions that the UK ebook market was worth £300 million in 2013. That detail comes from stats recently release by Nielsen Bookscan. That detail is completely accurate, but what the Telegraph left out was that Nielsen also reported that the UK ebook market increased by 20% in 2013.
That’s an interesting omission, isn’t it? I could understand if the Telegraph had simply left out the Nielsen data, but selectively reporting the data raises interesting questions about the Telegraph writer, Hannah Furness.
But that is the lesser story; the big story today is Waterstone pontificating about the future of ebooks. Based on no evidence other than the fact that the ebook markets aren’t growing as fast in past years, he argues that ebooks are going to decline.
I don’t see how he reaches that conclusion; growth is still growth. It would be different if Waterstone had argued a principle along the lines of ebooks no longer meeting the needs of readers or authors, but even that would be a stretch.
Authors and publishers like ebooks because they are a least effort way to get novels and other works of fiction to market, and readers like ebooks because with some types of works (fiction, mostly) they’re more convenient than paper books.
In short there is a segment of the publishing industry that likes ebooks, and there is a segment of the book-buying public that likes ebooks. Until one or both of those go away, ebooks are not going to decline.
Until someone can pull out data which shows a real decline and not just a market fluctuation (like what is shown by the 2012, 2013 AAP data), it is safe to assume that reports of the decline of ebooks are greatly exaggerated.