In Brazil, ebooks represent 2.57% of the books market turnover. In the United States, where the majority of fans are, this slice is estimated at 13%. In the United Kingdom, 11.5%; in Germany, 5%; and across the European Union, only 1.6%. After 2014, the sales figures have accused falling signs for the first time ever. In the United Kingdom, it decreased by 2,4%, considering the five main publishing companies. This is the digital books overview almost ten years after the release of Kindle, the most popular e-reader. When it began to be sold by Amazon, the editorial market was troubled by this disruption which threatened to turn paper books into museum pieces. But the predictions have failed. Now, faced with low numbers and some signs of stagnation, new forecasts begin to bet on the decline of e-books. My bet is that these predictions will not come true.
The electronic book’s trajectory is not an indication of the product failure, but a demonstration of how long the disruption process may go on. One of the reasons for this is the cultural barrier. The printed book became popular since the disruption triggered by Gutenberg’s printer, in 1440. Another reason is the publishing market power, that handles about $151 billion per year. According to a report from the European Parliament “E-book: Evolving markets and new challenges”, books are the largest segment of the entertainment industry, surpassing music ($ 50 billion), video games ($ 63 bi), magazines ($ 107 bi) and even movies ($ 133 bi). To a certain extent, the big publishing houses have sufficient power to dictate the pace of change, so that their interests are less affected. They are the ones who determine the prices of both printed and electronic books, and this obviously affects the speed of the migration process.
There was also an overreaction by those who adjudged the premature death of the printed book. Time has shown that e-books did not come to hamper, but to live along with the printed books. How many readers have a book on the shelf and its duplicate in an e-reader, computer or smartphone? When I’m home, I can give myself the pleasure of flipping through the paper book I like. When I am on the subway, I read it on a cell phone. Some books do work best on paper, and others work well enough in a digital version. And this relationship goes on changing as new technologies come up. The retina screens are starting to compete in quality with the printed versions when it comes to viewing images – in an art book, for example.
It is true, however, that the evolution of the electronic book is still falling short of its potential. Starting with the prices, which could be much more accessible, thus expanding the consumption of books in general, not just the electronic. The e-books still lack the quality that the printed ones offer in editorial treatment. Very few electronic editions inform, for example, who was the translator of the work – an elementary information in a book. On the other hand, one can imagine how digital technology could enhance the presentation and contents of books, with the use of multimedia and internet access. Digital versions also make the circulation of books easier. Here, the technological advance stumbles on legal obstacles and property issues that are still waiting for a creative solution so that the electronic book can fulfill its potential.