Is the success of e-readers only hype?
On the heels of major booksellers Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com announcing milestones related to their e-readers, The Pew Internet and American Life Project has released a survey called “65% of Internet users have paid for online content“.
Reading past the single conclusion of the title, it’s easy to appreciate how varied that content is.
For example, the survey says that 33 percent of U.S. Internet users have paid for digital music online. It’s the same for software.
According to the survey, paid content among U.S. Internet users breaks down as follows:
- 21 percent have paid for cellphone or tablet apps
- 19 percent for video games
- 18 percent for magazines
- 16 percent for movies or TV shows
- 15 percent for ringtones
- 12 percent for digital photos
- 11 percent for members-only premium content, and
- 10 percent for e-books.
That’s right — ringtones are more popular than e-books, according to the Pew study.
Mind you, ringtones generally don’t run you $9.99 and up, like Amazon.com charges for most of its e-books. And that might help put the figures into perspective, given the study’s correlation between income levels and paying for online content.
Still, declaring the e-book a success story may be premature. The basic e-readers, from Amazon’s Kindle to Barnes & Noble’s Nook, can’t handle the trumpeted enhanced video content. And selling lots of iPads doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be used for much more than games like “Angry Birds”, especially considering, like the Pew survey reveals, Internet users’ penchant for buying only one or two types of content.
Things don’t look much brighter for the online magazine publishing industry. Magazine sales on the iPad have tanked since Wired sold 100,000 copies of its debut issue, earlier this year. Pricing and poor distribution may be the cause, writes The Next Web’s Alex Wilhelm .
Eating 10 percent of the online media content pie doesn’t sound as impressive as proclaiming that sales of digital books have surpassed traditional ones.
And let’s keep in mind that e-books still only account for 10 percent of all books sales.
In other words, the imminent tablet revolution may not usher in a new era for e-book sales.
Extrapolating from the Pew survey, for online e-book sales to compete with other media such as digital music, prices have to come down and subscriptions heavily promoted.