Amazon: Ebooks now outselling paperbacks.

Well, this is very interesting news.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — OK, bookworms, now you can declare Armageddon: Kindle e-books have overtaken paperback books as the bestselling type of content in Amazon’s bookstore.

Amazon made waves when it announced in July that Kindle content was outselling hardcover books. But industry analysts quickly dismissed that milestone, pointing out that paperback books sell far more copies than pricier hardcovers.

E-books have now vanquished their paperback rivals as well.


So, what does this mean?  Well for one thing, it means that rumors of the demise of the written word have been very exxagerated.  Rather, it was the difficulty of getting the written word to the user in an economy where ecommerce is increasingly the rule of thumb.  But now that we have the growing number of cheap ereaders, it’s apparent that if anything, the demand for books is growing.

Now there are a few things this doesn’t mean– first of all, the price may not drop as much as some think it will– remember that many books (those published through traditional publishers) get copy edit, have an editor, cover designer, etc, etc.  That will still increase the price a bit, even if you discount the cost of ink and paper.

Secondly, and I’ll talk about this in another post, it likely doesn’t mean the era of the self published novel is here– oh, it’s easier to get on board, as you can see from createspace and smashwords— but you can also do the same thing with fanfiction. You will get some good books, but I think, and have seen a lot more books who did not receive that absolutely vital go over by an editor.

In terms of book collections, it likely means that more and more people will start to accumulate BIG collections. Why not?  A Nook Color, with just that on board 8 gigabytes can probably store tens of thousands of books before you even have to think about getting rid of them.  Us Bibliophiles no longer have to make that soul tearing choice between our beloved books (some of which we haven’t read for years) and the fact that we no longer have room to sleep on the bed.  This might be especially important for the new generation of Manga readers, since “clean your room” will no longer be a codeword for “Get rid of that stuff!”

So, who might be losing from this?

Well first of all, in the long run, it’s likely use book stores will lose.  Fewer books, and fewer people seeking them out means less in the way of an inflow of books. On the other hand, there are likely to be far more in the way of “old” books that will only be available in Used bookstores– because the original publishing contract made no mention of electronic distribution and the copyright holder cannot be found, or is unwilling to renegotiate.

Secondly, and this is a question that I will expect will sooner or later hit the Supreme Court, just how much control can the IP holder maintain over your book?  Are you buying it, or renting it. The recent Kindle incidents of Amazon removing books from kindles, even with compensation for the purchasers, open some interesting property rights questions that I don’t believe have yet been addressed. (Amazon saying, “they won’t do it again” isn’t addressing the larger issue of digital rights.)

But regardless, the market for the written word has changed more in the last several years than in the last several decades before that– maybe more.  And yet, even when confronted by streaming video, music, etc, the old fashioned “words on the page” way of getting information out seems to be doing just fine…