The latest figures from Barnes & Noble are not surprising.
No, they don’t show yet another decline in hardcover book sales.
They demonstrate the continuing strength of the company’s e-reader, the Nook.
In case you’ve expressed any doubt about whether the future of the book was digital (despite the handwringing of some authors and readers who lament a possible future where a book made of paper is a rare treasure, like a vinyl album), the latest figures confirm what most people have already accepted: digital books are here, their sales are increasing, and we’d better get used to them.
In the fourth quarter of 2011, Barnes & Noble’s Nook business increased 38%, to $542 million (these sales include accessories such as covers, as well as digital content). But more important, unit sales for the Nooks grew by 64% during the third quarter. The company also announced a lower-priced color reader, for $199. Prices will continue to drop of devices, their sales will increase, and more people will be engaging with information distributed digitally.
Yet, publishers are still figuring out how to release e-books (it’s shocking the number of backlist titles that are not yet available in digital form), and how to price them (as you may have noticed prices are creeping up, although e-books are less expensive to produce, since they don’t require either printing or paper).
But for you, the entrepreneurial author who is building a platform with which to engage with and build an audience, digital represents your future. Even if you publish with a so-called traditional publisher (one that relies on the standard distribution model through bookstores and one that also offers e-books), you know that your book will more likely be downloaded online than purchased at a brick-and-mortar store.
This means that you should continue to do what you do: engage in online conversations, spread your message through social network and blogging and depend on your tribe of readers to help refine your voice. There’s really no turning back. And you wouldn’t want that anyway.
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