E-books look to be hit over holiday season

November 21, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
This holiday season, we will give fewer books as gifts and give more e-books, say the experts. Sales of e-readers such Amazon's Kindle are outstripping even the most optimistic forecasts.

In this Drive to Discover report, Richard Hart finds that this will be An E-Christmas.

Andrew Savikas reads his newspapers on his phone as well as most of his books. He is part of a movement that is surprising even the most optimistic sellers of electronic books. Savikas is VP for Digital Initiatives at Bay Area company O'Reilly Media. He says, in direct sales, "Our e-books outsell the print books by more than 10-to-1. We're seeing an extraordinary shift in preference for digital and especially for mobile, consumption."

The numbers are dramatic. According to Forrester Research, there are 9 million reading devices in the United States. By the end of the year, there will be 10.3 million. According to Insight Media, that number will swell to 120 million within 4 years, two for every five people. Half of all reading will be done without paper. One-fifth of the devices will be dedicated readers, not general purpose tablets.

Holiday numbers are even more encouraging for makers of e-readers. According to Simba Information, 1 in 5 of those who own a Kindle received it as a gift. According to Consumer Reports, 10 percent of adults plan to give an e-reader as a gift this year. Only 4 percent did so in 2009.

And, for book publishers? In 2009, revenue from sales of e-books made up 1 percent of book sales. This season, they will constitute 10 percent. According to American Publishers, e-book revenues exploded from $105.6 million in the first part of 2009 to $304.6 million so far this year, a 290 percent growth rate!

Andrew's company, O'Reilly Books, is a large California publisher known for its iconic animal covers. Recently, O'Reilly and Microsoft Press announced that their entire libraries would be converted to the e-pub format popularized by


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