All across the country, booksellers have a Christmas wish: that the e-book thrill is gone.
Shoppers at McNally Jackson Books last week. Sarah McNally, the owner, reported “consistent” sales growth year over year, reports the New York Times
There is reason to believe it will come true. E-book sales have flattened in
2013, giving publishers and bookstores hope that consumers’ appetite for print books will be renewed during the most crucial sales period of the year.
“But there are plenty of reasons for holiday anxiety, too, starting with a compressed shopping season, the result of Thanksgiving falling later than it has in a decade. Booksellers also have to contend with the absence of a blockbuster title to drive sales and fill stores, the way the Steve Jobs biography did two years ago. And they must compete with steep discounts on print books from Amazon. It is a grab bag of factors, any one of which could tilt the fortunes of retailers as the holiday book-buying season enters its final days.
“This is the time when publishers release their splashiest books and count on Christmas shoppers being much more willing to part with $25 for a weighty hardcover. The leveling off of e-book sales should help. The Association of American Publishers, which collects monthly data from about 1,200 publishers, said last month that e-book sales had been flat or in decline for most of 2013. In August, e-book sales were approximately $128 million, a 3 percent decline from August 2012.
“I don’t know if it’s a saturation point with digital,” Len Vlahos, the executive director of the Book Industry Study Group, said in a recent interview. “But all the data we see suggests that we’ve hit a state of equilibrium. The trend lines have flattened out. Three years ago, it was a nascent market, but now it looks like a maturing market.” Jennifer Enderlin, the publisher of St. Martin’s Press Paperbacks and Griffin, said that she thought e-book sales were finding their level, and that it would “start affecting print books in a good way.” “Independents seem to be having a good run right now,” she said of the bookstores. “They’re having a nice renaissance.”