Are we at the eReader inflection point?

Everyone in Books (i.e. Publishers, eBook sellers, bookstores, authors) is behaving as if we are 4 or 5 years away from the point at which eBooks begin to take over.

 However, there are two time-points in the rise of eBooks that are important i.e.

  1. The Dominance Point – When eBooks account for 50% or more of unit sales.  
  2. The Inflection Point – The point at which eBooks gather enough momentum and enough of an early adopter base to become unstoppable.

The latter is extremely dangerous because there’s a high chance that the installed user base of eReaders will reach a critical level and trigger the inflection point BEFORE eBook sales start showing it.

The Dominance Point is not very important. By then it’ll be too late.

If Publishers are to stop eBooks they must kill eBooks BEFORE eReaders reach the inflection point.

Here’s the billion dollar question – What if we already are at the inflection point?

Signs we might already be at the inflection point.

There are a lot of signs that we might be at the inflection point -

  1. Kindle is selling well and other eReaders are selling out.  
  2. Smaller companies like Netronix are claiming 30,000+ eReader sales a month. 
  3. A few Authors are reporting more royalties from eBook sales via Kindle Store than from traditional publishing. 
  4. Huge giants like Apple are rumored to be jumping in.
  5. Other giants have already jumped in.
  6. There are 40+ eReader companies.
  7. Publishers have started to delay eBooks – that has to be a sign they think eBooks are doing too well.
  8. When Kindle Books are available Amazon are selling 48 eBooks for every 100 physical books.

eBook sales are a lagging indicator and they are beginning to get scary. Scary enough for Publishers to delay eBook release dates by 4 months.

That means eReader numbers are almost certainly much scarier.

And guess what – eReader numbers are the true indicator of the inflection point.

Publishers are looking at the wrong indicators

Publishers are making two critical mistakes -

  1. Publishers are tracking eBook sales instead of eReader sales. They are working with a lagging indicator.
  2. Publishers are on the alert for the eBooks Dominance Point, without realizing that the eReader Inflection Point is what they really have to watch out for.

Publishers probably have some figure in their heads i.e. when eBooks reach 25% market share we’ll take drastic measures.

However, the real things they should be scared about are -

  1. Reach of devices and applications to read eBooks i.e. What is the total installed base of eReaders and apps like Kindle for iPhone at which the inflection point occurs? 
  2. The percentage point which corresponds to an inflection point for eReaders and eBooks. This will probably correspond to when eBooks account for 7% to 10% of sales. 

What a thought!

Perhaps today is the day that we cross past the line of no return.

Perhaps the 5th Kindle sold today or the 3rd Nook pre-order will trigger the inflection point.

We are at the inflection point – at most a few months away.


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