A recent post on the blog Dead Tree Edition made an interesting observation: The once-exploding U.S. e-book sales have slowed considerably, according to R. R. Bowker, a marketing research firm targeting publishers, booksellers, and librarians. How can that be? Aren’t we on a preordained path to a digital world?

As it turns out, early buyers of tablet computers and e-readers were initially skewed toward people who read a lot. These early adopters bought more books than recent buyers because e-books generally cost less than their physical equivalents. Today, some market segments, such as textbooks, seem destined for digital dominance, while others, like children’s books have barely dented the e-book market.

The number of book shipments by mail is small compared to the shipment numbers of other postal products. However, if e-book sales are slowing down, this may mean a slowing of the diversion of book mail to digital download.

Could the same trend happen with much larger volume postal products? Will the adoption of electronic bill payments, electronic bills and statements, or, even electronic correspondence start slowing down? The answers could make a huge difference in the outlook for the Postal Service. What do you think?

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Comments (8)

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  • anon

    Well, I've been giving Smithsonian Magazine XMAS Gifts for a number of years. All cancelled via hard copy, this year to e-magazines on e=readers. That equals 72 postal magazine shipments that will never return, including the hundreds, yes hundreds, of "Final Notice" standard mail reminders which begin in July/August.

    Dec 10, 2012
  • anon

    There is nothing like actually flipping pages in a real book to me. I would not ever buy an E book. There is something sacred in the "old " ways of doing things but I do like to scope out information on the net from time to time.

    Apr 16, 2012
  • anon

    My home was recently destroyed in a tornado. Found amidst the rubble was the first book my now teenage son ever held in his hands. He and I sat among the destruction that was once our home to read "The Little Red Hen" once again, and share a few tears when we saw the inscription from his now deceased Grandmother. My son said he could still hear his Grandmothers voice reading it to him and could almost smell her perfume on the book. We scooped up all the books we could salvage from the storm. When we got to the e-readers and computers, we tossed everything in the trash except for the computer hard drive. No e-readers will never replace books. They are different mediums for different people.

    Apr 10, 2012
  • anon

    No question about it. No more Paper Magazines/Wall St Journal/etc. debris.. And, the hubris contained in my local newspaper does not mold anymore. Just one click, and like the deficit at the Post Office, "It's gone". Like flatulence in the wind. I mean really..... Who wouldn't want e-books. Just a comment.. The e-readers are being eclipsed right now by Phone devices. Which, by virtue of "Android"... technology... are the choice of readers who don't read the entire article, or book. They just want to get the first paragraph. You know, then make a determination, or develop an opinion, based on the "Executive Summary" review!!!!! (You know, speaking in the third person) "Oh yes, I've read "Crime and Punishment".... Great Book!!! (but you couldn't say that unless you actually did read the book!)

    Apr 10, 2012
  • anon

    With eBooks I always have my entire library with me, anywhere I go. I'm not restricted to what I brought with me. Also, most people don't know I'm reading a book, they think I'm on the internet or something. With a book people annoyingly interrupt & ask "what are you reading?" - with an eBook, people leave me alone - which in my opinion is the whole point of reading a book in the first place.

    Apr 10, 2012
  • anon

    I thinks it's easy to understand why children's books have barely been touched (and pop up books don't work so well in digital form anyway), but equating this to the mail... I'm not so sure. Books are held for hours, bills mere seconds. The post office isn't going anywhere, but the shift is likely to continue in the ebill area.

    Apr 09, 2012
  • anon

    Yes, it has changed my reading habits. I will stop my hard copy magazine subscription once my favorite magazine is e-accesible. With WiFi - my nook is a cheap version of a tablet that I can multitask on also. As computers, there is a point of saturation. Personally I believe much of the usage of electronic devices are directly associated with age groups. We'll have to wait a full generation before things will completely be changed. Our elderly are not that interested. Many companies, including the USPS, are trying to promote/force the use of electronic means and many customers are just plain not interested.

    Apr 09, 2012
  • anon

    I have not bought as many ebooks as I would have paper books in the past six months. I am not happy with the cost of the ebooks. They seem to cost just as much as a paper book and I can trade paper books with others, e books can't be traded, even though I bought the book for full price.

    Apr 09, 2012

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