Read more (e-)books!

There were some new figures from the Association of American Publishers that seemed to indicate e-book sales growth picked up in 2014 after a dip but the trend has slowed; and that paperback sales growth was strong while sales at retail stores increased modestly after some years of decline. Total sales revenues were up about 4.5% and unit sales 3.5%.

I’ve often written about how innovative publishers have been in their response to digital, compared to the music industry – okay, not a high hurdle, but still. It has certainly been a tough environment for the business but how encouraging it is to see more words (and pictures) being read in more formats than ever.

Another of my perennial themes is that people assume new technologies or formats are pure substitutes for pre-existing ones. Often with communications technologies (although not always – bye-bye fax machines and telegrams) they are complements, or start out as substitutes but the older technology then finds a stable and complementary niche.

Of course there is a binding constraint that ensures some substitutions have to occur, and that is time to spend on the various leisure pursuits. Looking on the bright side, if the robots do all the work, we’ll all have more time for reading.

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