In a sure sign that our consumer culture has passed the digital point of no return, Amazon on Monday said sales of e-books have surpassed hardcover sales.
In fact, e-books took the lead three month ago, since which time Amazon says it's sold 143 Kindle books for every 100 hardcover books. What's more, leaving their physical counterparts in the proverbial dust, e-books have outsold hardcovers at a rate of 180-to-100 over the last four weeks.
The news marked "a day for the history books -- if those will even exist in the future," quipped The New York Times
The shift is "astonishing when you consider that we've been selling hardcover books for 15 years, and Kindle books for 33 months," Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos said in a statement.
"Yeah, but can you use a Kindle as a doorstop?" asks Gawker
Mike Shatzkin, founder and chief executive of the Idea Logical Company, which advises book publishers on digital change, predicts that within a decade, fewer than 25% of all books sold will be print versions.
Industrywide sales of hardcover book are still up 22% this year, according to the American Publishers Association. Through May, meanwhile, e-book sales have quadrupled this year.
Meanwhile, "Publishers said it is still too early to gauge for the entire industry whether the growth of e-books is cannibalizing sales of paperback books, a huge and crucial market," reports The Wall Street Journal. (Amazon does not report paperback sales compared with e-book sales, though they're thought to outnumber e-books.)
Either way, the strong sales bode well for Amazon, which is facing increased competition in the realm of digital books.
"This [news] comes despite months' worth of claims of naysayers who speculated that Apple's sophisticated iPad might render obsolete e-readers like the Kindle," writes CNet
"That is dramatic evidence of how powerful the e-book is now," Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney tells The Journal. "What the iPad and other book reading devices have done is just raise the overall e-book market -- and Amazon is extremely well positioned to take advantage of it."