My email in-box is humming this week with people sharing anecdotes about the growth in popularity of e-books. An industry report is about to be published that reportedly finds a growth rate of 400 percent for e-books during Q-1 this year.
So I decided to ask an insider what he thinks is going on, and what follows is an analysis from Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, the self-publishing e-book company. Mark lists five key factors that have enabled e-books to finally reach their "tipping point:"
1. Screen reading now rivals paper reading, and for those of us in the over 40 set, screen reading is often easier on the eyes thanks to adjustable font sizing.
2. Consumer awareness has increased dramatically. A year ago, consumers were skeptical and resistant to ebooks. Today, consumers are doing a complete 180. The early adopters have celebrated their Sony Readers, Kindles and iPhones to their friends, and now their friends want in.
3. The amount of content is increasing. Free books have served as a gateway drug to many early adopters.
4. Ebooks are impulse buys. I met a guy at the Las Vegas airport last month who told me he purchased a Sony Reader so he wouldn't have to lug around 20 pounds of technical manuals. Now he finds himself buying more fiction than ever before because it's so easy and convenient.
5. Value. Ebooks are cheaper.
It is fascinating to see how these trends more or less tick along, a bit below the radar, only to suddenly emerge explosively into public awareness. If you haven't jumped aboard this bandwagon yet, and think you are disinclined to, check back with me a month from now, or three months from now. We're all going to be reading books on portable electronic devices pretty soon -- much sooner than even the wildest e-book enthusiasts would have predicted as recently as New Year's Day, 2009.