Poor beleaguered print books.

I came across a report at the end of December that print books were making a recovery. E-book sales have leveled off, even dropped a little, and sales of print books were having a little rebound. Huzzah!

The tech evangelists predicted the ebook market would eventually be 50 to 60 percent of books sales. Of course one could say these were tech people making these predictions, not actual readers so what did they know anyway? It appears they were waaaayyyy off because ebook sales are pretty much staying steady at around 25 percent of the market.

But just as I begin to breathe a sigh of relief, I come across another article talking about a new threat to print books: audiobooks!

Say what?

Oh yes, MarketWatch is all about audiobooks as the future of reading. They even have a bold header stating “Audiobooks have begun to outsell print.” They go on to toss out some numbers, audiobook sales totaled $1.5 billion last year. Spewing dollar amounts doesn’t really tell you anything really. Audiobooks are expensive, sometimes they cost a lot more than the print books. For instance a paperback copy of the first Harry Potter book can be had at Barnes and Noble for $6.76 but the audiobook costs $28.66! So don’t tell me dollars, tell me how many actual audiobooks were sold. They don’t of course.

What they do is provide examples of titles where the audiobook outsold the print book. We have a debut spy thriller, some supernatural romance novels, a business book. Based on these and the popularity of audible.com, the trend watchers have declared that audiobooks are the future of books.

Oy. I wonder how long this will last before someone else declares the real threat to print books is billboards or bumper stickers or some other crazy format. It’s all starting to sound like The Perils of Pauline with print books tied up on a railroad track. Or maybe it’s more like the boy who cried wolf?

Whatever the case, I’m not worried. Print books are not yet gasping their last breath.

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