Naureen Aqueel

Global e-book sales soar, sans Pakistan

Posted on: September 11, 2010

Published in The Express Tribune – Techeye, September 11, 2010.

Amazon, one of the largest online book retailers, recently announced that over the past three months sales of its digital editions had outnumbered sales of hardcover books by 43 per cent.

In a statement, Amazon said “Over the past three months, for every 100 hardcover books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 143 Kindle books. In the past month, for every 100 hardcover books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 180 Kindle books.”

“(This is) astonishing when you consider that we’ve been selling hardcover books for 15 years, and Kindle books for 33 months,” Jeff Bezos, CEO Amazon said.

This trend follows directly after Amazon’s e-reader device Kindle tripled its sales following a drop in the device’s price from $259 to $189. Amazon Kindle e-reader was introduced in 2007. Since then the Kindle 2, Kindle 3 and Kindle DX have been introduced. It comes with built-in Wi-Fi and free 3G wireless, letting readers chose from over 630,000 (and 1.8 million free, out-of-copyright) books to download and enough storage to carry 3,500. The iPad which was introduced earlier this year was able to see five million e-book downloads in the first 65 days coming down to roughly 2.5 per device. In April, the global investments and securities firm Goldman Sachs forecast that US sales of e-books would rise by 47 per cent per year to reach $3.2 billion by 2015, or 12.8 per cent of total book sales. Soaring e-book sales point to the emerging trend of digital reading that has book lovers, publishers and technology enthusiasts both worried and excited. For some, the dawn of the electronic era rings warning bells of the demise of print and musty hardcover books that carry their own charm. For others, it’s just one of the numerous conveniences that are a part of an on-the-go world.

The local market

While the trend in global and US markets clearly shows a rise in sales of e-books with readability on computers, iPhones, iPads, Blackberrys and Android Phones, the fad in Pakistan is more difficult to determine in the absence of proper records.

“I don’t think reading e-books is a growing trend in Pakistan,” says Rabia Garib, Editor-in-Chief of CIO Pakistan, a technology and business magazine in Pakistan.

“(This is) simply because the general trend of reading isn’t growing in Pakistan. Only a handful of people own a Sony reader or a Kindle reader.” Others who want to read e-books rely on reading these books on computers via PDF readers. However, Imran Hussain who is a software engineer by profession and a blogger, feels the trend of reading e-books is growing in Pakistan. “iPads and smart phones now have e-reading devices so (reading e-books) is now a growing trend compared to how it was before,” says Hussain. “Even teachers nowadays provide reading content in the form of e-books instead of print.”

Hussain almost always reads books on his iPad or iPhone. He prefers them to hardcover books because he finds them easier to read and carry. “I am able to keep my books with me without having to carry loads of weight,” he says. For most book lovers in Pakistan, e-books provide the cheap and easily accessible alternative to buying expensive books that are also difficult to hunt down in local bookstores. “I usually read the expensive books in e-book format,” says Anam Wahid, a law student. She uses free downloads of such books and reads them either on her PC or her iPhone. “I have never paid for an e-book. It’s especially convenient as I can read them when I am out waiting at the doctor’s clinic or some other place where I cannot carry a book along.”

While free downloads may have copyright concerns attached, it is relatively clear that the e-books business is not a flourishing trade in Pakistan, if by any means it is a trade. Most readers that do use e-books and rarely pay for them as they rely more on free downloads. Keeping in mind that e-books are nonetheless the cheap and convenient alternative to hardcover books, it remains to be seen how and when the global trend catches on in Pakistan.

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