E-book sales lure once-skeptical authors

The Barnes & Noble Nook digital reader is displayed at a launching Oct. 20, 2009 in New York City.

The pulse beat faster today on reports that sales of e-readers and tablets are up in a big way already this holiday spending season.

Black Friday saw 68 percent more shoppers take home iPads than last year, and analysts speculate that Apple will sell an astonishing 15 million iPads during the holiday quarter. While Amazon’s Kindle e-readers won’t get near the volume of iPads leaving the shelves, all the same, Kindle sales quadrupled when compared to Black Friday 2010.

And it turns out that we aren’t just playing “Angry Birds” and “Words With Friends” on them either. Many avid readers thumbed their noses at electronic books a few years ago, but 20 percent of the market for the written word is now in digital format. In fact, despite a perpetually slumping market for books, the American Association of Publishers reports that e-book sales have seen sizable jumps recently.

The numbers are so good, even stalwart defenders of the printed page are getting in on the act. E-book holdout J.K. Rowling has announced the 2012 release of her “Harry Potter” series, and even Ray Bradbury, who once said e-books "smell like burned fuel,” has acquiesced. The digital version of the 91-year-old’s modern classic "Fahrenheit 451" goes on sale today for the first time since being published in 1953. In print, Bradbury’s magnum opus has sold more than 10 million copies in 33 languages, and now a generation of tablet enthusiasts will have a chance to glean its lesson.

You remember the plot of "Fahrenheit 451,” right? Set in the near future, electronic media has deadened our intellect, and firemen have been re-tasked with burning books and the homes they are found in.

Let’s call it a win for e-books and lovers of irony alike.

About the author

Joel Patterson is the Associate Producer of Marketplace Money.

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