Apps are 15 times more popular than ebooks

“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

The Passion of Steve Jobs –

It was almost exactly three years ago that Steve Jobs dismissed the Kindle reader as a futile attempt to change user behavior.

Yesterday, Steve Jobs announced that the iBooks store served 100 million ebooks in its first 11 months of operations.

So do we have another example of Steve’s classic misdirection where he dismisses a category only to enter and dominate it at some later time?

Let’s look at the data. The chart below shows the sales ramp of three media types served by Apple: songs, apps and books.

At the same point in time (11 months post-launch) there were five times as many songs downloaded and 15 times as many apps downloaded as ebooks. You can see the relationship between different media consumption more clearly on a log chart:

The conclusion that can be drawn so far is that apps/songs show an order of magnitude more popularity than ebooks. Perhaps Kindle ebooks outsell Amazon music downloads, but we don’t have comparable data from Amazon and it would be a challenge to compare the two Amazon media as they are packaged and dlievered in different ways (Amazon’s digital music is not an integrated offering while their ebooks are.)

Books are a 400 year old medium. Songs only 100 years old and apps a mere 10. For three centuries, the book medium had a monopoly on solitary entertainment. The download data shows how quickly new media displace the old. Therefore, in this context, it’s perhaps fair to say that Steve was right three years ago when he said “People don’t read anymore.”

Today he could add that people use apps instead. Many of the apps available are hired to do the same job for users: solitary, immersive entertainment.

  • Evan

    as you said, you have no data with amazon kindle ebooks, so I guess one cannot say that Steve Jobs was right. Also do people actually use the apps all that regularly after downloading them. Lets say you download angry birds, how many times do you play that ? 10 times or 100 times or 1000 times before you get bored ? Any analysis on that ? and probably also an analysis of how much time people spend on social media sites like facebook, twitter, or youtube or the web(using browser) in general in comparison with apps will also be useful. Might be difficult to get data I suppose.
    In any case I feel music, books and apps are complementary, not a zero-sum game, maybe people are reading more blogs like yours instead of books who knows.

    • >In any case I feel music, books and apps are complementary, not a zero-sum game, maybe people are reading more blogs like yours instead of books who knows.

      That would be true if time was infinite. But it's not. We only have 24 hours in a day and most adults have only few hours every day to spend on things that are not related to work or family.

      TV/Internet (blogs, social networks), chatting with friends, etc all eat up our free time. Games/apps are easy time killers and you don't have to be in any particular mood nor do you have to concentrate hard to enjoy them. You can also use them in the busiest subway or plane and you'll enjoy them. You can't do that with books.

      I think that over time the consumption of books by an average Westerner will go down as other media becomes more and more prevalent and easier to consume.

      • Evan

        internet blog social networks have taken over our offline world, we don't really meet with friends anymore, we meet them online over facebook, blogs/social media are contributing to the downfall of newspapers, it is the offline world which is losing its importance in relative to the online world. We buy stuff online. Chatting is taking over voice calls. Local stuff is moving online like groupon. Apps are killing television, a book reader is a different kind of beast, he might play games, but he will not stop reading.

      • Joe_Winfield_IL

        That's all interesting, but I'm not sure what your point is. I think Horace and @NotMyBro are right – new media are taking time away from an older medium. This isn't inherently bad; there are a lot of terrible books, and there are plenty of quality songs, magazines, blogs and apps.

        -I am as addicted as anyone to my smartphone. I can't stop checking for innane updates on news or Scrabble games. That being said, nothing can or ever will replace the experience of actual, real, human social interaction. If electronic communication moves from copper voice lines to video chat and texts, it isn't a sign of the apocalypse. Social media have allowed for millions of connections to be made that were previously impossible. Because of Facebook, I recently reconnected (in person) with a childhood friend that I hadn't seen in over 20 years. Social media and mobile computing have been key components in allowing group communication in the Maghreb and Middle East, even as traditional services are shut down.

        -The fall of newspapers is sad to witness, but the actual news isn't going away. Newspapers are failing largely as a result of eBay and Craigslist; the proliferation of online columns is secondary. The world doesn't need thousands of local paid subscription newspapers any more if the same news can be discovered easily and for free. The blogosphere is full of white noise, but it also has democratized content creation in a way that was previously impossible. Great sites like Asymco could not have existed 10 years ago if not for this transition. Again, it's sad to see once proud companies crumble – but newspapers are no more sacred than car companies or steel mills. Nostalgia alone cannot justify bad business.

      • Evan

        I dont have much evidence to back this up, but I would say playing games is taking away television time more than reading books, playing games and watching television equals mindless entertainment so one can easily substitute one for the other. But reading books is a different sort of entertainment which is hard to substitute by games. In fact the whole youtube phenomenon is also totally geared towards mindless entertainment. So youtube, games on the appmarket will whittle away television viewing.

    • Iosweeky

      Itunes and the app store are available globally, the iBook store only has paid content available in a couple of countries, thereby hindering it's growth curve.

      I read a lot of books on my iPad, but all have to come from a new zealand only iPad book store app as ibooks only has public domain books and no paid content.

    • NormM

      Let's say you download a detective novel, how many times to you read it? 10 times or 100 times or 1000 times before you get bored?

  • Josh Schlesser

    I have every device that starts with an I. I also have a kindle. In writing this from my iPhone. One person isn’t a statistic but I know from reading friends, kindles are better for reading, an readers read and buy more when they have kindles. I’ve gifted kindles and I know that kindles don’t make non readers into readers.

    Downloading and listening to music is a vastly different commitment than reading a book and the same is for most apps.

    The book market and the app or music market aren’t comparable. The kindle is the best for books, but compared to music or apps, who cares. Books are going to be small change.

  • Evan

    books will never go out of fashion, books are related to story telling, an inherent trait of human behaviour. Also you need to take in factor that ebooks are priced high, whereas top selling games are priced low, imagine if harry potter was available for 1 dollar download in ibooks, we can assume that ebook downloads of harry potter will take off like a rocket.

    • asymco

      40% of US adults do not read books. The data has been pretty stable for 20 years. I'm willing to bet that once smartphones saturate (2013 on) 80% of US adults will use apps. 60% will still read books, but that's not the point. New media (TV, recorded music, magazines, recorded video, video games) have always diluted previous media consumption in terms of share of time spent.

      • Evan

        but 'people dont read anymore' I dont think that is right. People do read and will continue to read as you say. Share will go down, but will not go down to zero, it will stabilize at some percentage. And books are constrained by publishers who act like a coterie, they take a massive cut out of authors for each book sold, don't you think Amazon which now acts as a publisher which only takes a 30 percent cut will change that atleast to some extent and time spent on books might go up. And since Amazon will publish it in their store, authors get free marketing and the authors books rating will go up or down pretty fast due to facebook/twitter and the internet in general leading to more sales if the book is good. And Apple apps is just stealing time from television, console, PC, laptop. The point of using an app is different from reading a book.

      • asymco

        Yes, of course, SJ's statement is hyperbole. I was assuming it would be taken in that spirit (not literally).

      • Evan

        here is a thought experiment, what if harry potter was available for 2 dollar download on iBooks

      • asymco

        I think most people who want to read Harry Potter, buy the book. Those who don't have the means to buy it get pirate versions. I am not convinced that literacy would increase with lower book prices.

      • Evan

        hopefully this is the start of a new trend

  • Evan

    to continue, sorry if I am taking up a lot of comment space, apps are more of a threat to the conventional gaming consoles like xbox, wii and nintendo and to prime Time television viewing than to books. I don't think reading has fallen off a cliff, people who read have not stopped reading. So I think that would be the correct comparison, have people stopped reading less after the iDevices and droids came out ? what time spent metric has idevices and droids cannibalized, they have cannibalized time spent on TV, time spent on consoles, time spent on PCs, not time spent reading Books.

    • asymco

      When Jobs said people don't read anymore immersive reading was being eroded by television and gaming and the web. Since then apps have been added as a new alternative competing for user time (which is a finite and typically fixed quantity). The data shows that apps are wildly popular and consume about 30 min per day. Therefore it's safe to say that apps erode consumption share from multiple other media, including books. I don't think it's safe to say that book consumption will be unaffected by app consumption. They are hired by users to do very similar jobs.

  • Evan

    continuing further, people take weeks to read a book, but only 10 minutes to play angry birds. So all in all I would say People still read books and in this rare instance Steve Jobs was wrong.

    • asymco

      Very old data follows:

      Hours spent per year:
      1,100: Broadcast TV. Increasing.
      480: Cable TV. Increasing
      250: Recorded music. Increasing.
      180: Newspapers. Decreasing
      90: Magazines. decreasing.
      105: Books. Level.
      65: Home video. Level.
      10: Movies. Level.
      — Doreen Carvajal, The New York Times, August 24, 1997.

    • asymco

      more stats:

      Book Reading Statistics in the USA
      at 10/27/2007

      58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school
      42% of college graduates never read another book
      80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.
      70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years
      57% of new books are not read to completion.
      Most readers do not get past page 18 in a book they have purchased.

      • Evan

        nice stats

      • Joe_Winfield_IL

        <Most readers do not get past page 18 in a book they have purchased>

        This is a big deal, and I would venture to guess that the effect is dramatically amplified with Kindle and iBooks. Many have commented on the time spent immersed in a single book as opposed to dozens of songs and apps. This is true for books that are actually consumed. However, the advent of one click (credit card on file) purchases makes it very easy to buy a lot of print content without thought. The magic of mobile app stores, including book stores, is that there is no barrier to prevent impulse buys. Anecdotally, my father had over 40 unread books and magazines on his Kindle last month when I picked it up. He said, "it's so easy to find stuff you like, then go ahead and just buy it!" I'd be willing to bet that his unread queue has grown since then, rather than shrunk. What once would have been browsing in a physical bookstore has turned into actual purchases today. I'm sure he's an extreme example, but he can't be the only person buying much more than he reads.

        It is my opinion that this one-click phenomenon has inflated book sales every bit as much as it has any other medium. It's the reason SJ wants the world to know that Apple has 200 million credit cards. It's one of the main reasons Amazon trades at an insane multiple of current earnings. It's also the reason that publishers should get on board with the new iTunes subscription service.

      • Garry

        I gasped out loud at these stats, this truly shocked me.
        And I'm sure the stats are going down.

  • desrever

    Horace, I love your stuff, but comparing books to apps and songs is completely pointless. Even if I loved reading books, I'd still download more songs and apps than books for the sheer amount of time and effort it requires to consume a book, which is hundreds of times more than that of a song or an app.

    The point is that comparing completely different items solely on the basis of volume offers little to no value. Otherwise, let's measure which do we consumer more, rice or books? Well, based on the results, I guess rice is about 1,000,000 times more important than books. Rice, winning!

    • asymco

      Of course there are limits to what we can conclude, but quantity has a quality all of its own. I believe the magnitude of the difference of downloads is indicative of a qualitative difference in consumption. We can't perhaps be precise about the difference but it's there.

      • But still.

        If you look at sale price, books are different from songs or apps (songs are usually 99 cents, you recently said the average selling price for apps is 29 cents and many are free, and books — well, I don't know what the average is, but most of the ebooks I've bought are 9.99). Maybe a $-based comparison would be more relevant.

        And if you look at how much time you spend with a single song/app/book, there's a huge difference.

        I really don't think you can make a meaningful comparison between these on volume alone.

      • airmanchairman

        Perhaps if we looked at free songs, free books and free apps? Now then?

      • asymco

        This would be an interesting analysis. The problem is with catalogs. Whereas about 25% of all apps are free, there are almost 0% free songs and even with Project Gutenberg, the number of free books is a tiny fraction of all books.

        Which should set off some alarms: the app business model allows for business model innovation (free!) while the other media typically are tied up in a copyright regime that does not allow for business model innovation.

        That sums up the disruptive potential nicely (and explains partly the curves in the charts).

  • gctwnl

    You could factor in the average price. A song is 0.99, a book is, what, 9? And apps are, what, 0.50? A quick estimate says that in money terms it is roughly equal.

    • asymco

      I published income and margin estimates for apps and music based on what data released but we don't know the average price of a book considering the mix of free and paid content.

    • asymco

      Given the payouts data from Apple we know the rough average price of an app (29c). We also know the rough price of music. We don't know the price of books however because we don't know the mix of free/paid or the average price of paid.

      However, assuming $5 ASP for an iBook ebook does imply a roughly even income rate from the iBook store as from the App store at a similar point in time (1 year post-launch).

      The trouble is that apps have been accelerating while I don't see ebooks on the same growth path.

  • Splashman

    Evan, three separate posts? Really?

    Anyway, to address your last point, I'm an avid reader — definitely an outlier on the chart, at least 50 books a year — and I don't "take weeks to read a book". If it's a good one, I'll finish it off in two or three days. If it's not good, I'll skim it and be done with it in a couple hours. My contention is that most avid readers are quick readers. And if you think most purchasers of Angry Birds only play for 10 minutes, um . . . well, I guess I won't bother trying to argue.

    Horace, coincidentally, just prior to reading your blog post, I saw this on Cnet:

    Point being that some books are sold as apps, not in the iBookStore, so that will skew the numbers a bit. Not that this affects your argument — I agree, most people don't read much if at all. I'd wager it follows the 80/20 rule: 20% of the population reads 80% of the books.

  • YossarianLives

    When books are knocked out by Dan Brown, Rowling and Stephanie Meyer is it any small wonder.

    When books return to literature then maybe people will return to books. (Paper or e-type).

    • huhn

      It's Dan Brown and Rowling who have made books more popular than ever.

      Popular media has always been dreck, regardless of the medium. Michael Bay and Lady Gaga?

  • First of all – 60% is the majority, so you couldn't even claim "most people don't read anymore". Secondly 60% is an impressive number seeing the competition in the field of entertainment, especially since I'd assume that we never had a number even approching 100%. Thirdly – that 60%, even at a couple of bought books a year, is still a sizeable market. If it weren't, then Apple wouldn't have addressed it in its usual aggressive fashion.

    • Evan

      exactly, imagine if the books were cheaper, will the 60 percent go up or stay same. That would be nice, but that experiment will never happen I suppose 🙁 Imagine if the songs were not available for .99 cents apiece, I can bet that song download count would not have been as impressive.
      One of these big companies google, amazon and apple should become a full fledged publisher and let the social media do all the free marketing.
      on the other hands, books are probably more expensive, because they take a loooong loooong time to write

    • asymco

      Sure, it's hyperbole to say "people don't read" but it's all about relative consumption. eBooks are not insignificant but it's a struggle to change reading habits.

      For the record, I spent quite a bit of time researching ebooks ten years ago and was involved in the Open Ebook format specification (OEBF, forerunner of the EPUB format that iBooks uses). I devoted a few years to a startup building eBook production systems, so for me this debate is not new.

      • Evan

        standardization of a well defined existing concept(say book) is always tough, because there are too many players involved with too many point of views and vested interests, but a new concept can be standardized easily. Look at how quickly HTML was adopted and standardized, because nobody gave a rats ass to the concept of the internet. But now that HTML and the web is an important player, HTML5 is simply not getting standardized, too many commercial interests at play. It is a bit sad, that the foundational aspects of technology like the appstore or the google search algo or the facebook social graph is under the control of a single company, maybe innovation and benefits to the society don't really flow as fast in that case, because the corporations are only going to think about their top-line or bottom-line, rather than benefitting society. No easy solution I know. Imagine if Apple put their heart and soul into producing a 150 dollar IPhone how fantastic that would be, but now they won't do it, till they are pressured enough by android devices. There is only way humans will try to think of the concept of humanity when doing stuff, when humanity undergoes a ruthless and devastating culling due to environmental factors etc as advocated by James Lovelock, maybe then we will realize, we are just a bunch of clothed apes on a planet which can go bust anytime on us.

      • Evan

        in any case entropy is creeping up on us, so it is all pointless in a way.

      • vinner57

        Jeez, lighten up Evan… entropy has been creeping up on us for 13.5 billion years so its not really a motivation for behaviour change over a human life-span.

        You are wrong about HTML5. The formal ratification process is slow but its actually irrelevant to take up – which has been extremely swift. ALL the major browsers support significant chunks; browsers are getting updated with increasing speed and even MS is fully joining the party with IE9. All my website work uses HTML5 and can be viewed as nature intended by 70% of the web-viewing public – a proportion that increases daily. The hold-outs are the users not the commercial interests.

      • Evan

        yeah but what about the H.264 WebM standoff, It kinda forces everyone to use flash in the short-term which was what HTML5 is supposed to do away with.

  • Robbo

    I used read a lot and I can definately say that I’m reading less and playing iPhone games since I got the phone, probably to my own detriment.

  • charlesarthur

    Two thoughts on this. First, I get a sense of a vacuum being filled by apps: that there were all these devices which could use them (lots of iPhones), and when the App Store opened, there was a huge rush to get them. That was consumer pull to get something.

    With music, there was something like the same vacuum – given that file-sharing networks, notably Napster, were harder to access, and iTunes and the iPod were right there in front of people, music sales could fill the gap. Certainly Apple and the music companies were very surprised by the number of songs sold in the first year – far larger than they expected.

    Then there's whether you can do things in parallel. You can read a book while you listen to music, but it's very hard to watch TV and read a book; they're exclusive, almost antagonistic (so it would be interesting to compare a pre-TV age book consumption value with a post-TV one). It's hard to know whether apps and books are antagnostic – I'm guessing not.

    But the other thought I have is that maybe books retain their power in the old medium; the new medium isn't necessarily a comfortable fit, perhaps notably not on the iPad.

    Or Apple has got the iBook store wrong somehow – look at the people who are selling bazillions of their ebooks on Amazon direct to the Kindle. Those may be the outliers, again, but suggest that for a device designed for the purpose of reading, people use it for reading. That's not the case with the iPad, which might go some way to explaining it. You can listen to music you bought while you play an app, but you can't play an app while you read an iBook.

    • Rick

      Good points. Apps and music definitely go together. I remember well my college days of playing pinball while listening to the jukebox at the local college bar. The right music definitely made the difference. The only problem now is where do I set my glass of beer on the iPad? forget about the iPhone.

  • kwyjibo

    You made a mistake in your title, it should read "iApps are 15 times more popular than iBooks".

    Kindle ebook sales overtook paperbacks on Amazon last year. They may not release their numbers, but they're sure to be big.

  • g11

    Could part of the difference in the charts be related to the price of books versus songs or apps? Anyway to compare similarly priced items?

  • Ted_Fist

    > For three centuries, the book medium had a
    > monopoly on solitary entertainment.

    You forgot masturbation : as old as mankind, cheap and satisfying

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  • Hamourabi

    An App is on average less than a $, a song is one $ , a book is more like 10$
    Listening a song is 5 minutes, reading a book a few hours..

    Comparing unit sales is not very meaningful. A dollar sales comparison would be more informative.

  • The iBook store is by far the poorest of Apple's three services (overpriced, poor availability, and clunky reader). Amazon's kindle service is incredibly effective (cheap, great availability, great readers on a range of devices). I think it's wrong to draw conclusions based on Apple's relative 'miss' in this particular market (beyond the conclusion that 2 out of 3 is a pretty good batting average, and not everything Apple touches turns to gold).

  • So, next netbooks, touch screen laptops and bluray from Apple.

  • More people read more books per capita and in absolute numbers than ever before in human history. I don't have data to present for this in any way, shape or form but there has not been a decline in reading from a high level. Reading fiction or other forms of literature has always belonged to a subset of the population. The elite or educated in a society define the norms and expectations to a great degree. Even people who are uneducated or those with no interest in reading know not to argue that we should read less. The difference is that now the elite and educated have many more options so as a group they may read fewer books than this group did in the past. But more people are reading and more books are being read.

    So while I understand Jobs's argument, to claim we have fallen from a high level of reading to a lower level of reading is false. There may or may not be a business argument for selling ebooks or it may not compare to music or apps, but that's another argument than whether we read less or need to educate people to read more.

  • Charel

    What if authors published their books as apps? Would that change the equation? Or would that put the fox among the pigeons?
    The same with music by song writers and bands, there is a lot that can change. Even if the statistics of US readership are universal there would still be a lot of books to be sold.
    It takes a lot longer to read a book than play a 99 cents game, so it is evident that a lot more games would be downloaded than books.
    Try giving a comparison of the amount spend on books as apposed to the amount spend on apps or music. Keep in mind that one can and does listen to music while reading a book.

    • asymco

      As I mentioned earlier, I spent a few years studying the publishing industry. I was one of the authors of the Open eBook Format (predecessor to the EPUB format). I had a business producing ebooks (from PDF source materials) called Handheld Media. I went to the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Chicago Book Fair. I worked in a library, I was hired to do research on the publishing industry and met many publishers and authors.

      I became quite intimately aware of the physiology of reading and read about typography and book design. I learned about subpixel rendering and the limits of how the eye sees print. I studied the economics of periodical and immersive reading. I met with Adobe, Microsoft, Nuvomedia and Softbook press when they were making their eBook efforts. I met with Peanut Press and with Glassbook. I met the team that developed eInk the display technology in the Kindle. I met the founder of the company (Mobipocket) that was acquired by Amazon to lead their ebook efforts.

      This was 10 years ago.

      I speak from experience when I say this:

      1. eBooks are not as popular as music or apps. This is because eBooks are "immersive reading" which is a tough sell for many regardless of print or screen viewing. This is what Jobs was deriding with his comment. He meant that book reading is dying. The data he cited (40% non-readers) is old and consistent before eBooks came along.

      2. Paper vs. electronic reading. E-reading is booming while the publishing industry is withering. Just like music listening is booming while the music industry is practically dead. Reading blogs, online, flipboard, facebook are increasing in popularity. The written word is as powerful as ever. The trouble is that the technology of print created a way to sell it that is now obsolete.

      If I say that new media displace the old, I don't mean that the old disappears, but that the percent of consumption decreases. We still had theater after cinema and cinema after the VCR/DVD. However the old business models went into a state of genteel decay.

  • Couldn't this simply be more a reflection of Apple's relative market share on iOS for these three categories? Apple absolutely dominates music sales, has a 100% monopoly on app sales but faces stiff competition from Amazon, B&N and others for ebooks. I believe Apple's ebook share is under 20% on all platforms combined. Perhaps the data this chart reveals explains why Apple is moving to remove or disadvantage competing ebook sellers on iOS.

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  • planecrash

    tAs other's have pointed out, I would not necessarily say apps outsell books, I would say apps outsell iBooks
    I for one own all "i" devices and am a fanboy, but I would probably buy books from Kindle (my 1st iPad will be the 2, and did not invest in any books for my iPhone/iPod Touch).
    My biggest problem with the iBook Store is the lack of a reader for my Mac nor if I were to ever get it another device other than the iOS devices. Apple could easily assuage my fear by releasing a reader for the Mac and for Windows (or even just the Mac – I can imagine wanting to read it on a MacBook Air, for example). I'm not 100% positive this is important, but I am sure that for avid readers it is.
    Also, I read approximately a book a week. Takes me time to get through them. I will often buy a $.99 game just to check it out and then never touch it again.

  • Suhit Anantula

    Horace, you should check out J A Konrath's blog –

    He details clearly the significant impact of Kindle and ebooks on budding authors, the effect of price (.99C to $.2.99 books) and the increasing novellas, short stories etc.

    I think the whole app revolution is hitting the book market too. Due to the time commitment etc in comparison to apps, the books will take some more time but the trajectory is absolutely going up.


    • asymco

      As I've written above, I'm a huge fan of ebooks. (I plan to write a few of my own actually). I believe eBooks will swamp paper books, though much more slowly than downloaded music swamped CDs. eBooks will change publishing and authorship. But they will not change readership. Reading books still has to compete with TV, games and other forms of immersive entertainment. The curves show that ebooks are not changing reading habits, unlike the iPod with changed music habits and apps which are changing gaming (and probably TV) habits.

  • John

    I don't know how you have readers, this is so a bad comparison that I won't ever again come to this site. It is full of inaccurate data and nonsense. It doesn't even deserves to discuss why are you wrong.

    • asymco

      I'm sorry to hear that. What accuracy errors do you see?

  • Mhairie

    My first thought as I read this, what sort of weird math and history are you using? Course even trying to back up Steve's asinine claim that nobody reads anymore is an excercise in sheer folly in itself. This post is nothing buy flagrant miscommunication. Comparing the amount of iBooks that Apple sells to the overall market of eBooks is like comparing the amount of hamburgers sold at a mexican restuarant to the total fast food industry.

    Songs… 100 years? Even just going on the basis of songs being a reproduction of music, then you can still go back several hundred years.

    Apps only 10 years? Oh come. Where have you been? Under a rock? Perhaps maybe you ought to be clearer on just what kind of app you are referring to. Afterall, I've played on computer apps and did a few in Basic back in the 80's.

    As for books being only around 400 years? I'm not going to even give that one the benefit of a remark.

    But short and sweet, you can't expect a lot of ebook sales from a company who doesn't even really have a foot in the door where the ebooks are concerned.

    • asymco

      My time frames refer to the industries related to these media.

      Large scale production of recorded music started in 1918, November. That was when the patents for the manufacture of lateral-cut disc records expired.

      Although the Gutenberg press dates to 1436, as an industry it took until the 16th century for output to reach 100 million book volumes. As a consumer oriented industry, 400 years is a reasonable estimate.

      I use the term apps carefully as distinct from applications. The word "app" refers to mobile applications. Although apps as such existed since about 1997 for PDAs. Their use in smartphones did not start until about 2001.

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  • Perhaps the fact that a typical book download is orders and orders of magnitude more expensive than an app or a song could something to do with the numbers?

    Are we comparing how many crumbs one ate vs how many slices of pizza?

    • Tatil

      Orders of magnitude??? How expensive are the books you read? The most expensive app I ever bought was $40 although most are $2 or $3. Books are around $10. The ratio is not even 10, so there is not even ONE order of magnitude difference.

  • berult

    "People don't read anymore", …they process sound bites with their eyes. In that sense, the kindle is a reading device chasing the tail end of a fading era. That's what I believe Jobs implicitly meant through vernacular common sense.

    In a world being rapidly taken over by virtual social networks, books shed 'hard covers' and long winding developments for a voice in the tit for tat environment. They have to mingle with the timeliest of instant, grounded as they are by a stumping, 'lightly sentenced' present. People do read, but they do so way off the crux of what used to be the reading experience.

    Amazon stretches 'passé' to the limit …for a buck or two, …and a bit of nostalgia traffic for some collateral tonnage. It offers a Kindle platform of reading standstills. Nothing has changed were it not for the stale aroma of plasticity perfusing the reading experience; sorta locking up a patron of Amazon's extended commodity market with one's own delusory password for a key. The electron vectorizes nostalgia like no particle can; it puts a negative spin on onward perusal.

    There has to be a way of transitioning the riches of Gutenberg's print into positron territory. I gather Apple's working on it…

  • airmanchairman

    400 years of books, 100 years of songs, and 10 of apps… marvelous analytical perspective…

    Scottish author and poet John Wilson (1785 – 1854) famously gushed: "Oh for a book and a shady nook…"

    Might that translate in modern times to "Oh for an app and a tablet on my lap, either indoors or out…"

    Someone do the honours and update the entirety of John Wilson's famous ode to reading…

    • berult

      Oh but you just did my friend… I would merely add tilt to your trend…

  • davel

    Steve Jobs is right. People don't read anymore. As your chart illustrates other categories are more popular.

    However, as indicated above this statement is not strictly true.

    Reading is the consumption of stories and news. The internet age was ushered in decades ago. Movies are story telling as well as TV. Social networks and blogs are also reading.

    The difference is interactivity. Books are static. The WORD is primary and the relationship, rhyme and rhythm is important. Modern multimedia can be and is more interactive and immediate. People are also less patient so that medium is less popular.

    So Steve Jobs is right, but the reason is the product has changed form.

    • asymco

      The written word is flourishing. Reading immersively is withering. Jobs was referring to the latter.

  • Masashi

    If you look at the lower graph, the trends for iBook shows like a rocket start of downloads, even compared to the apps. It may not take too long to take over Songs and Apps, if the exponential trends will continue for a few more months.

    • unhinged

      And if you look at the scale of the lower graph, you will see that a much smaller absolute interval is presented in a much larger portion of the available space.

  • chandra2

    Comparing unit downloads of various media types is not very meaningful. As for myself, I probably will buy download: 10 books, 20 apps and 100 songs. I have the same problem with people comparing SMS volume with phone call volumes. 1 phone call conversation lasting 5 minutes equals 20 back and forth SMS messages.

    One way to interpret SJ's statement of 3 years back is, it does not make sense to have a device that only delivers books since people do not read books anymore.. That 'anymore' is a folky ways of saying 'not as much as before'. That is a reason why Apple did not want to get into the e-reader business. And that is true. But the iPad does other things as well in addition to books and so it is a more compelling go to market strategy. Same thing with his bashing of net-books. What he delivered in iPad is definitely not a netbook, but it does a few things that netbook does but an order of magnitude better in an immersible manner. So it made sense to enter that business.