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Leaders caution against digital 'panic' Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Thursday, 10 February 2011 03:18 PM America/New_York

Two Christian product world leaders have sounded a note of caution over concerns about the impact of digital publishing.

Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt expressed skepticism at a recent survey of publishing executives that predicted half of all units sold by 2014 will be e-books.

Writing in a blog, Hyatt said that "media hype has outstripped the reality" and that he believed that digital editions would account for about 25% of the book sales pie in three years' time. That was the planning assumption his company was making, he said.

"I am not arguing that the book publishing industry is not in the middle of a digital transformation," Hyatt wrote. "I am only arguing that the rate of change will be slower than the media, consultants, and hardware and software manufacturers—those with something to sell—suggest."

Hyatt said that he based his more cautious view on three factors: E-book sales are still a small portion of the market, readers are more attached to print books, and music sales have not reached the 50% benchmark after several years of digital sales.

Meanwhile, CBA Executive Director Curtis Riskey has also warned against "hysteria" concerning digital sales. As recently as last summer—when the retailers' group launched efforts to find an industry-wide platform for stores to sell e-books—physical CD sales still outstripped digital music purchases, Riskey said.

"You won't hear that in the national media. We don't want to get into panic mode, but we also want to address the issue, knowing the customers that our members and retailers have worked so hard to create," Riskey said, noting that an announcement on a digital initiative would be made as soon as possible. "We want to help them maintain those relationships."

In response to comments on his blog, Hyatt said that he had addressed the issue because too many publishing executives were "buying the hype" about digital books. "My concern is that the perception of a sea-change will negatively impact retailers," he wrote. "I don't doubt that things are changing; I just don't want us to get ahead of ourselves and destroy an important ecosystem."