UPDATE: In case there was confusion, Mike Shatzkin made it clear with the following Tweet that the idea of print stabilizing at 50% was him quoting others.The post has been updated to reflect this.
Mike Shatzkin spoke with an executive at a big-six publishing house who noted that e-book growth is slowing down enough now to suggest that e-books and print-books could stabilize at 50% of the market each (Extending the Life of Bookstores Is Critical, But Devilishly Difficult):
One Big Six executive told me that ebook sales in their shop had reached the mid-30s as a percentage of units sold. That broke down to about 50% of fiction units and 25% of non-fiction.
Nonetheless, that same executive noted a real slowdown in the rate of ebook growth. This is to be expected as the base of sales grows, of course, but it slowed down faster than this house expected. They had seen a 120% increase in ebook units in 2010 and figured they’d see an 80% growth in 2011; it came in at 60%. In short, the rate of increase was cut in half.
These numbers gave this particular executive reason to believe that print demand was begining to stabilize and that it was reasonable to assume that 50% print units might persist into the future, with commensurate new stability for brick-and-mortar stores. I have since been told that a leading executive at another of the Big Six houses shares the same expectation, or hope. Perhaps they all do.
Read more at The Shatzkin Files, including about a publisher that has blown through the 50% barrier for e-book sales.