A bundle of booksLast week, June 16th to be exact, marked the 57th annual Bloomsday celebration in honor of writer James Joyce. Not only was his massive work “Ulysses” read aloud in various public events in Ireland, the US and elsewhere, but, for the first time, a summary of the work was communally tweeted around the world in a 24 hour span. It seems almost the perfect complement to the first day of summer when it’s time to head to the beach, lay out your towel, slather on the sunscreen, reach into your beach bag and pull out your favorite … tablet?

A recent Barnes & Noble report might not be too comforting to book retailers who hope the e-book phenomenon is just a phase. According to the report, the bookseller has had a sharp rise in sales on its website, BN.com. The jump in sales is attributed to the growth of the company’s Nook e-reader, e-books and other Nook-related products.

“We now sell three times as many digital books as all formats of physical books combined on BN.com,” Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch said. Lynch also noted that Nook-related business grew to more than $250 million in the last fiscal year. That’s nearly a 300 percent increase over the same period a year prior! Barnes & Noble competitor Amazon has also sold more e-books than print books as its Kindle continues to hold a high percentage of the market, between 60 and 65 percent.

Despite the major sales increase at BN.com (about 65 percent for the fiscal year), in-store sales were down about 3 percent in the last quarter and the company’s total fourth-quarter loss was higher than projected at $59 million.

If this digital dominance continues, the future of print books may be in jeopardy. The days of sandy spots filled with beachgoers slowly turning the pages of their favorite tomes may soon be as much a thing of the past as 8-track tapes. Today’s e-readers provide a convenient, lightweight, easy to read, fingertip library and book publishers and retailers may need to find a way to quickly adapt to the e-medium – or disappear. The tablet certainly makes the challenge of Joyce’s 780-page “Ulysses” a little less daunting (and lighter) … or… maybe not.

Tags: barnes and noble, Barnes and Noble report, e-books vs books, e-books vs print books, ebook sales, barnes and noble vs amazon, amazon ebooks, ebooks for kindle