The figurative changing of the guard in terms of technology products is always a little surprising even when it is expected. We’ve seen this happen in the shift from vinyl records to CDs, from desktop PCs to notebooks, and from video tapes to DVDs to streaming video. Although some people may think ebooks were created by Amazon, they have a much longer history of fits and starts. We saw, for example, attempts to move reference books to CD-ROM discs in the 1990s. Some of you may remember Microsoft Encrata as one of the best known examples. Microsoft created its own ebook format over a decade ago. It was used in their Pocket PCs as well as in Microsoft Windows.

So, while I was somewhat surprised to learn that ebook sales overtook paper book sales, it is with the knowledge that its “overnight success” took well over a decade. What is disappointing, however, is how small these sales figures are. The Association of American Publishers reported that: E-Book sales were $90.3 Million, growing 202.3% vs February 2010. Downloaded Audiobooks were $6.9M, an increase of 36.7%. These figures are for the month of February 2011. By comparison, using Apple 2011 Q1 numbers, Apple sells nearly $100 million of iPads every two days.

It was, however, interesting to learn that while audio book sales have not grown as explosively as ebooks, it grew at a very healthy 36.7% in year-over-year quarterly sales.

E-book sales triple, top paper as most popular format in US (via electronista)

E-Books Rank as #1 Format among All Trade Categories for the Month (Association of American Publishers)