From the Da Vinci Code to Harry Potter, the paperback has been a literary staple for decades.
It was almost 80 years ago when the likes of Penguin Books made quality fiction available for mass market consumption at affordable prices.
But now, with sales down by nearly 25 per cent year-on-year, some senior industry experts are heralding the ‘death of the paperback’.
In the first three months of 2012, 11.3million paperback novels were sold compared to 14.9million during the same period last year.
The decline is blamed on the rise of popular e-readers such as Amazon’s Kindle, Sony’s Reader and tablets such as the iPad.
These digital books can hold up to 1,400 novels on a single device making them more convenient and lighter to carry around than a book.
A standard paperback novel weighs 300g on average. This is compared to the Kindle and Sony’s Reader, which both weigh nearer to 170g.
Overall, total book sales are down by around 11 per cent, according to figures from industry analysts Nielsen BookScan.
But hardback sales of fiction have remained steady with figures of around 1.2million.
Best-selling author G. P. Taylor said: ‘I believe we are seeing the death of the paperback and I would say that by 2020 it will be a little seen commodity.’
Publishing trade magazine The Bookseller estimates that one in eight adult fiction books now purchased is in a digital format.
It is predicted that downloading novels will soon become as regular as downloading music, but hardbacks are expected to remain popular in physical form because people like to collect and to keep them.
Taylor added: ‘Hardbacks will always sell. They are the 'vinyl copies' of the book industry.’
The Harry Potter franchise was launched in eBook form last week and sales topped £1million within days. Fans spent £231-a-minute buying digital versions of the stories by J. K. Rowling.
Apple has been accused by the U.S. government of illegally fixing the price of electronic books.
A lawsuit filed last night claimed the technology giant colluded with major publishing companies to hike up e-book prices in a bid to combat Amazon’s dominance of the market.
The Justice Department says the conspiracy to limit price competition caused consumers ‘to pay tens of millions of dollars more for e-books than they otherwise would have paid’.
The case could have major knock-on effects for pricing of e-books on devices such as Amazon’s Kindle, the best-selling e-reader in the UK.