Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Rollercoaster of Book Sales and Comparing E-books to Print editions

There’s an interesting article in the NY Times today (Sept. 23, 2015) on “The Plot Twist: E-book Sales Slip, and Print is Far From Dead.” Between 2008 and 2010, e-book sales soared by over 1,000 percent. Now the trend has slowed, and big publishers such as Penguin Random House in New York are investing money in print production and faster distribution. What does this mean for readers and authors? Well, perhaps that more readers have become hybrid readers, choosing electronic reading for some books and print for others. Price matters: some paperbacks are cheaper than some e-editions.

For me, it comes down to several factors in addition to price: Patience, convenience, and weight. If a new book has a long wait list at the library and the price is not more than $10, I often choose to download it and read it with my Kindle app on my tablet. Would I take my tablet into the bathtub? Never, but I might take a cheap secondhand paperback into a hot soak with me. When traveling by airplane, my capacious purse will hold either a paperback or my tablet in its nifty outer pocket. The lighter-weight print book wins for easy reading during take-off and landing, but I’ll often carry the tablet in my carry-on bag for additional reading options. The only time I don’t like print books is when they go moldy and make me sneeze, like the ancient paperback mysteries my parents kept in a mildewed basement on Cape Cod.

Here’s another article from last May on the Author Earnings website.

It reinforces my feeling that watching sales numbers go up and down is a lot like watching the stock markets these past few months. It can drive you crazy, roil your gut, and make you wonder why you’re in the publishing business. Prices for self-published e-books average under $5 for electronic edition, whereas small-medium publishers and the Big Five average between $8 and $10 for Kindle editions. 2015 to. Authors also lost income when their e-books were sold by the Big Five compared to Indie publishing.

Big Five publishers lost market share compared to Indie publishers during the first half of 2015. Authors also lost income when their e-books were sold by the Big Five compared to Indie publishing.

The Author Earnings report summarizes the findings: “Publishers fought hard to take back control of e-book pricing from Amazon. This was a stated intent by Hachette to its investors in 2014, and it was touted as the end result of their lengthy negotiations. What has that control brought? By our data, which matches industry reports, this control has brought higher prices to consumers, lower sales for publishers, and less earnings for their authors. It has also brought greater market share for self-published authors, which is why many were pulling for publishers to get their way during negotiations with Amazon.”

But the NY Times article says, “E-book sales fell by 10 percent in the first five months of this year, according to the Association of American Publishers, which collects data from nearly 1,200 publishers. Digital books accounted last year for around 20 percent of the market, roughly the same as they did a few years ago.”

So, if I understood correctly, TOTAL e-book sales are down a bit across the board, but it’s clear that cheaper-priced e-books are doing better than those priced over $8 per copy. And, if you read this report from Author Earnings, you’ll see that Indie authors are doing better from e-book sales in the past six years than earlier.

The picture is still changing. My take: Both readers and authors seem to prefer having books available in both e-book and print forms, print is not going away, and I will never give up my treasured print library.


Maggie Toussaint said...

Interesting thoughts. I love my Kindle but I also have print books on hand. Perhaps all of the reading universe isn't solidly in one camp or the other. I'm always glad to offer my books in both digital and print format.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Sarah,

Excellent analysis of current information on publishing which interests all of us who write and should interest readers as well, although the two groups are not mutually exclusive.

As both a reader and a writer I am quite willing to read both print and digital. I prefer that the digital version of my books come out at a later time than the print. However, the trend lately is often the reverse making it more difficult for writers to earn much from their work.

Maris said...

Thanks for sharing those articles and statistics. I like both e-books and print books, and just as you mentioned, which form I choose is often determined by availability, price, and convenience of carrying.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Very interesting and important for us in the industry to know.
Thanks for sharing!
Good luck and God's blessings...

Susan said...

Interesting that after a period of years we still see no definite trend of one or the other: print or ebook. I, too, believe in variety, and many of my older readers prefer e-books because they can increase font size or print because they "don't do technology."
I think the analogy to the stock market is apt.

Susan Oleksiw said...

Watching the new markets and formats develop has been fascinating but also confusing. I think ebooks are here to stay but they will have a niche just as print books do. I can't imagine not having access to new books in print, even though I like having my own books available in all ebook formats. Interesting times. Thanks for a very good summary of the changing markets.

Maryann Miller said...

You are so right about the hybrid reader. More and more folks I talk to have tablets for some reading and paper books for other. It really doesn't have to be either/or, and the writer who makes sure to have books in all formats is better off than those who only do one.