Ebooks are NOT declining
The New York Times raised eyebrows this past week with a story claiming that ebooks were losing popularity and that a “reverse migration” was happening back to print.
I’ll pause so you can laugh at that absurd notion.
Alexandra Alter might sound convincing to someone who doesn't know anything about the publishing industry.
There’s this paragraph:
"Ebook 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."
The Association of American Publishers, which include the Big Five, are primarily companies that publish both traditional and digital formats, and they’ve been aggressively raising digital prices on bestsellers.
- Lee Child’s “Make Me”: $14.99 ebook, $16.28 paperback.
- David Lagercrantz’s “The Girl in the Spider’s Web”: $13.99 ebook, $16.77 hardback.
- Elizabeth’s Gilbert’s “Big Magic”: $11.99 ebook, $13.72 hardcover.
- Jonathan Franzen’s “Purity”: $14.99 ebook, $16.80 hardback.
When you reduce the price incentive to go digital, some people will opt for a hardback or paperback. Duh. Remember that the digital-only generation – those growing up with tablets instead of a pile of textbooks – is still a small (but growing) percentage of the book-buying public. The rest of us read in both formats and price will be a factor in our decision.
Other parts of this story make me cringe, too:
- It notes the decline of sales of dedicated e-readers and the growth of tablets while failing to include the obvious: tablets are a great way to read ebooks.
- Penguin/Random House’s expansion of an Indiana warehouse is shown as example of faith in the future of print, yet ignores the fact that the company is closing a similar-sized warehouse in New York state. Yes, companies that merge often consolidate operations to increase efficiency. They do that.
Now, let’s tackle the biggest hole in this story: the ebook numbers of the Association of American Publishers account for only 32% of all Kindle ebooks sold by Amazon. Thirty-two.
You can’t draw conclusions about the state of an industry while ignoring two-thirds of it! (On the other hand, apparently you can and that's how stories like this happen.)
So how are things going for indies? Quite good, according to the latest monthly report by the data-crunching geniuses at Author Earnings:
"When we first started analyzing Kindle sales in February 2014, traditionally-published authors were taking home nearly 60% of the ebook royalties earned in the largest bookstore in the world. Not anymore. Today, traditionally-published authors are barely earning 40% of all Kindle ebook royalties paid, while self-published indie authors and those published by Amazon’s imprints are taking home almost 60%. From an author-earnings perspective, in 18 short months, the U.S. ebook market has flipped upside down."
Sounds pretty rosy to me …