Traditional reporting would have you believe that sales of e-books are plateauing. According to a New York Times article published last September, “E-book sales fell by 10% 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% of the market, roughly the same as they did a few years ago.”
What the Times isn’t saying is that the Association of American Publishers only tracks books published by traditional publishers. So it’s missing a huge part of the market. According to a report from Author Earnings, a site that tracks all sales, and not just form the big guys, “‘Non-traditionally-publishedâ€ books now make up nearly 60% of all Kindle e-books purchased in the US, and take inÂ 40% of all consumer dollars spent on thoseÂ e-books.”
Whom are you going to believe? Big media that fears change or people who are actually looking at what readers are buying? It doesn’t really matter to you â€“ as an author you need to be on top of all developments in book production and marketing.
The problem for publishers is that they’re charging so much for e-books â€“ sometimes more than the price of a trade paperback â€“ that readers are choosing self-published titles instead. Wouldn’t you rather read a book at $3.99 than a similar one at $16.99? The problem for publishers too is that a low price for an e-book download makes it hard for them to make money, given the exigencies of the marketplace, the cost of publicity (any publicity), royalties and advances against royalties for authors (even though most advances are pretty low today), along with staff salaries for editors, and everything associated with actually running a business.
The thing is, more consumers actually are moving toward digital downloads, so publishers are in a bind. And newspapers that report on publishing prefer to look for any signs that paper is here to say, and that the traditional bookseller isn’t going anywhere (not that anyone wants that to happen).
The way books are read, however, the way they’re marketed, and they way they are bought and sold has changed forever. There’s no going back to paper alone, despite what some booksellers wish.
We’ll look at this in our next post.
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