Paperbacks Fade, But Reading Remains

Gloomy figures are the norm now in the publishing industry. But do they tell the whole story?

Paperback sales continue to drop, alas. But e-book sales seem to double each month. Still, according to the Association of American Publishers, total sales in September dropped 6.4% compared to the year before .

Bad news, right?

Maybe not. The Association of American Publishers doesn’t record sales of self-published books if these books aren’t sold through bookstores or normal distribution channels. Many more authors are self-publishing nowadays, or creating books online, and though it seems as if fewer people are buying, perhaps more people are reading – they may not be purchasing the material through bookstores (online or brick-and-mortar) and they may be receiving the material free, but they’re consuming books, in some fashion.

They’re just going about it in ways that aren’t recorded by the trade.

If you’re a new author, or even someone who’s trying something new in publishing via a website, blog, Twitter account, Facebook page or other digital distribution system, don’t be dismayed by what seems to be a decline in book purchasing. Your message can be heard – it just might not be in ways that are noticed by some of the traditional methods.

Everyone wants to be a bestselling author, of course. And to be recognized for this achievement. But sometimes you need to measure that recognition by your interactions with your readers, through your online conversations, through downloads of your material, rather than by a ranking on a list.

It’s a different way of thinking than you may be used to. But consider: your message will be heard, and you can measure that through your page ranking, your online profile, the way your name begins to surface in online conversations. As you craft your message, refine your voice, grow your audience, you can think of books, digital or otherwise.

People still read. They just do it differently.

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3 Responses to “Paperbacks Fade, But Reading Remains”

  1. Nine Andres December 9, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    Technology has indeed dramatically affected how we deal with information. This is the obvious case with reading. There are more avenues to explore in becoming a bestseller and getting you point across and having your voice heard as an author. 

  2. Kirsten Nelson December 9, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    Great insights. Sometimes it’s easy to just take things at face value and make false assumptions. The door on traditional publishing methods may be closing, but a digital window of opportunity is definitely letting some fresh air and light in. 

  3. Angela December 9, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    Bob, thanks for sharing, in today’s world of communication I like that we have so many ways of communicating and sharing information. Books are a thing of the past and it’s good to know that messages can still be heard! Thanks!

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