- Ebook sales plateaued in 2015 and even dropped in some places
- Print book sales are increasing as ebook sales drop
- Library patrons aren’t fond of ebook borrowing
- Why you MUST offer both ebook and print editions to readers!
Way back in 1998, we predicted ebooks would become a successful revenue model for authors after I wrote and self-published one of the very first ebooks, before “ebook” was even a known term, and before Stephen King made the term famous.
But, even while we promoted and sold ebooks for authors, we also said that print books would never become obsolete.
At BookLocker.com, we teach authors that offering print and ebook editions of their books increases their market reach, and their books sales overall. More on that later.
Revenues for all book sales have increased at BookLocker.com. But, over a 3-year period, from 2012 through 2014, we saw a steady but small decrease in the percentage of those book sales attributed to print books and a steady but small increase in the percentage attributed to ebook sales.
As you can see from the chart below, in 2015, things turned around for the first time in four years. This year, the percentage of print books sales has increased while the percentage of ebook sales has decreased.
Of course, we’re just one small company (with only a few thousand books on the market) but we are hearing similar rumblings across the industry. In September, The Wall Street Journal weighed in on the decline of ebook sales.
In a WSJ op-ed this week, Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Pietsch confirms ebook sales have plateaued, only bringing in about a quarter of book sale revenues for traditional publishers. Those numbers are similar to ours, as well as others.
Back in July of 2014, TechRadar surprised some (not us!) by predicting that e-readers might have a limited lifespan. They were right.
Why have ebook sales plateaued, and even declined in some places? Here are my thoughts on this not-so-surprising development:
TRENDS AND GADGETS COME AND GO
Ebooks were (and are) very trendy…but trends tend to die down after awhile. Ebook reading devices were a cool new gadget. For several years, we nerds couldn’t resist trying the latest and greatest hand-held gizmo.
While firms are still trying to improve on ebook reading devices, there seems to be a been there/done that attitude among consumers with regards to dedicated those gadgets. I used to read ebooks daily on my Nook but it lost its luster after awhile and I switched back to primarily print books. (I’m not the only person I know who has more than one ebook reading device gathering dust in a desk drawer!) And, to be completely honest, I missed the sights, sounds and smells of the local bookstore, and their awesome coffee! I do occasionally still buy ebooks when I want a title immediately but I read them on my iPhone now, which is far lighter and easier to manage than a Nook or a Kindle.
2. Print books will never die. Some people pooh-pooh’d my prediction several years ago that print books weren’t going anywhere. The first book printed on a moveable type printing press was created in the 1400’s. Print books have been around for hundreds of years, and are still selling strong. They’re not going anywhere anytime soon. It’s going to take a lot more than a series of too-similar, trendy electronic reading devices to kill the print book.
On the flip-side, ebooks have a firm footing in the reading community and they will also never die…as long as we all still have electricity, of course. The publishing industry has simply found another way to reach readers. And, they’re doing a great job of it!
3. Giving readers a choice increases book sales for all book types. Authors offering ebooks are reaching a market (often younger folks, but tech-savvy older ones as well) who might not otherwise want to wait for a box to arrive in the mail. Authors offering print books are reaching traditional readers who appreciate the feel, smell, and, admittedly, emotional comforts provided by a printed tome. And, of course, there are the hard-core bibliophiles who wouldn’t read an ebook if their life depended on it. Then there are the folks of all ages who are happy to read an ebook or a print book, as long as they can get what they want as quickly as possible to continually feed their beautiful book addiction. (I, myself, am a sufferer so it’s politically correct for me to joke about it!)
An ebook with no print counter-part may lead readers to assume it’s a low-quality book, or not a “real” book. Even those who are perfectly happy reading an ebook may balk if it’s obvious that neither the author, nor the publisher, invested any “real money” in creating a “real book.” If the book isn’t worth the expense of professional print formatting and a great full-cover design, as well as print distribution, is it really a good book?
A print book with no ebook counterpart can lose out on sales to the paperless generation that wants everything delivered instantly to an electronic screen. And, folks who favor ebooks tend to read a LOT of books, especially since they are so inexpensive.
For all of these reasons and more, authors should offer both options to attract the most readers, and to sell the most books. Just don’t count on ebooks alone to put enough food on your table!
EBOOKS NOT POPULAR AT LIBRARIES
According to Publisher’s Weekly, most library patrons are unlikely to “borrow” ebooks. I didn’t find this surprising at all.
Why would they borrow an ebook when they can simply borrow the real thing? If you really want the ebook, it’s likely priced so low that it’s easier to simply buy it, and download it instantly, than to drive to the library. And, libraries are more likely to have the print edition of many popular titles anyway.
In the past, libraries were used as a way to borrow a print book for free. With ebooks, you have the convenience of not needing to travel anywhere to get what you want. And, in our ever-more-slothful society, why drive to the library to borrow an ebook that you can buy and download it instantly for just a few bucks or, in some cases, even less? Why borrow something that might expire before you have finished it? Why not just buy a copy of your own, and keep it on your device indefinitely?
And, then there’s the techno-confusion factor. If you’re already in the library, why go to the librarian for training in how to login and download an ebook when you can just grab the printed edition off the shelf? For folks who abhor learning new technology, ebook library lending can be a pain.
According to those surveyed, librarian patrons aren’t borrowing ebooks for two reasons: 1. the ebook they want isn’t yet available at the library and 2. they prefer the print book.
EBOOKS VS. PRINT BOOKS – CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?
In the beginning, there were staunch advocates (and critics) of ebooks. And, there were staunch advocates (and critics) or print books. Now that things have calmed down, there is far less judgmental rhetoric. Some ebook-only folks still read print books (usually because it’s a title they can’t get electronically) and some hard-core bibliophiles have checked out some ebooks, and liked what they saw.
The fact is print books and ebooks are here to stay and authors who embrace both formats are, quite simply, going to attract more readers and, of course, sell more books.
About The Author
Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), PubPreppers.com (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).
WritersWeekly.com - the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday.
BookLocker.com - According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is: "As close to perfection as you're going to find in the world of ebook and POD publishing. The ebook royalties are the highest I've ever seen, and the print royalties are better than average. BookLocker understands what new authors experience, and have put together a package that is the best in the business. You can't go wrong here. Plus, they're selective and won't publish any manuscript just because it's accompanied by a check. Also, the web site is well trafficked. If you can find a POD or epublisher with as much integrity and dedication to selling authors' books, but with lower POD publishing fees, please let me know."
Abuzz Press offers FAST and FREE book publication, but only accepts a small percentage of submissions, and only works with U.S. authors.
PubPreppers.com - "We Prep, You Publish!" Print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish. Offers formatting and design services only, and then provides simple instructions for authors on where to sign up to have the print and ebook editions printed/listed/sold. Cut out the middle man. Keep 100% of what bookstores pay for your book!
Angela's POD Secrets Revealed Series can be found HERE.
Have a POD Book with another publisher? See if BookLocker can give you a better deal. (BookLocker offers "disgruntled author discounts" to those who want to move from other POD services.)
See BookLocker's publishing packages HERE.
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