NOT A SURPRISE! Ebook Sales Continue to Dive! Here’s Why…

NOT A SURPRISE! Ebook Sales Continue to Dive! Here’s Why…

At the end of each year, there always comes a flurry of articles analyzing the “surprising” (??) downward spiral of the ebook industry. While ebooks will always be available, they have not been the do-all, end-all of the publishing industry as Amazon had hoped. At BookLocker, we still recommend authors publish print AND electronic editions of their books to attract all potential readers. However, we have been predicting for years that ebooks would never take over print books. And, we have been right.

Last month, Vox published one of those articles, “The 2010s were supposed to bring the ebook revolution. It never quite came.

Here are the highlights:

1. Boomers read more ebooks than young people!

Amazon and others assumed young people would embrace the digital book reading revolution. But, they didn’t. After hours spent on phones, tablets, and laptops each day, young people prefer to curl up with a REAL book. Who IS buying ebooks? Boomers! And, this makes perfect sense. Older folks don’t want to drive to the bookstore. And, with ebooks, there’s no need to use reading glasses or a plastic magnifying sheet. They can simply adjust the font size on their reading device.

2. Ebook sales have “stabilized” at only 20% of the market (80% for print books)

According to, in 2015, ebooks accounted for 27% of book sales. In 2016, that dropped to 23%. Things only got worse for Amazon’s ebook hopes after that. Since the numbers have continued to drop year after year, we do not think ebook sales have yet “stabilized” at 20%.

3. Ebooks aren’t priced as low as Amazon hoped they would be.

When publishers started seeing that Amazon might be their only customer some day, they fought back, refusing to let Amazon price books so low that those publishers would eventually go out of business. While ebooks are a digital file, a lot of time and money goes into writing, editing, cover design, file creation, marketing, administrative expenses, and accounting (royalty calculations and payments, to say nothing of the rest of the number crunching required for any business). Those expenses don’t magically disappear just because a book is released in digital format instead of print. In fact, the printing and shipping costs are a very small piece of the price of print books.

4. According to publishers, “Amazon was training readers to undervalue books.”

I completely agree with this. Perceived value! Selling a really good book for a few dollars makes people think it’s a “cheap book.” And, if readers keep expecting the next “best seller” to be only $9.99, guess what? Those best selling authors are going to start doing something else for a living. Furthermore, as with other industries, publishing houses would start going out of business. Eventually, Amazon would be the only game in town, offering publishing, printing, and ebook services, as well as controlling book sales. Do readers really want only ONE company controlling what gets published for the masses?

5. The article includes a breakdown of why books are priced as they are.

For anyone wondering why print and electronic books are priced as they are, please READ THE ARTICLE. The breakdowns are very educational, and may make you think of costs you’ve never considered.

6. “Self-published authors, meanwhile, are flourishing” because they can set their own prices.

While large publishers are forced to price print and electronic books at specific thresholds to stay in business, self-published authors have far more leeway in how they price their books. It’s never been easier to be a published author, and to earn money doing so!



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5 Responses to "NOT A SURPRISE! Ebook Sales Continue to Dive! Here’s Why…"

  1. Pamela Allegretto  January 2, 2020 at 4:36 pm

    I’m a Boomer, and I’m paper all the way.

  2. Michael W. Perry, medical writer  December 31, 2019 at 7:13 pm

    It’s sometimes said a new technology needs to be ten times better than the old to supplant (meaning eliminate) it. Cars did that with horse-drawn buggies. The ratio to simply co-exist, which is what we are talking about with print versus ebooks, is certainly smaller. To establish a 50/50 ratio, ebooks might need to be twice as good as perceived by readers as print books.

    But the problem with ebooks is that, apart from various niche markets (i.e. baby boomers liking large type), ebooks aren’t really competitive with print books. In fact in many ways they’re not better at all, least of all twice as good. In what matters to readers they’re often worse. The formatting has hardly improved since the first ebooks ran on Palm pilots. Almost none of the fancy features that HTML webpages have has migrated to ePub, a dismal standard if there ever was one. And the retail market for ebooks has made owning them more like a poor form of renting. When you finish a print book, you can loan it to a friend. You can’t do that with ebooks given their intrusive copy protection. Nor does the demand by ebook champions that ebooks sell for substantially less make ebooks appealing. People reasonably assume that if it’s cheaper it cannot be better.

    I’d hoped for more from ebooks, but I’ve moved away from them. I buy a print book every few weeks. I’ve not bought an ebook in years. I just not interested and my attitude probably reflects that of most readers. They’ve simply not developed along a path the would let them compete effectively with print.

  3. W.W.Brock  December 28, 2019 at 11:33 am

    Hi Angela,

    This is a great article, and certainly supports our observations. Less than 20% of the people that come by our booth read ebooks, and I see the ebook sales spike slightly after each show, about two times per month. I hope the trend continues since my bread and butter comes from signing old fashioned print copies and shaking hands with new readers.

  4. Wendy  December 27, 2019 at 9:40 pm


    Coincidently, I was going to send you a copy of this very article, today! I found it interesting, to say the least.

    Here we have an article that is literally rife with industrial ‘spy Vs spy’ action — price-fixing Apple-related schemes by the ‘big five’, the consumer ‘training’ by Amazon, a hodgepodge of back and forth legal wrangling. And in the end, consumers still voted ‘thumbs up’ for their paper books.

    True, I have seen a number of Ebook sales for all the books in the Highlander Imagine series. And, I would not stop offering an Ebook option either, because of it.

    But when the dust settles in 2019, the number of electronic books sold will only represent a modest number of total book sales for any one title.

    I do predict that, when technology can create a holographic book you can pick up and feel with your fingers, this will find its place in the market — more so than Ebooks today.

  5. Sally Bahner  December 27, 2019 at 8:27 pm

    I’m a Boomer in love with her Kindle. I wasn’t looking to get one, but my husband surprised me with one two years ago and I haven’t looked back. My home office is stuffed with books and I love them, but how can I fit another 100+ plus books that now live on my Kindle? In addition, I sleep like crap, so I can just grab the Kindle and read a few pages without turning on the light.