Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Digital Book Sales are way UP!

Book deals are rare, advances are lower or non-existent, hardback-trade-mass sales numbers are down, so then why are sales of digital books up 250%? Somebody's buying books!

The Association of American Publishers reported that e-book sales for the month of March increased significantly - e-book sales jumped 184.8% ($28.5 million) reflecting an increase of 251% for the year. Wow!

More and more, e-book sales are proving to be a viable option for readers. When presented with an option of purchasing a bound book at the book store, or online, paying for/waiting for delivery, it seems more and more readers are choosing to order an electronic version, downloading it immediately, and reading it on their e-device, or via Acrobat Reader on their computer (even printing it themselves) right now.

Recently I noticed an increase in the number of readers who attend my events or book club meetings asking me to sign "something" for them, in lieu of the fact that they bought the digital version and have nothing for me to sign. Most people show me the e-book icon in their cell phone, or other device, as proof of their purchase. At first I'd sign the back of my business card, but now I'll have a postcard of the cover that I sign just for e-book readers. A few people do end up buying the bound book version just so they can have the autograph.

For years I've heard that "in the future" bound books will be a thing of the past. Though as more technological options come along, i.e. the Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, B&N Nook, iPad, etc., it looks as though electronic books are popular enough today, to say the future is now. Or is it?
Penguin CEO John Makinson says in spite of the boost in e-sales, all of this hype is premature - that before we standardize formats prematurely, we should give it more time and wait to see whether all of this will last. Some say the digital formats will never replace paper books, but that digital books are simply a popular choice, in a different form.
Either way, as we writers continue to write our stories, do we need to start to consider how this will impact our overall sales numbers and royalties if and when the future really is "now?" It might be time to reevaluate our options as it relates to our contracts, and if we're self published, should we scratch the notion of our largest expense, printing, and offer our titles only in electronic format, on our websites and/or on Amazon (who sets their own price), B&N, etc.?

Have you thought about the future of the publishing business as it relates to the format of your books, and how you might need to adjust? Do you think the future is now?


Stefanie Worth said...

Marissa --

I think some authors lament the possibility of (even) lower royalties because of the reduced cost of e-pubs. But, I'd prefer to look at it the way the owner of a $1 movie theater in our neighborhood once theorized: "I'd rather fill the house at a dollar each, than have only five people in the theater at full price."

Ultimately, my goal is to tell stories and have people read them. I think there will always be people who "collect" books and like to have the tangible product in their hand. (Yay!) But people who prefer to keep my characters on a hard drive or hand-held are welcome readers, too.

Chicki said...

Joe Konrath estimates that he will make a few cents more on a Kindle release that sells for $2.99 than he does on a traditionally-published print book that sells for $14.99! I'm sure he could care less if that money is made on a print book or an e-book. It's still cash.

Things are changing, and we have to change with them ...

Phyllis Bourne said...

Things are definitely changing.

I'm a huge romance reader. I read about 200 romances a year. I got my first Kindle a year and a half ago. I haven't been to a bookstore in months and download most of my books - including your latest.

Paper books are wonderful. However, they can't compete with the convenience of instant downloads and the ability to carry your entire library in one small device.

Marissa Monteilh said...

Hey there Steph, Chicki and Phyllis =) Options are good, and I don't think paper books are going away, though some authors cannot afford to publish their stories and have started thinking in terms of selling their books in the e-book format, especially now that it appears this format is selling so well. Calculating the 7.5% of a paperback and 25% of an e-book, might or might not equate the same, but it does encourage authors to get into the game sooner, especially if funds are an issues (and printing is the largest cost involved.) I say, yes, we need to keep writing, and answer the call as necessary. I'm excited for everyone.

Liane Spicer said...

Those are some impressive figures, Marissa. Maybe Amazon wasn't exaggerating the Kindle sales over Christmas after all, and all those new owners are putting their toys to good use.

I think it's a bit early to conclude that paper books will be a thing of the past, though; it's possible that e-book sales will level off long before that happens. But then I'm a die-hard paper book lover, love the feel and smell and sight of them all serried on a shelf, piles of them beside my bed, even sleeping with them, so that might be wishful thinking.