Who doesn’t have this e-book thing figured out?

Who doesn’t have this e-book thing figured out?

Some authors do very well in both e-books and p-books (paper books).

I was curious if there were authors who were doing very well in paper, but not so well in e-books.

I decided to make this simple, and just look at the authors of the bestselling books at Amazon.com.

The authors (and their agents) do have an impact on this decision, by the way. The author owns the e-book rights, separately from the p-book rights, and can sell them separately. Hypothetically, they could sell the hardback rights to a tradpub (traditional publisher) and keep the e-book rights for themselves…even sell them to a different publisher, if they wanted.

Most likely, the publisher of the hardback would frown on that, and might even have a clause against it…but the author/estate would most likely need to be compensated for not using those e-book rights.

  1. Rick Riordan: #8 e-book
  2. B.J. Novak: #2,450 e-book
  3. Gillian Flynn: #3 e-book
  4. Cary Elwes: #71 e-book
  5. Bill O’Reilly: #23 e-book
  6. Thug Kitchen: #915 e-book
  7. Rush Limbaugh: #861 e-book
  8. Atul Gawande: #173 e-book
  9. Jeff Kinney: #386 e-book
  10. Walter Issacson: #65 e-book

Interesting! I think this might confirm what some people would think. With the exception of Rick Riordan, I think the books intended for children are doing worse in e-book. There is a reasonable argument that a lot of the books bought for kids to read are bought as gifts (even if the gifts come from within the immediate family)…and that p-books might seem better as a gift, literally more substantial.

I also think there might be some negative impact on digital with a book being a pre-order. It may be that people feel it is less necessary to pre-order an e-book. They aren’t going to run out of it, and you can typically have it within sixty seconds of deciding to buy it.

However, you can pre-order e-books (and I know many people do), so it’s not as simple as that.

I suppose it isn’t surprising that Walter Isaacson, who write on tech related subjects, does well in e-books. I should be clear, I’m not convinced that the e-book market is really techies (I think that’s what Amazon did differently that made the Kindle go mainstream when many other EBRs…E-Book Readers hadn’t managed it in the USA…they designed them for readers, not techies).

Still, there is a significant minority of people who just read e-books…I think as an author going into the future, you’ve pretty much got to make that market work for you. That is, of course, unless you are selling relatively expensive books, where you don’t have move as many units.

What do you think? Could an author live by paper alone? 😉 Are some authors just a better read for you in either digital or paper? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


10 Responses to “Who doesn’t have this e-book thing figured out?”

  1. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I only buy eBooks. I categorize my purchases into two buckets: mass market titles (for pleasure; almost always priced at $10 or under); and technical/professional books (mostly priced at $25-100). I probably buy about equal numbers each year.

    The mass market stuff I get in Amazon’s formats; the technical stuff in PDF. The mass market stuff is delivered to my PW2; the technical to my KFHD89. I do occasionally pre-order an eBook, if it’s from an author I especially like. The technical realm seems to prefer “early release” versions rather than pre-orders (Baen books does this early release thing in SF as well).

    I almost never buy an early release title — instead I’ll put it on my e-book wishlist. As for the mass market stuff, I tend to put everything on the eBook wishlist until my ToBeRead pile on my PW2 gets down to around 15-20 titles (currently it’s at 32). Then I’ll buy 5-10 off the eBook wishlist.

    As you know I think the future is with eBooks, and direct publishing. I suspect tradpubs are going to have increasing difficulty signing up new talent going forward. A search I’d like to see is eBook ranks versus the age of the author; another might be eBook rank versus tradpub published versus directly published.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      I appreciate you sharing your strategy and thoughts!

      Both of your proposed searches would present considerable challenges. 🙂 There are a surprising number of traditional publishers, and Amazon doesn’t designate a title as tradpubbed or not, so that’s hard to parse out. I’ve done it before, but there has been some guessing involved.

      In terms of age of the author…especially with indies, there isn’t a good way to get that. I’d also be reluctant to do that…I’m more interested in actions than inherent characteristics. Hm…I might be able to do a search that looked at first books. That might be interesting: how many people who only have one book at Amazon don’t have an e-book version? I’d have to limited it to maybe 100 of them, and it would take a while to do, but that might be informative. My guess would be that it would be very few…

  2. Lady Galaxy Says:

    You mention e-books for children. Did you see this New York Times article?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      I hadn’t seen it yet…thanks! I may throw that link into the next round-up.

      I think, reading it, that it would depend on how the e-books were used more than the fact that they are “screen time”. If a guardian is interacting with the child about what is happening in front of them, I would guess it would work for language development. Certainly, there would be that pacing issue (the books don’t react to the reading skills of the kids in terms of how they say lines…yet), but if you talked about what a “game” might do before it did it, that’s going to be helpful, I would think.

      As they point out, there can’t be much real data yet. We are only just really getting kid friendly tablets with e-books…I would say you would want a minimum of ten years (probably fifteen) of data to see how early childhood exposure affects adult reading.

  3. Helen Burns Says:

    I don’t read paper books at all, even when some one offers to loan me one. I don’t like the cumbersomeness, the inability to adjust the font when my eyes are tired, and I really miss being able to look things up as I read. My husband also has a Kindle, and only reads magazines and newspapers on it or on line.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Helen!

      I do sometimes pick up a paperbook from our library and read a page or two, but that’s generally a case of it being a reference work. Outside of that, I’m all e. 🙂

  4. Karin Says:

    I only read a p-book if it isn’t available on the Kindle, and it is one that I have in my library. I only buy p-books as gifts.

    I personally think it is a mistake for an author to opt out of using any version that will get his book to readers. She/he should want to have paper, audio or digital offered.

    I read the article that Lady Galaxy shared about young children, tablets and reading. I also read an article about reading retention and e-readers for adults. It basically said we retain less reading from a e-reader than paper. I wonder how true it is.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Karin!

      I agree with you…if you can, offer your work in as many media and as many languages as you can. 🙂

      I think the verdict still isn’t in on retention. I thought one of the more interesting ideas was that imperfections in a p-book engage us more, increasing retention…wrinkles, stains, tears, that sort of thing. I do think that being surprised by something increased retention, and that’s less likely with the homogenized presentation of e-books. That said, I think we just don’t know at this point.

      I also believe it will be different from person to person, so you’ll need fairly large studies. E-books may play into the weaknesses of some people (with regard to retention), but not others.

  5. AndiLynn Says:

    I just indulged in the new Kindle Voyage–mostly because my 7-year-old twin sons are totally into reading chapter books as of about a month ago. One inherited my old Pw2 and I bought a refurbished Pw2 for the other.
    I am astounded at the impact of the Paperwhites with my boys. They like the light so that they can read to my husband and me in bed at night. When they come to words they don’t know, they automatically open the dictionary now. We had to teach them about the syllable breakout and phonetic spelling, but they’re kids and just absorbed it. They read longer and more and more smoothly each week as a result.
    With the paper versions of the books–yes, Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, but also the Jack Stalwart and I Survived series–they struggled more with pronunciation and lost the flow of the story more, leading to less of a desire to read. The dictionary feature keeps them more in the story and they can still figure out words, even when my husband and I aren’t present, reinforcing the pleasure of reading.
    When they had only their 2nd gen 7″ Fires, they did very little reading, even with unlimited reading and VERY limited app and video time courtesy of Kindle FreeTime. Even now, their Fires are more for playing. But, they are more likely to grab their Paperwhites when getting into the car for errands and activities.
    I wonder if it’s a combination of the eReader limiting them to just reading and their age.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, AndiLynn!

      Interesting insights!

      I would say I liked a book better when it had a glossary in it, and the use of the dictionary is similar.

      I have a few guesses as to why your kids prefer to bring the Paperwhites on errands:

      * The visibility…it can be frustrating to not see what is on a backlit device when you are in changing light conditions
      * The ability to jump in and out. As a kid, it’s harder to predict when you’ll need to stop doing something…you don’t have the patterns down as well, and I think you may tend to get more absorbed. It’s easier to get to a place to stop in a book than in a game
      * Reading is quiet: you aren’t going to get chastised for being a distraction in the car (like you might be whooping and hollering over a game, or watching a movie)
      * Reading is just the best! 😉

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