Why are e-book sales declining? 5 possible reasons
According to this
which is reporting on figures released by the AAP (Association of American Publishers), e-book sales were
“…down 2.5% and 36.6% in the adult and children’s/young adult categories, respectively”
That’s right…not just slowed growth, but actual decline.
I have expected e-books sales to continue to grow for some time yet, eventually becoming more than fifty percent of unit sales.
I still think that’s likely.
These figures, then, come as a bit of a surprise to me.
Let me give you five possibilities as to why this might be the case:
1. Other e-book sales, which aren’t being measured here, have grown: I think this is highly likely. The AAP doesn’t typically include independent publishers using platforms like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. I fall into that category (I only have published books I’ve written, but if you make your book available to the public, you are a publisher), and they don’t ask me. I think it may be like what I refer to as “indieployment”. Unemployment figures get lamented, and certainly, for people who want to work and can’t find work, that’s a bad thing. However, I think some of the people being counted as unemployed are making a living outside of the traditional system, and that includes authors who publish their books themselves. My guess is that there are enough people making a living (and a significant portion of them happily…at least as happily as they would as employees of a company) in creative endeavors, selling things on eBay, being Uber drivers, is inflating the number. If readers are increasingly moving away from traditionally published books to independently published books, I would expect the AAP’s figures to decline.
2. Subsers are cutting into sales: it’s hard to tell how much this is having an impact, because the AAP supposedly is able to measure some of this impact. Still, I think people who use subscription services, like
Oyster, and Scribd, probably don’t get measured with the same weight as those who purchase. Amazon having entered that market makes measurement perhaps even less likely, since they are notoriously tight-lipped about things like sales figures.
3. E-books were a fad: I think this is very unlikely, but it’s something that will occur to a lot of casual observers. One argument for it would be that tablets (including Amazon’s own Fire tablets) have supplanted EBRs (E-Book Readers, like Amazon’s Voyage) over the past few years as reading devices. When you have a tablet, though, you also have other options, like movies and full video games, and that cuts into book purchases. I just don’t see that a lot of people have abandoned e-books in favor of going back to p-books (although p-book sales have been increasing).
4. There were anomalistically popular books which created a false high: brick-and-mortar bookstores (I’m a former manager) made this argument the year after 50 Shades of Grey. Sales were so extraordinarily high for that book (I could say they were “unbound”, but I think I won’t…spanking good sales, perhaps?) that the following year, even though things were fine, compared unfavorably. I don’t think that’s it, here, and I think certainly this year, sales of the Harper Lee books will make another book boom.
5. More units are being sold at lower prices: it appears to me that this decline is based on total sale amounts, not how many books are being sold. If that’s the case, it would be possible that people are buying more books, but paying less. If a person bought five books at $9.99 each one year, and ten books at $0.99 each the next year, unit sales would increase while the sales amount would decrease. I’m a bit skeptical about this one…I don’t think prices have dropped significantly in the past year, and New York Times fiction hardback equivalent bestseller prices (I track those in my monthly Snapshots) have increased. I suppose it’s possible that independently published books, which are the majority in the Kindle store, have been going down in price…but I don’t know why the would have, particularly…and I certainly haven’t noticed a one third drop in children’s/young adult e-book prices.
I’ll sum this up this way: I’m not worried about America’s state of literacy and love of books, or the e-book format’s viability, based on this report. 🙂
What do you think? Why are these numbers lower? Could it be because book quality has declined? Reading overall has declined? People go so fed up with the legal and contract stuff, like the Hachazon War (the battle between Amazon and publisher Hachette) that they are just giving up on e-books? The numbers are significantly wrong? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.
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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. Shop ’til you help! By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.
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.