E-book sales are dropping…off the radar

E-book sales are dropping…off the radar

You could easily read the numbers in this

Publishers Weekly article by Jim Milliot

reporting on sales figures from the AAP (Association of American Publishers) comparing February 2016 to February 2015, and conclude that e-books were, perhaps, just a fad.

Sales of children’s/Young Adult e-books were down 41.7%.

E-book market share in that very important segment dropped almost 5%.

In the adult trade segment (what you would have bought in a bookstore…not textbooks and such), e-book sales declined more than half again as much as the hardbacks in that segment.

Yes, you could think it is all doom and gloomy…and the “only paper books are real books” hardliners could start doing their “I told you so!” dance.

I think there are two major contributing factors to these numbers which don’t indicate a decline in people reading e-books.

First is that so many books are published by non traditional publishers now, and they simply may not be tracked in these numbers. The AAP has never asked me how many books I’ve sold. 😉

Not even a quarter of the top twenty bestselling Kindle books in the USA are from the biggest traditional publishers.

So, even though the AAP got reports from more 1,000 publishers, I doubt that’s anywhere near the majority of e-book published each month.

It might not be a decline in e-reading; it might be an artifact of the reporting methodology.

The second big factor is the rise of at least Amazon’s subser (subscription service):

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

My guess is that the “borrows” in those programs aren’t counted…and they probably shouldn’t be, since they aren’t sales.

That might be having an impact on the measured sales, if people who would have bought an individual e-book are instead reading some of them through KU and others…that might be  an overall increase in e-book reading, although I don’t know that, of course.

My guess? E-book reading is here to stay. 🙂

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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.



11 Responses to “E-book sales are dropping…off the radar”

  1. Man in the Middle Says:

    There seems to still be a concerted effort by the big publishers to radically jack up the selling prices of Ebooks, especially ones that might be used as college texts. All it accomplishes with me is adding any such book to my eReaderIQ watch list, in case they ever come to their senses and offer such books at a reasonable price.

    Meanwhile, we just renewed our Kindle Unlimited for another 2 years at the Prime Day 40% off price, and rarely feel the need to buy anything else except when on sale for under $3 (my personal impulse buy price limit, though I’ve been known to go up to the original $10 for in-copyright classics I want in my permanent library.)

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Man!

      Concerted, perhaps, but presumably not conspiratorial…they’ve paid a price for that already. 😉

      KU and gifts keep me covered, as well as books I bought previously. My Significant Other sometimes buys a book for us, but that’s pretty uncommon.

  2. Wildsubnet Says:

    I think as long as traditional publishers continue to price e-books above the price that paperbacks are actually being sold for after the paperback comes out, this trend will continue for them.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Wildsubnet!

      Well, that is interesting…I checked some of the bestselling (at Amazon) paperbacks, and you are right, several of them are lower than the Kindle version. I hadn’t looked at that in a while…might be worth an article. 🙂

      I’m not sure if that’s the big impact, though…that people make the decision to buy the paperback instead of the e-book because the former is cheaper. It’s possible, though…again, I may ask my readers on that one.

  3. Edward Boyhan Says:

    Most of the people I know only read stuff electronically — not all by any means on kindles — many on tablets and smartphones. I agree that the AAP may not be the most unbiased source for this kind of stuff — as they are more interested in the traditional publishing universe.

    OTOH, I wonder if overall reading stats of all kinds might be down — as we now have so many more ways to spend our leisure time (like writing replies to blogs??? :grin).

    Traditional publisher book prices are rising faster than the cost of living. I wonder if that might be due to declining unit sales needing higher prices to cover their fixed (over-manned?) costs?

    Well time to get back to my kindle and a very hot Florentine serial murder case :-).

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      I think it’s more a case of shifting their market positioning than just rising to match lower unit sale numbers. While it is taking longer than I thought, it does seem like we may be on the road to that $50 new hardback novel price I suggested some years back. That would be deliberately marketing hardbacks as a luxury item.

      My writing time has taken away from my reading time…but I read when I exercise and I read with text-to-speech in the car. I think I am probably net down, but not as much as it might feel to me.

  4. Jami Says:

    They don’t track any self-published books. There was a report at RWA about it, the difference was amazing. Self pub books, at least the best selling ones, are way outstripping the traditionally published ones.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Jami!

      Yes, that’s correct. For many years now, the vast majority of Kindle books published have not been from traditional publishers (“tradpubs”). I’ve looked at it in the past, and estimated that at least 90% are not. Having lots of books doesn’t necessarily mean moving lots of units, of course, but it does familiarize people with indie (independently published) titles, making a transition (full or partial) easier.

  5. Scotto Says:

    I bought Neil Clarke’s “Best Science Fiction of the Year” in trade paperback format when it came out last month mainly because I wanted something to read in case my power went out and my Kindle Voyage battery died after our summer thunderstorms. It also looks good on the coffee table. Every time I have tried to read something in it I keep noticing how heavy it is and how small the font is for comfortable reading. I always go back to my kIndle or the Kindle app on my iPad mini.

    I now read 99.9% of my books on my Kindle or Kindle app. I can adjust the font, it doesn’t weigh a ton and it’s always with me whether it’s the Kindle on the coffee table, the iPad in my messenger bag or the iPhone in my pocket. I won’t ever go back to paper and the Big Five should start realizing this.

    So far I haven’t gone for Kindle Unlimited because I do not like subscription services. I mainly purchase eBooks for $7 or less and get a lot from my local Library via Overdrive. I rarely buy anything from the big publishers when the price is over $10 and even then only when I have a gift card that I consider “free” money.

    That buying behavior of mine is one of the reasons why the Big Pubs think eBook sales are down. If you consider self-pub, independent and small publisher sales I’d bet eBook sales are way up.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Scotto!

      I personally don’t use Overdrive much, although I tested it a couple of times. My library has a big waiting list for popular books, and I don’t want to make other people wait longer. 🙂

      I’m not sure that the individual tradpubs think unit sales are down for everybody on e-books…I think they tend to have pretty good market intelligence…they just don’t always know what to do with it. 😉

  6. Paperback or e-book: which costs more? | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] E-book sales are dropping…off the radar […]

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