AAP’s 2014 report: the huge growth was in…
According to this
Publishers Weekly article by Jim Milliot
the AAP (Association of American Publishers) has released its final figures on book industry sales for 2014.
You can see a lot of the specifics in the article, and I don’t want to take too much away from that (I recommend you read it if you want to get a sense of the future-building trends).
I want to just highlight a couple of things.
First, there was generally growth. Oh, not across every genre and every format, but overall, the publishers grossed more. They also generally had higher unit sales.
The latter is probably the more important if you care about how many people are reading (or how much they are reading). If the public as a whole reads 100 books in one year, and 200 books in the next year, they read more books in the second year. Of course, I suppose that if the books were on average less than half as long, they’d be reading less.
I always try to be careful about asking the right questions.
One of the things I do is “performance improvement”. I look at processes, and see what I can do to make it better.
I’ve had quite a bit of training on this, but I often find that it doesn’t really address the important question.
Let me give you an example.
I was given a sample problem.
A recreational tourist spot is concerned because people are catching fewer of a specific sportsfish. Before we go further, let me say that I am a vegetarian and don’t fish. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t address a hypothetical.😉
We were given specific figures for two years, and asked to formulate a proper “problem statement”.
Well, you could plunge right into trying to solve the problem of why they aren’t catching as many of that species. We were even given a guess by them, that it had to do with barbed hooks and catch and release.
They’ve told us “what’s wrong?” which is the first question we are supposed to ask.
However, my second question would always be, “What’s bad about that?”
That’s because I don’t want to waste time and effort “fixing the problem” if it isn’t really the problem.
Does the place really care if people aren’t catching as many of one type of fish?
They care if they are making as much money as they were.
They might assume that people are less happy, and therefore less likely to come and spend money.
What if, though, they are catching fewer of that fish…because they are catching more of another fish they like better?
What if they are spending more time (and money) in the resort arcade, and less time fishing?
That’s what you need to determine: what’s bad about that?
It might also be, “What would be good about that?” You are usually trying to remove something bad or add something good. The bad exists now; the good is an (currently non-present) aspiration. Of course, the good may be more of something they have now, but the volume they want doesn’t exist now.
What we often really trying to influence is how people feel about things, since that will tend to influence their behavior.
So, my guess is that publishers selling more units means that people are reading more books, and I think an increase will suggest that will happen more in the future…but I don’t know for sure.
The growth in gross could indicate more sales, but may indicate higher prices. Since the book sales were up 4.6%, and the unit sales increased a smaller 3.7%, that suggests that prices are rising faster than unit sales.
Second, there was a particular figure that was literally two orders of magnitude higher (the “tens” is an order of magnitude, the hundreds is another, the thousands is another…that’s pretty much the way it works) than any other figure in the tables in the article!
It is also, I think, highly significant.
“Trade books” are the books you would have bought in a bookstore: not textbooks and that sort of thing, but fiction and popular non-fiction.
Looking at “Trade Book Sales by Format”, comparing 2014 to 2013, the standout was a new category: e-book subsers (subscription services).
They went from .3 million dollars in 2013 to $13.5 million in 2014, a more than four thousand percent increase!
You might immediately guess that was due to the launch of
Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)
on July 18th of 2014, but it’s unclear if the AAP figures would be impacted that much by KU.
Indies (independent publishers, like me) make up the bulk of KU…and they aren’t members of the AAP.
However, even though none of the Big 5 (the larges US trade publishers: Simon & Schuster; Penguin Random House; Hachette; Macmillan; and HarperCollins) are currently participating in KU (I’m thinking that at least one may join before the end of the year, at least for some backlist titles), other traditional publishers are (Scholastic, for example, is both a member of the AAP and in KU).
The article says
“For both 2013 and 2014, estimates for the entire industry are based on actual sales supplied by about 1,800 U.S. publishers, from which AAP extrapolates by using a variety of sources to estimate sales for publishers that don’t report data.”
That means the AAP is at least guessing at the sales for the non-reporters.
My guess is that subsers are going to see even bigger growth in 2015 versus 2014.
Then, they may slow down.
I think they have a limited, but significant, appeal.
They are most cost effective for (in the aggregate for the user of the account) people who read a lot.
In the case of KU, you can have ten books out at a time. A family with four readers will tend to get more value out of KU than one person…unless that single person reads a lot, and the family doesn’t.
As a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, my guess (there is a lot of guessing, in this post)😉 is that the majority of books in a single year are bought by people who don’t buy a lot of books.
That may seem odd, but look at it this way.
Let’s say that ten percent of the people are “serious readers”…they read a book a week.
We’ll work with a population of 100 people to make this easy.
The casual readers read…let’s go with four books a year.
The ten serious readers read about 520 books a year.
The casual readers read 360 books a year.
At the holidays (including things like Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day, graduation, birthdays…) those casual readers buy books for the serious readers, and for other casual readers.
Hm…according to this
Bookmarket.com article by John Kremer
17% of the total books sold are given as gifts.
If my 880 books above represent 83% of the sales, that would make about 1,050 total (rough guess). Let’s make this easy…and say that half of the books are bought by serious readers.
I think the bigger market for subsers is serious readers…so based on all that geeky, highly speculative math stuff I just did😉 I wouldn’t expect subsers to get easily beyond 50%.
Regardless, that’s a lot of room for growth.
You can give KU as a gift. If KU gets a Big 5 publisher, and/or people really start to perceive as being a good way to encourage kids to read (I’m hoping Amazon is working on marketing for that…showing a kid saying, “I can’t find anything to read I like”, that sort of thing), it could get higher.
I’d be impressed if the subser sales doubled next year, and were half again as high in 2017.
I’ll keep an eye on it…
What do you think? Will subsers continue to grow? Were my numbers above so speculative as to be silly? If you think so, what are your guesses? If we could include indies, how much would that change this? Would e-book growth be much higher? 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!
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.