E-Book Sales Slip, Print Picks Up, NY Times Says. Is That True?

Nice article with lots of graphics and stats

Nicholas C. Rossis

The NY Times Article

In a surprise twist, the mad dash of e-book sales – up 1,260 percent between 2008 and 2010 – finally slowed down in 2015. Or at least, that’s what NY Times recently claimed, in a controversial article.

According to the newspaper, e-book adopters are returning to print, or becoming hybrid readers, who juggle devices and paper. E-book sales fell by 10 percent in the first five months of 2015, it said, while digital books accounted last year for around 20 percent of the market, roughly the same as they did a few years ago.

Publishing, while not immune to technological upheaval, may weather digital technology better than other forms of media, like music and television, after all. With the recent end of Oyster, it looks like e-book subscription services, modeled on companies like Netflix and Pandora, will struggle to convert book lovers into digital binge readers. Meanwhile, sales of dedicated…

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9 thoughts on “E-Book Sales Slip, Print Picks Up, NY Times Says. Is That True?

  1. Nicholas, thanks very much for enlightening us.:) My wife and I recently noticed that e-books were ten bucks or more, when you can get the hardcover for just a few bucks more. A big incentive for the e-reader was for inexpensive e-books. And you can still find such prices, but the major publishers are hiking their prices, simply because they can.

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  2. I stopped buying ebooks since the prices doubled and tripled. Even for series I have been following for years, though I used to buy one or two titles each month. And without a book store in reasonable travel distance to buy a paper version that’s close to a dozen lost sales for me alone, two dozen in a year.

    Once I get out of habit of following a series and I have picked up another, more reasonably priced one, I am less and less likely to pick up the abandoned series.

    The graphs shown by Mr.Rossis clearly indicate that I am far from the only one reacting this way. The big five seems to have lost over 10 percent of their market share (by units sold) and only barely managed to keep their sales volume (by dollars) the same. In other words, they traded market share for higher profit margins per unit. That’s not a sensible long term business plan (unless you are ferrari and survive on selling a handfull of cars for half a million each, but that’s not going to work in a mass market product like books).

    And unless the authors sharing equally in that doubled price point, they’ll be looking at those falling unit sales numbers and their own incomes dropping as a consequence and they too will start wondering why they still bother with that publisher. The only one who really has the last laugh here is Amazon as they stand to profit from it one way or another, and will increasinly pick up established authors for their own publishing branch as they leave the fragmenting big five.

    The record industry learned their lesson too late, that you can’t plan your business on only selling the big hits and the big stars. You need those tens of thousands of products that barely make their money back in order to find the big hit successes and for keeping your customers around. A manager at a record label said that they made almost all their profit from the likes of Britney Spears and a handful of other big stars, and they could increase their profit margin by several factors just by cutting out the other artists. Apparently he couldn’t understand that those who didn’t like Britney Spears then had no reason to buy any records, and soon as ms. Spears fell out of favour he would have no company left either. Which of course is why nowadays the record companies have become a largely irrelevant sideshow, down from the dominant and domineering presence they once were.

    It looks to me that the publishing houses are dead set on repeating that fatal mistake.

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