More decline of books info

Jo Zebedee

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Interesting take on it. The only ebooks I read are Arcs, mostly for writers I know, and I hate reading on screen and rarely do justice to the book.

I work on screen. I write on screen. I play games on screen. I like to read on paper. I like the feel of it, the portability of a book (I shove a paperback in my bag and I'm away, and I don't care if it gets bashed), the sociability of paper books (I hate reading a book to love and not being able to shove it in the hand of someone else who will dig it - a link doesn't feel the same.)

I'm no luddite. I'm fully part of the digital generation (although am now SM notification free on all devices and it's great, so much more relaxing). But I don't like ebooks, don't want ebooks and am confident, after trying them on a range of devices, I will never want ebooks.
 

Brian G Turner

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I don't think the writer of the piece makes any serious effort to answer their own question. The Nielsen stats come only from big publishers - who have been upping ebook prices while slashing paperback prices.

Cause: effect.
 

tinkerdan

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I would second the cause: effect relationship.
My personal buying recently has been to search for traditional books and check to see if the e-book is at a special price and usually end up buying the paperback; because if anything, the paperback is either the same price or just 50 US cents more.

When I buy indie, it's mostly the e-book unless I love the author's prose.

Lately I've been passing on many of the traditional publishers; because I want to buy the e-books and I have a large number of those in my kindle from indie authors.

So though I may have in the past contributed to the figures used here; lately it might look more like I'm off the grid.
 

Martin Gill

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The Nielsen stats come only from big publishers - who have been upping ebook prices while slashing paperback prices.

Agreed. I skimmed the piece it earlier on my phone. I've also swapped to Amazon used/second hand for mass market stuff that I just want to consume and don't want to collect.
 

Theophania Elliott

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This doesn't match up with what other reports are telling us about the book market.

Any report that only uses Nielsen data is going to be flawed, as it only includes data on books which have ISBNs and which are sold from outlets that report sales. The former is more important than the latter, since it's likely that only small outlets don't report sales. The ISBN problem, though is the big one: the majority of indie-published ebooks and some published by small presses do not have ISBNs and therefore do not get caught by Nielsen's data.

AuthorEarnings has a presentation which includes both Nielsen and Amazon data. They tell a different story: that indies are making inroads into adult fiction particularly, and the majority of indie sales are ebooks. They get their data (other than the Nielsen data) by scraping Amazon.

The USA is the biggest and most technologically advanced book market. Two thirds of books sold in the USA are sold online, and of those, Amazon sells 70%. So anyone using Amazon's data alone will have data on just under half of the total book market in the USA. Amazon is also where the majority of ebooks in the USA are sold, so if you want to look at ebook sales in the USA, you can't rely on Nielsen data: you have to rely on Amazon. Using both gives you an ever better picture.

Plus, if nearly half of the books bought in the USA are bought online, this doesn't, to me, say that people are craving a personal, physical shopping experience.

Thus, I tend to believe AuthorEarnings over Econsultancy.

According to AuthorEarnings, online sales of romance novels are >90% ebooks, and over half indie - that's the genre that's gone most heavily ebookwards. For fantasy, it's 76% ebook, 37% indie.

On a personal level, I don't buy paper books any more. I also see more and more people reading electronically, whether that's with an eInk reader or a phone/tablet. So the numbers come as no surprise to me.

It's interesting that bookstores are now moving into selling non-book items to stay in profit - and Barnes and Noble appears to be circling the drain.

Pearson are about to sell their stake in Random Penguin (at the earliest possible moment their contract allows them to), and Bertelsmann don't seem keen to buy them out. This does not say happy things to me. It says that the joint owners of one of the Big Five both want to wash their hands of it and make it someone else's problem.

So, I'm not seeing rainbows and unicorns in the future of Big Publishing, nor in the future of paper books. Paper books will hang around for a while as collectors' items, like vinyl records, but their proportion of the market will carry on shrinking. And more and more authors will go indie, as they realise that a publisher is unlikely to do much for them that they can't do for themselves (unless, of course, they're a star. Which most authors aren't).

Take the story of Irish writer Donal Ryan, who's had to go back to the day job. He only gets 40 cents per book sold, according to his own calculations.

According to my calculations, if you calculate a 37.5 hour week, 52 weeks a year, a worker on the Irish minimum wage gets 18,037 euros per year. At 40 cents per book, he'd have to sell over 45,000 books every year to make the minimum wage.

If he was an indie, and sold ebooks via Amazon, for 2.99 euros at a 70% royalty, he'd get 2.01 euros per book. And that would mean that he'd only have to sell 8,974 books per year to make the minimum wage. That's still a lot of books, but it's closer to do-able for an author who writes literary fiction - even top selling litfic doesn't sell much more than that. Of course, he wouldn't have his publisher doing... what? Whatever his publisher is doing, it clearly isn't enabling him to make decent money out of his books. Is it, whatever it is, worth 80% of the royalties he would have got as an indie? Or, to put it the other way, has it enabled him to sell five times as many books?

Of course, as a traditionally published author, you get money up front, and you may never 'earn out' your advance (particularly at 40 cents per book) - but according to the Donal Ryan article, it's not much money for litfic - advances of hundreds rather than thousands of pounds, in Ireland. So going back to the 2.99 euro ebook, if you can sell 500 of them, you've got your thousand-euro advance equalled, and everything after that is jam.

OK, climbing down off soapbox now. :)
 

Martin Gill

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I agree on the analysis of the first link.

I actually went into Waterstones for the first time in about 4 years yesterday and I was surprised to see something of a refit had happened. It wasn't universal, but there was a definite effort to present the store as more of an indi/community book shop rather than one dedicated only to the mainstream. That said, I spent all of five minutes in there because they didn't have the book I wanted so I wound up ordering it on Amazon while standing in front of the section where it should have been. Oh well...
 

Theophania Elliott

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Yes, I remember the heady days of the personal shopping experience before Amazon.

You drive into town and pay for parking. Then you go to the bookshop, and discover they haven't got what you want. You ask them to order it. If you're lucky, someone will give you a ring, a few days or a couple of weeks or more later, to tell you it's arrived. If not, you have to keep ringing them. Then when someone finally agrees that your book has arrived, you drive into town again, once more paying for parking, and collect your book. If it's there.

And then you take your book home and read it, having spent enough on petrol and parking for a least one other book. And if you count the time you've spent driving back and forth and making phone calls, and pay yourself a notional minimum wage for that time, you could buy a third book.

Strangely, I do not find myself craving the 'personal physical shopping experience'.

Admittedly, I kind of miss the special London weekend when my husband and I would go down to London and start at one end of the Charing Cross Road and work our way to the other, visiting every single bookshop as we went. Or the hours spent in Forbidden Planet, working our way from Aaronovitch to Zelazny. But it's more a sort of nostalgic thing rather than anything else; I certainly prefer online shopping for actually being able to acquire items one wants with the minimum of hassle.
 

HareBrain

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My favourite means of acquiring books is browsing shelves or tables, which you can only get in bookshops and libraries. You can't really browse on Amazon unless you set quite restrictive boundaries (such as a sub-genre, or the top sellers), which for me misses the point.

Granted, I'm lucky enough to live within ten minutes' walk of two bookshops and a library, and one of the bookshops has a great cafe.
 

Parson

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Living nearly an hour's drive from any bookstore carrying SF, and not named Wal Mart. I can tell you that me and my Kindle, and my Kindle app on the telephone (this is usually by blue tooth and Audible) read 10 times the number of books I did before. In the past year I've bought 3? actual paper books.
 

RX-79G

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My favourite means of acquiring books is browsing shelves or tables, which you can only get in bookshops and libraries. You can't really browse on Amazon unless you set quite restrictive boundaries (such as a sub-genre, or the top sellers), which for me misses the point.

Granted, I'm lucky enough to live within ten minutes' walk of two bookshops and a library, and one of the bookshops has a great cafe.
Have you tried the recommended list that appears on the listing for a particular book, or user lists running down the right side?


I don't ebook or use MP3s. Both feel like a rip-off compared to a "hard copy". I also, like many people, view books as a non-electronic activity. While browsing was once looking at shelves in libraries and bookshops, my shopping habits since I was a kid involved catalogs and mail order - well before the internet. The thrill of ordering something and having a package to open a few days later is still a pleasure for me, which applies to books as well.


One thing that might be missing in all these stats is the enormous used market that the internet has bolstered. The ability to buy a used book on Amazon, Abe or Ebay has probably made people more aware of this market, perhaps even bolstering brick and mortar used book sales. I doubt there is much tracking on this - especially when the dollar amounts are so variable - many used books on Amazon are $.01 with shipping making the bulk of the price. How many one cent book sales make an impression on those assembling stats about consumer habits?
 

Theophania Elliott

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The stats don't include second-hand - but then, the people who are compiling the statistics are more interested in buying new, because those sales are the ones that make money for the publisher and the author. Second-hand sales only make money for the bookseller.

So, from the point of view of the industry, its current health and future direction, 'new' sales are what counts.

When it comes to knowing what people are really reading... it would be interesting to know how much the second-hand market contributes. Personally, although in the old days I used to shop second-hand sometimes (the Charing Cross Road...) the problem is that you can't rely on getting what you want (unless what you want is Fifty Shades of Grey, in which case you can buy yourself enough second-hand copies to build a fort with).

Another point to remember while thinking about bookselling statistics is that these surveys that say "X percent of Americans have/haven't read an ebook this year!" don't tend to also tell us how many books the surveyed Americans did read this year. One book? Ten books? A hundred books?

The number of readers isn't the only important point: it's also, how many books does each reader consume per year? Some romance readers, for example, apparently buy books in job lots. From the point of view of someone trying to make a living selling books, a hundred romance readers chomping their way through 150 books a year each is a better bet than a thousand litfic readers who each nibble away at ten carefully selected volumes a year.

(I love Amazon for browsing - there's so much more choice! I can just spend hours wandering around - or even looking at the recommendations Amazon throws up for me. I find it a better experience than the local Waterstones, with its tiny little SFF section.)
 

RX-79G

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The stats don't include second-hand - but then, the people who are compiling the statistics are more interested in buying new, because those sales are the ones that make money for the publisher and the author. Second-hand sales only make money for the bookseller.
That is certainly true in the short term, but a brisk used market is still evidence of continued interest in paper books - something that should be accounted for in the planning and marketing of publishers. It would be foolhardy to declare the printed book "dead" when so many people actually have one in their hands.

The auto industry has made their own similar adjustments to the increasing longevity of their products by creating "certified pre-owned" and other categories that allow the original maker to continue to profit from past production. Perhaps the publishing industry should be thinking along these lines, instead of viewing their output like hamburgers.
 

Theophania Elliott

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The auto industry has made their own similar adjustments to the increasing longevity of their products by creating "certified pre-owned" and other categories that allow the original maker to continue to profit from past production. Perhaps the publishing industry should be thinking along these lines, instead of viewing their output like hamburgers.

I think there would be howls of outrage!

The difference between books and cars is that 'certified pre-owned' with cars actually has some value to the consumer, as they know they're getting a car that is second-hand (therefore cheaper than new) but is certified to have the same freedom from defects as a new car and, presumably, a similar guarantee.

Books are different. About the most technical check you have to do on a second-hand book to make sure it's good quality is flip through it to make sure all the pages are still there, and nobody's put anything unpleasant between any of them. There's no need for any sort of manufacturer's guarantee because with a book, what you see is what you get. If the cover's torn and half the pages are missing, you just don't buy it.

With ebooks, though, it might be a possibility: in general, you don't get to inspect the whole of your ebook before purchase, just the first 10% or so (though you do have time to return it if it's not to your liking). So if a second-hand market in ebooks ever arises (e.g. with blockchain technology), some kind of certified-second-hand market might work.

I don't think anyone is declaring that 'print is dead' - if they are, they're wrong. Print will be with us for a while yet, although I think it's declining. It's important to note, though, that the second-hand market is completely dependent on the first-hand market. If people who buy books new stop buying paper books, then there will be no second-hand books filtering through. It'll take a while to really kick in, but one wonders exactly which books second-hand book-readers read. I mean, if you want to read Pride and Prejudice you're probably going to be a OK for a while yet - my mother-in-law picked up a first edition in a second-hand book shop for a few pence, so that had obviously been knocking around for 150 years or so. But if you want to read the latest sci-fi or fantasy? You'll be less lucky, especially if you're after new releases in genres that are going heavily digital.
 

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Theophania I hate that when a book isn't in and you have to order it and go back; esp as we are a good 50mins from the nearest book store that sells anything worth looking at in fantasy/scifi (interestingly it is a Waterstones). For me I always felt that the book shops (esp waterstones) missed a trick in home deliveries - esp once they had their own online shop and postal system why not have stores able to process internet orders for customers.

However I have to second that walking into a store and browsing what is on offer is still an enjoyable experience and makes me far more likely to pick things up that I either would never have found or never have glanced at through online sources. Online is good, but the way search engines and such work they go for popularist answers and aim to match what you've bought previous to what you are suggested to buy now. Thus newer or off- the wall or just lesser known publications can easily slip through the cracks; not to mention anything older that hasn't got a huge series of re-prints and a cult following.
 

Theophania Elliott

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@Overread - I hear what you say, and I agree (especially about home deliveries). But the choice available is simultaneously the advantage and disadvantage of online - with millions of books to choose from, you either go random, or you go specific. Either way, you're likely to miss stuff that you might have found at a bookshop. On the other hand, with a bookshop, you're entirely dependent on what the bookshop staff think you ought to read. If they don't stock it, you've got no chance of even knowing it exists. Even without mentioning indie authors (who have terrible trouble getting into bookshops), I found David Weber by chance - book 3 of the Honor Harrington series, but none of the others, was somewhat randomly available in W.H. Smiths. The rest I had to get online, because as far as I remember, no bookshop stocked them.

On the other hand, I've encountered some weird and wonderful stuff on Amazon, or other online bookshops.

Where I get a lot of book recommendations now is Goodreads - I'm a member of one group where they do a 'pick it for me' thing every month - you recommend three books to someone else, and they do the same for you. I've encountered books I would never have picked up before that way - sometimes successfully, sometimes not. But you pays your money and you takes your choice...
 

RX-79G

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I think there would be howls of outrage!

The difference between books and cars is that 'certified pre-owned' with cars actually has some value to the consumer, as they know they're getting a car that is second-hand (therefore cheaper than new) but is certified to have the same freedom from defects as a new car and, presumably, a similar guarantee.

Books are different. About the most technical check you have to do on a second-hand book to make sure it's good quality is flip through it to make sure all the pages are still there, and nobody's put anything unpleasant between any of them. There's no need for any sort of manufacturer's guarantee because with a book, what you see is what you get. If the cover's torn and half the pages are missing, you just don't buy it.

With ebooks, though, it might be a possibility: in general, you don't get to inspect the whole of your ebook before purchase, just the first 10% or so (though you do have time to return it if it's not to your liking). So if a second-hand market in ebooks ever arises (e.g. with blockchain technology), some kind of certified-second-hand market might work.

I don't think anyone is declaring that 'print is dead' - if they are, they're wrong. Print will be with us for a while yet, although I think it's declining. It's important to note, though, that the second-hand market is completely dependent on the first-hand market. If people who buy books new stop buying paper books, then there will be no second-hand books filtering through. It'll take a while to really kick in, but one wonders exactly which books second-hand book-readers read. I mean, if you want to read Pride and Prejudice you're probably going to be a OK for a while yet - my mother-in-law picked up a first edition in a second-hand book shop for a few pence, so that had obviously been knocking around for 150 years or so. But if you want to read the latest sci-fi or fantasy? You'll be less lucky, especially if you're after new releases in genres that are going heavily digital.
I think you may have misunderstood my post:

I don't think publishers should "certify" used books like cars, but I do think they need to recognize and try to tie into the used market instead of ignoring it. And I will leave that to the publishing industry to figure out. However, if market research showed that a certain softcover book was popular in the used market, then a hard cover reissue might be in order, for instance. I would assume they would have a much better idea than that, though.

The electronic used market is called "pirating", and everyone from iTunes to Microsoft is going to do everything in their power to make sure that any piece of encoded information is one-use-only and attached permanently to an account or device. Anything else is anarchy when you're talking about products that can be instantaneously copied and transmitted.
 

Theophania Elliott

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I think you may have misunderstood my post:

I don't think publishers should "certify" used books, but I do think they need to recognize and try to tie into the used market instead of ignoring it. And I will leave that to the publishing industry to figure out. However, if market research showed that a certain softcover book was popular in the used market, then a hard cover reissue might be in order, for instance. I'm not a publisher - they can figure out where money can be made in that market instead of ignoring it.

The electronic used market is called "pirating", and everyone from iTunes to Microsoft is going to do everything in their power to make sure that any piece of encoded information is one-use-only and attached permanently to an account or device. Anything else is anarchy when you're talking about products that can be instantaneously copied and transmitted.

Re publishers and the second-hand market: why do people buy second-hand? Unless it's a book that's out of print, presumably they do so because the second-hand book is cheaper than the new one. After all, if a book is in print, the new version is often easier to get hold of than second hand. So if people are buying second-hand, it's not necessarily true that they'd buy a new version - especially not an expensive hardback. However, I don't have any research at my fingertips that provides any data one way or the other.

And regarding second-hand ebooks - I was talking about blockchain technology, which is what's used for bitcoins; banks are investigating using the tech for various things. Apparently Mastercard is already working with it (don't ask me what they are using, or intend to use it, for). It's a way of transferring ownership of digital goods, without leaving a usable copy behind. Obviously that's vital for a digital currency, but it could also be used to enable a reliable and legal second-hand market in digital goods - the idea is that each copy is registered to a person; when you sell it, you deregister yourself and register the next person (or they register themselves). Any copy left on your computer becomes unusable. Thus, there is only one usable copy in existence at any time.

It will be interesting to see how that works out: on one hand, one can see that tech originators might want to keep people buying 'new'. On the other, a legal second-hand market might help to defeat piracy.
 

RX-79G

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Re publishers and the second-hand market: why do people buy second-hand? Unless it's a book that's out of print, presumably they do so because the second-hand book is cheaper than the new one. After all, if a book is in print, the new version is often easier to get hold of than second hand. So if people are buying second-hand, it's not necessarily true that they'd buy a new version - especially not an expensive hardback. However, I don't have any research at my fingertips that provides any data one way or the other.

And regarding second-hand ebooks - I was talking about blockchain technology, which is what's used for bitcoins; banks are investigating using the tech for various things. Apparently Mastercard is already working with it (don't ask me what they are using, or intend to use it, for). It's a way of transferring ownership of digital goods, without leaving a usable copy behind. Obviously that's vital for a digital currency, but it could also be used to enable a reliable and legal second-hand market in digital goods - the idea is that each copy is registered to a person; when you sell it, you deregister yourself and register the next person (or they register themselves). Any copy left on your computer becomes unusable. Thus, there is only one usable copy in existence at any time.

It will be interesting to see how that works out: on one hand, one can see that tech originators might want to keep people buying 'new'. On the other, a legal second-hand market might help to defeat piracy.
People buy second hand because, in part, Amazon has made an equivalency of it by offering to tell you about new and used secondary market books every time you browse a new one.

As far as blockchain and other similar technologies, I don't understand how the industry could possibly embrace such a technology when we all understand that there is no such thing as "used" software. Our whole economy is based on obsolescence, and the nature of value is tied to that. What is the value of something that is neither "new from the manufacturer" nor "worn" in any way? It would just kill publishers of all types if that happened, unless they sabotaged the effort with some other form of planned obsolescence, like throwing out formats constantly for "better" ones.

True electronic money is the same problem - you can't tax what doesn't have to pass through official channels, so government isn't going to allow it.
 

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