Home » Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Ebooks » Ebooks vs. Real Books

Ebooks vs. Real Books

22 July 2011


Source: Online Printing – PrintingChoice.com

PG says interesting information plus a great way to publicize yourself.

UPDATE: Several attentive readers have pointed out anomalies in the data used for the infographics. PG was probably distracted by the pictures. He finds it inordinately easy to overlook numbers, particularly in his bank statement. Over some time period at some location in the world, hardcover books were up 40%, but not recently in the U.S. and Europe.

Here are the latest sales data for American publishers through May, 2011, from The Association of American Publishers:

Category 2011 YTD 2010 YTD Percent Change
Adult Paperback $473.1 Million $576.4M -17.9%
E-Books $389.7M $149.8M +160.1%
Adult Hardcover $386.2M $504.1M -23.4%
Religious Books $252.5M $227.8M +10.8%
Children’s/YA Hardcover $198.1M $211.4M -6.3%
Adult Mass Market $185.1M $264.8M -30.1%
Children’s/YA Paperback $163.5M $192.5M -15.1%
Downloaded Audiobooks $36.5M $31.2M +17.0%

Link to the rest at The Association of American Publishers

Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Ebooks

18 Comments to “Ebooks vs. Real Books”

  1. Here’s what I take from the “BUT this includes self-published e-books which are as low as $.99”: Let us POD hardcovers and we’ll help that figure out, too. 🙂

  2. I don’t care for the terminology. Ebooks ARE real books, thank you.

    • Margaret, think of it in terms of Real Estate versus investments. Your investments may be worth as much or more than your house, but your house exists in real space.

    • I dunno, I can see this. Ebooks are definitely real *stories* (or real data/history/whatever for nonfiction) but I’m not holding a thing with a cover and pages. I’m holding my iPad. So arguably it’s not a “real” book. (And they used quotes around “real” as well, so they’re aware of the arguability on the subject.)

  3. Good comparison. Although it baffles my mind why authors, known or unknown, would go to publishers to publish eBooks to make less royalty, while the publishers will keep more of the profits? What are the publishers bringing to the table in the eBook market? If not better marketing then what? Authors’ fears will keep publishers in business.

    • Speaking as an author with a publisher, I appreciate the investment Imajin Books has made in me. They’ve covered the upfront costs of design, editing, book-trailer, and advertising. I benefit from their contacts to get reviews from professional reviewers. Whenever they advertise the company, they are also advertising me.

      I admire the courage of self-published authors to put themselves out there. I’ve been a small-press publisher myself so I know the work involved. I’m glad Imajin Books has my back.


    • Reasons to go to a publisher (which may or may not be good reasons, depending on the author):

      * Don’t have to worry about finding an artist or photographer and paying them out of one’s own pocket.

      * Don’t have to do the bookkeeping quite so much — one’s publisher and/or agent sends tidy paperwork that one can plug into one’s tax program.

      * Want to get a physical book into bookstores, at least briefly. (I believe Ms. Rusch has likened this to advertising; you get less money overall, but that’s like paying for a commercial…)

      * Don’t want to pay for a copy-editor and can’t do the job oneself.

      * Can’t fight with one’s word-processing program sufficiently to format according to requirements for Kindle or Smashwords. Alternatively, have a word-processing program that is not Word, and cannot obtain a reasonable copy of Word.

      * Computers Are Hard. Spreadsheets Are Scary.

      * Advertising budget is bigger for the publisher, and author feels that the publisher will be more able to organize such things.

      * Publisher is actually a smaller one and has more favorable deals for author; they’ll still be keeping more of the profits than self-publishing, but it’s more of a fair split _and_ they provide the cover, editing, and physical book placement. (From the outside, Baen.com looks pretty good. I’m not one of their authors, though, so I can’t be 100% certain.)

      I think the key part is Getting Physical Books In Bookstores. Which is something that publishers are going to be having a harder and harder time doing, but it’s still a factor — and there are still a lot of people who don’t own, or won’t even touch, an e-reader. (This may change in another few years. Dunno.)

  4. I have to point out that the author royalty of the hardcover in this example is 15%. Most hardcover contracts have scaling royalties, starting at 10-12%, with the royalty usually going to 15% only after a LARGE number of copies have been sold. I’m also not sure where they got the figure for the author royalties in the e-book example. I can venture a pretty informed guess that most authors don’t see a royalty this high on their electronic book sales… And hardcover book sales are UP 40%? That’s not what the American Association of Publishers figures say:

    Category 2011 YTD 2010 YTD Percent Change
    Adult Paperback $473.1 Million $576.4M -17.9%
    E-Books $389.7M $149.8M +160.1%
    Adult Hardcover $386.2M $504.1M -23.4%
    Religious Books $252.5M $227.8M +10.8%
    Children’s/YA Hardcover $198.1M $211.4M -6.3%
    Adult Mass Market $185.1M $264.8M -30.1%
    Children’s/YA Paperback $163.5M $192.5M -15.1%
    Downloaded Audiobooks $36.5M $31.2M +17.0%

    From their website at http://www.publishers.org/press/41/

    So, just saying this doesn’t seem to be a particularly well-informed ad, no matter how ‘interesting’ it is. 🙂

  5. Ebooks are only 3-5% of publisher sales? If you include all types, fiction and non-fiction, I can see that. Fiction, though? No way. Not anymore (and not since some point in 2010).

    • According to the AAP, the percentage of sales for ebooks from major publishers is in the high teens. Of course, that number ignores all small press and self published ebooks, which are a significant but basically immeasurable percentage of the overall ebook market…

      According to AAP data, that 3-5% figure hasn’t been correct for over a year now.

  6. John Brantingham

    Of course, selling ebooks would make a much larger profit for the author because no one can really borrow your book, so anyone who’s interested has to buy new. In the long run there’s a great profit potential there. On the other hand, print books help to raise an author’s profile by sitting in the library and being passed around.

  7. According to KKR – publishers are claiming 3-5% but making a hell of a lot more than that.

  8. These numbers may be a bit off when comparing ebooks to “print” books. What is most off is the $13.99 price of the ebook. Yes, there are still ebooks sold for $13 and higher, but we’re seeing an increasing trend toward lower pricing of ebooks. And that’s for traditional publishers, like Imajin Books (our ebooks retail for under $5), and indie authors who are self-publishing.

    As a publisher, I wish my profits were as high as your example. 🙂 For Imajin Books, ebooks are our #1 priority, with print a subsidiary right. Ebooks represent more than 90% of our total sales.

    Cheryl Tardif,
    Publisher, Imajin Books

  9. Hey PG,

    I was wondering where they got the stat for hardcovers being up 40%. From the latest AAP figures, hardcover is down big on last year – with a 23.5% fall in the first 5 months of this year compared to the same period last year (all print categories fell bar religious books).

    Ebooks are up 160.1% in the same period.

    (Source: http://publishers.org/press/41/ )

    And with regard to e-readers, I think a better comparison is the one that Joe Konrath made when he said that an e-reader can cost as little as four hardbacks.

    Interesting though. I’m just feeling nitpicky, and that hardcover stat really stuck out.


    • David – I’m guessing the stats in the infographic are a little outdated. The listed sources for the second infographic include the Guardian, so, the designer was relying on non-US data for something there. It’s also not clear what time periods were compared, e.g. quarter-to-quarter growth vs. YTD 2010-2011 compared.

      You’re right about the AAP showing hard cover sales tanking. I meant to blog about that, but couldn’t find the original release on the AAP site and went on to other things.

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