From Jane Friedman:
1. We’ll need to learn how to market books in a mobile-reading future.
A Wall Street Journal trend piece, “The Rise of Phone Reading” (Aug. 12, 2015), discusses new research from Nielsen showing a growing number of people read on their phones—leading to the conclusion that the future of digital reading will be on the phone, not tablets or e-reading devices.
A range of publishers, authors, and retailers—including Amazon and Apple—went on the record to share impressions of what the data (and anecdata) means. Some of the implications:
- Apple and the iBookstore benefit greatly from mobile reading growth—for example, Kindle customers are increasingly reading books through their respective iPhone apps;
- Publishers are thinking about phone display when designing covers;
- Marketing for mobile readers means focusing more on email, Facebook, and websites—or anything that’s most often accessed through phones;
- Emerging marketing strategies focus on places where people might download something while in transit (airports, hotels, and trains).
All this isn’t to say that print is going away. In fact, Judith Curr of Atria was quoted saying that the future of reading will be on both the phone and in print. But such trends may inform how your next marketing plan comes together, and they may also call to mind the increased sales of digital audio . . . .
. . . .
4. Sorry, but print book sales aren’t surging.
No doubt you’ve already seen the New York Times headline “E-Book Sales Slip, and Print Is Far from Dead” and encountered lots of speculation as to whether that story is accurate.
Not really. Hardcover sales are down more than 10 percent this year. As Michael Cader pointed out in Publishers Lunch, “Print sales are down more [than ebook sales] in percentage terms, and down more in aggregate dollars.” Across the board, overall sales volume hasn’t changed much: in 2015, print sales are up 2 percent, just as they were in 2014, according to Nielsen Bookscan data.
Also, Barnes & Noble (B&N) is not exactly flourishing in the way you would hope if print books are making a comeback. Since August 2015, their stock has dropped 67 percent. In 2013, the bookseller said they planned to close about one-third of their 689 stores over the next decade. Industry insiders speculate that, over time, shelf space or title selection may decrease at B&N.
But aren’t independent bookstore sales increasing—isn’t that a bright spot? Independent bookstore sales have not made up for the declines sparked by the Borders bankruptcy in 2011, despite positive media attention on their resurgence. Also, while American Booksellers Association (ABA) membership has grown, there are lots of ways to be a member of ABA: you can be a used bookstore, a book fair organizer, a mail-order catalog, etc. So take those “increases” with a huge grain of salt. Instead, focus on the shift taking place on where print books are sold, and keep your eye on Amazon’s share of the print book market.
Link to the rest at Jane Friedman and thanks to Nate for the tip.
PG agrees that printed books won’t go away. However, as they’re purchased by fewer and fewer people, they’ll become more expensive, which, in turn, will mean they’re purchased by even fewer and fewer people. At some point, printed books will migrate to museums and become tourist attractions.
In the late 1880s, New York City was occupied by 1,206,299 people, and about 170,000 horses for transportation. (Yes, there was a serious manure problem and, unfortunately, sometimes horses died in the streets. In 1880, New York City removed 15,000 dead horses from the street.)
Today, according to PG’s quick-and-dirty research, it appears that New York City contains 220 privately-owned horses, all of which pull carriages for the pleasure of tourists. (PG iPhone photo below) The New York Police Department owns 60 horses. Perhaps some billionaire keeps horses in the city, but PG didn’t see anything about that.
Other than carriage horses for tourists and the NYPD, horse ownership within thirty miles of Manhattan is effectively limited to the wealthy and horses are for use primarily for recreation, not means of transportation.
In PG’s ostentatiously humble opinion, printed books will follow a similar path. In the future, undoubtedly tourists will still visit the New York Public Library to look at the printed books, but that will be for their novelty.