Home » Ebook Borrowing/Lending, Ebooks, Libraries » Libraries may be contributing to decline in e-book sales

Libraries may be contributing to decline in e-book sales

9 January 2016

From Greenwich Time:

The e-book industry was expected to topple the printing industry in much the same way the Internet has revolutionized print news — quickly and with little mercy.

And for a while it seemed like that would be the case, but a slew of new data from 2015 indicates that is far from reality as the e-book industry is trending downward and print sales are enjoying a resurgence.

According to Forbes, the global e-book industry generated $8.4 billion in revenue in 2013, compared to $53.9 billion in global print revenue. In 2014, e-book sales plateaued and in 2015 declined across the board.

 Among the reasons attributed to the decline in e-book sales are a reduction in the number of first-time e-reader purchasers — many people already have one — and an increase in the price of e-books. The five major publishers — Penguin/Random House, Macmillan, Simon and Schuster, Harper Collins and Hachette — have implemented a new pricing mechanism, increasing the cost of many e-books from $9.99 to $14.99.

Barbara Ormerod-Glynn, director at the Greenwich Library, said one reason sales could be on the decline is that checking out e-books from the library has become so much easier in recent years. Greenwich Library uses the Overdrive digital library, implemented by public libraries across the country, to allow users to download library books directly to their e-readers. The library even hosted a workshop Wednesday to help people who received e-readers as holiday gifts learn how to use them and check out books through the Overdrive system.

. . . .

“Use of e-books in our library have continued to increase and the reason that people use e-books and why they’re becoming more popular is, first of all, you can access them from our downloadable library 24/7,” Ormerod-Glynn said. “The library does not have to be open for you to put a hold on or check out an e-book. Also e-books were first introduced to the market, it was easier to download from Amazon than from the library. But Overdrive has really improved access and library staff at reference desks are comfortable helping our patrons no matter what device they bring in.”

Link to the rest at Greenwich Time

Ebook Borrowing/Lending, Ebooks, Libraries

24 Comments to “Libraries may be contributing to decline in e-book sales”

  1. My limited understanding of this is that the Big 5 absolutely loathe the idea of distributing e-books via libraries. As in, forcing libraries to re-purchase books after they circulate several times, charging an absurd price for the right to distribute files in the first place, and so on. IIRC one of the Big 5 or a subsidiary (Penguin?) actually placed so many restrictions on e-book distribution it was impossible for libraries support them for a time.

  2. Nope.

    This piece has the same problem as the NYTimes article from earlier this year. It assumes that the AAP stats represent all of the market:


    Basically both articles have no data to back up the claims.

    • …nor do they know the magic numbers Bezos knows re the sales of self-published ebooks.

    • They have data, it’s just that it applies to only big-publishing e-books, not self-pub in any way, shape, or form. Which is understandable. A lot of people have that sort of myopia whereby the publishing industry is the only source of “real” books.

      Ironically, it’s almost irrelevant to this article, because you don’t get many self-pub e-books in most libraries either. If you remove self-published e-books from both sides of the equation, it does tend to make things balance out.

      • okay, so let’s ignore self-pub books (a mistake, because consumers are still buying them).

        The premise of this article is still arguably wrong because it is confusing the effect with the cause.

        Increased library usage is not the cause of lower ebook sales, it is an effect of high ebook prices. I use the library more now than I used to, but that is an effect of the high ebook prices.

        Similarly, I buy fewer ebooks because the prices are higher, and not because I am using the library.

  3. The problem with the article is that there has BEEN no decline in ebooks sales.

    • Well, actually the article is on point as far as it goes. It’s just that it doesn’t go far enough.

      There has been a decline in traditionally-published e-book sales. And given that the vast majority of e-books in libraries are trad-pub, the most you can accuse the article of is leaving out the prefix “traditionally-published” before its descriptions of the library e-books and their sales.

  4. …but a slew of new data from 2015 indicates that is far from reality as the e-book industry is trending downward…


    • More like over pricing your ebooks and agency games can reduce sales for those publishers stupid enough to do it.

      Even the Harry Potter people know to price their ebooks under $10! 😉

  5. Libraries may be contributing to decline in e-book sales


    Seriously, these guys are definitely lacking in credibility. They raised prices and, when they started to lose market share, claimed the market itself was shrinking. Then they see an increase in library downloads (because all those eReaders aren’t just piling up in landfills) and assume that libraries are the reason for lost sales, not idiotic pricing.

    • It’s the pricing. I was happy to spend 5K a year in my money-flush years. Not so much after the last recession. So, with their increase in ebook pricing, I am going to renew my library card and, well, fewer new ebook buys from trad pubs for me. I’ll borrow the print, if I must. Don’t care. But I ain’t paying the increased prices.

    • Library loans and high prices are both downward pressures on retail sales. Both can operate at the same time.

      • True, but library loans have been around forever. One could make the case that the higher ePrices, intended to drive us back to print, are instead driving readers to libraries and indies.

        • Sure. Library loans have been a downward pressure on retail sales forever. Increased library availability of eBooks increases the downward pressure.

          Higher prices can easily increase library loans, drive some to print, drive others to independent authors, and send others to KU.

  6. We intend to be middle-aged/senior cheapskates, even though we’ve had so many spendthrift years. I was bemoaning the cost of a particular ebook lately on FB, and a friend who recommended it to me as her fave read of 2015 said,”I got it from the library.”

    I plan to rediscover my library system, since those 12 and 14 dollar ebooks are way over my “what I’ll pay for a novel in ebook version” boundary.

    • What I’ve noticed is that I no longer stock up on the expensive ebooks I used to buy the moment I stumbled across them. I make myself finish the book I’m reading before moving on to the next one. I’m a slow reader so sometimes that can take a long, long time.

  7. This is a Nonsense Meme that trad pub will never get tired of. “You see, our market share is shrinking so EVERYONE must be down.”

    A total inability or unwillingness to acknowledge that independent authors are using pricing and aggressive promotions to steal a huge chunk of the market they used to have all to themselves.

    It would be like media outlets seriously accepting a claim by Blackberry that mobile device must be shrinking because their sales are down. “Android? What’s an Android?” 😉

  8. My favourite authors used to be auto-buys but hard cover prices for eBooks and, with geo restrictions, having only the UK edition available at an inflated price means I go to the library. Being expected to pay a minimim of NZ$5 more for a UK edition or a hard cover price means a lost sale as the eBooks are too expensive. There are plenty of new-to-me authors out there for me to discover with reasonable pricing and DRM free eBooks.

    • I agree with Shelley. The world should be open to buyers from everywhere. Instead the old mindless restrictions that cut out countries like NZ are creeping back in along with poor exchange rates for currencies like the Euro and UK Pound. I never forget reading on the back of my favourite books (not to be sold in Australasia/Canada/The British Isles) etc I wonder where we were supposed to get books from? Not surprising that we developed our own publishing industry.
      Seems to me that discriminatory collusive division of the world up into publishing sales markets and non-markets by the Big 5 is going on again and small countries without clout are going to be ignored as markets (again) Just like Vevo and YouTube frequently inform me pompously that I’m not allowed to view that video because of where I live.

  9. Of course, this so-called decline (primarily trad-pubbed authors) has absolutely nothing to do with $15 e-books purveyed by Trad Pub.

    And, of course redux, the execrable self-pubbed hoi polloi e-books are not worthy of any conserdation in this teary whine.

    Yeah, it’s all the libraries’ fault.

    • Actually, that’s one thing you can’t accuse the source article of ignoring.

      Among the reasons attributed to the decline in e-book sales are a reduction in the number of first-time e-reader purchasers — many people already have one — and an increase in the price of e-books. The five major publishers — Penguin/Random House, Macmillan, Simon and Schuster, Harper Collins and Hachette — have implemented a new pricing mechanism, increasing the cost of many e-books from $9.99 to $14.99.

      And it goes on to propose that library e-books could be one reason for the decline—not the only or even the main reason.

      • I have almost completely abandoned my Kindle for an all-purpose tablet and phone. No decrease in eBook reading but fewer trad-pubbed ebooks, more indie and library eBooks.

        That could account for eReader sales decline. The day of the eReader may be fading, but ebooks are still ascendant. It’s plausible to me.

  10. I almost exclusively buy e-books. Our county library has a really great selection of e-books. Since I refuse to spend over $10 for an e-book, I’ve been using the library a lot to get the latest from my favorite authors. So I’m definitely buying less e-books. That being said the only way for publishers to get back my business would be to lower their prices. Should the big publishing houses decide not to sell to libraries, they would lose the sale entirely. So really big publishing have only themselves to blame for lower sales of e-books.

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