Big Publishing

The Invisible Growth in the Industry…or WYSIATI

19 September 2014

From Publishing Perspectives:

WYSIATI, an acronym borrowed from Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, means that “what you see is is all there is.” It’s something akin to a baby’s missing sense of object permanence: if it’s not in front of you, it doesn’t exist. This phenomenon would account for why [Judith] Appelbaum, a keen and practical observer of the publishing business, believes that the biggest change in the industry is something that has gone largely unnoticed.

. . . .

The introduction of important new digital formats notwithstanding, Appelbaum firmly believes that the most momentous change taking place right now in publishing is among small, independent, and self-publishers. “The enormous growth in small publishers and self-publishers began decades ago and has escalated enormously with digital opportunities.” Despite the existence of this growth, Appelbaum is convinced it is mostly undetected by the industry as a whole. “Its impact is almost as invisible as it used to be,” she says.

Appelbaum explains why this surge in indie publishing is mostly unnoticed. “Circling back to BISG, one goal from the beginning was to get some reliable numbers about what was happening. That’s a brave goal and it’s still a goal, but those figures still do not include enormous amounts of activity by small and self-publishers. They’re not there because a lot of very profitable smaller publishers sell either partly or exclusively outside the trade and nobody counts those sales. Nobody can count them. The people who might count them don’t care enough to count them because it’s not their main business.”

. . . .

Appelbaum explains that many self-published authors, whose sales may be significant, don’t report to anyone who’s compiling industry statistics. In addition, she says, many sales by established publishers into the gift market and other non-trade outlets go unreported. “BookScan figures are the best we have but it’s missing a whole lot. And Amazon never tells anybody anything and there’s a lot going on there.”

. . . .

As to what happens next, Appelbaum speculates: “What I think is that this segment is going to continue to grow, and I suspect that that visible segment is going to continue to be unable to see it and is going to wonder why what they see as their whole industry is flat.” With digital production and distribution making books “easier to get,” Appelbaum anticipates a continuing publishing surge, but one that will remain under the radar.

. . . .

As for the retail supply chain, Appelbaum is watching that as well. “I’m interested to see, and probably everybody is, how Amazon’s, shall we say, dominance is going to develop. But I wouldn’t hazard a guess except that I don’t think it’s going to kill the industry. I remember very well when B&N was evil incarnate, deciding which books got published and deciding on the covers, and if they didn’t want a book it was dead, dead, dead. That didn’t last forever!

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives and thanks to Tina for the tip.

Has Authors United revised its letter to Amazon’s board?

19 September 2014

From author and TPV regular Laura Kirwan:

Anybody who’s involved in the publishing industry is well aware of the kerfuffle over Authors United’s ridiculous letter to Amazon’s board.

The thing that really riled people was this particular passage:

. . . .

Amazon has every right to refuse to sell consumer goods in response to a pricing disagreement with a wholesaler. We all appreciate discounted razor blades and cheaper shoes. But books are not consumer goods. Books cannot be written more cheaply, nor can authors be outsourced to China. Books are not toasters or televisions.

. . . .

This all happened on Monday, which is when the above-referenced Business Insider article was written.  And I looked at a bunch of other articles and they cite this wording. There was definitely a reference to China.

So this morning, here’s the same reference from the Authors United website:

But books are not mere consumer goods. Books cannot be written more cheaply, nor can authors be outsourced to another country. (emphasis added.)

So, either EVERYBODY who quoted the bit about China got it wrong, or Authors United scrubbed it out of their letter.

Not that it made it any less offensive. Now it appears they’re slamming all non-American authors. Only books written in the USA count? Well, no of course not. The Brits are fine, and Europe in general is probably acceptable.

But what about India? South America? Ahem . . . China? Did these fools really intend to expand an insult made to Chinese authors to all authors writing in somehow unacceptable countries? Seriously?

. . . .

And no understanding, apparently, about how the internet works. “Nobody will be able to access the original language, right? A quick little line edit and we can reclaim the moral high ground!”

Link to the rest at Laura Kirwan

Here’s a link to Laura Kirwan’s books

Malcolm Gladwell criticises Amazon in Hachette dispute

19 September 2014

From The Financial Times:

Amazon’s dispute with Hachette publishing house is threatening the loyalty of Amazon’s customers and sabotaging its relations with authors, according to Malcolm Gladwell, the best-selling writer of The Tipping Point and Outliers.

The online retailer’s aggressive tactics, which involve delaying shipments of Hachette books or declining to make others available for purchase, are “a violation of their best interests”, said Mr Gladwell, a Hachette author.

. . . .

In an interview for Saturday’s FT Weekend Magazine, Mr Gladwell said he was “agnostic” on the business dispute but disliked becoming a “pawn”. He said: “I thought Amazon wanted to be nice to me. I thought their endgame was to woo authors. So, then why are they sabotaging us?”

. . . .

The company also acts as a platform for the sale of self-published books, potentially challenging the historic role of publishers, whose services to authors include paying advances and publicising their work, as well as publishing and distributing books.

Mr Gladwell dismissed the idea that successful authors could cut out traditional publishers in the digital era. “I hesitate to weigh in on this most sensitive occasion. I have a very nice arrangement with my publisher,” he said.

“The truth is the relationship between an author and a publisher is not set in stone. It’s a relationship. You can structure it however you wish. And if circumstances change and you think that the publisher needs to do more or less than they’ve done in the past then you should just alter your business arrangement. These things aren’t givens.”

Link to the rest at The Financial Times (which has an unpredictable paywall. Search Google using the title of this post and you should get in) and thanks to SMH for the tip.

PG suggests that if Gladwell didn’t want to be a pawn, he shouldn’t have signed with a company like Hachette in the first place.

Authors United vs. Amazon: a Primer

16 September 2014

From author Jen Rasmussen:

I strongly suggest to you all that you read the latest letter from Authors United to Amazon’s Board of Directors, because seriously, it is just the very cutest thing. My favorite is “books are not consumer goods,” but the cry that traditional publishing and traditionally published authors like themselves are crucial, because editors (and also America), paired with the error on the very first line, is pretty good too. Over a thousand people signed that letter, and it claims that every one of them read it first. So I guess they’re right. They really do need editors.

But, I know my peeps are busy. Maybe you don’t have time to read it. Because you’re working, like, day jobs, and writing books and stuff. So to help you stay informed within the confines of your busy schedule, I’m going to go ahead and sum up this whole kerfuffle for you.

. . . .

AUTHORS UNITED: We’re really mad because you’re blocking sales of Hachette titles!

AMAZON: We’re not blocking sales of Hachette titles. Go buy them from our site right now.

AUTHORS UNITED: Well, our sales are down.

AMAZON: Then maybe some of you clowns should stop urging your readers to boycott us? (shrug)

. . . .

AUTHORS UNITED: You can’t just go charging the price Hachette put on the cover, are you nuts? Nobody is going to buy books at that price! YOU OWE US DISCOUNTS! WE ARE ENTITLED TO DISCOUNTS! Also, we have never commented on the price of books.

AMAZON: But… isn’t complaining about discounts kind of like commenting on the price of books?

AUTHORS UNITED: Books are not consumer goods!

AMAZON: Then why are we discussing discounting and warehousing and selling them?

Link to the rest at Storyrook Rd.

David Streitfeld is Dangerous and Disingenuous

16 September 2014

From Hugh Howey:

David Streitfeld of the New York Times has now cemented himself as the blabbering mouthpiece for the New York publishing cartel, and while he is making a fool of himself for those in the know, he is a dangerous man for the impression he makes on his unsuspecting readers.

. . . .

A dishonest man with access to a pulpit is like a poisoner with access to a well. David Streitfeld is a dishonest man. He is a reporter with an agenda.

. . . .

Let’s look at all that David Streitfeld gets wrong or deliberately misrepresents so we fully understand just how either dishonest or ignorant he is being about this Amazon / Hachette dispute:

After six months of being largely cut off from what is by far the largest bookstore in the country, many Hachette writers are fearful and angry.

Largely cut off? If I go to Amazon right now, all of Hachette’s books are available for purchase. The only books I can’t get are the ones that aren’t even out yet. Amazon removed pre-order buttons from books it may not have the ability to sell once they release. There is no “largely cut off” here. None at all. But readers may suspect this is the case if all they hear is David Streitfeld’s propaganda.

Check out this doozy:

In the Harris Poll of corporate reputations, [Amazon] once again took top honors this year. But that prestige is taking a bit of a beating as the fight with Hachette drags on.

So, because of Amazon’s actions, they have fallen from first place to . . . first place? Where is David’s fact to buttress his opinion of a beating? Reporting that Amazon took top honors in a poll of corporate reputations, and then saying that this reputation is taking a battering without referencing anything at all, is worse reporting than you’ll find on my stupid little blog. David, your board should be ashamed of you.

The entire article, in fact, is a dishonest and forceful echoing of Preston’s letter, replete with threats of growing discord and plummeting prestige. While the letter to the board members will likely do nothing, Streitfeld’s salvo is another loud boom in the PR war where those with microphones get amplified and those with mere votes and voices are muted.

Link to the rest at Hugh Howey

Here’s a link to Hugh Howey’s books

Nonsense United

15 September 2014

From Joe Konrath:

And Authors United confirms that a group can indeed be less than the sum of its parts when it acts in such a blatantly stupid way. But, like any group of likeminded people bonded together by mutual ignorance, they can persuade the legacy media tools at the NYT and The Bookseller to run their biased propaganda without any counterpoints.

Fails all around.

Their recent letter almost isn’t worth fisking. Really. It’s so poorly done, such a flimsy, whiny argument, that a child could deconstruct it.

But I didn’t have a child available, so I did it.

. . . .

Dear [name],

We are writing to you in your capacity as a director of Amazon.com, Inc. As we all know, Amazon is involved in contract negotiations with several media and publishing companies, including Hachette. About six months ago, to enhance its bargaining position, Amazon began sanctioning Hachette authors’ books. These sanctions included refusing preorders, delaying shipping, reducing discounting, and using pop-up windows to cover authors’ pages and redirect buyers to non-Hachette books.

Didn’t take long for the BS to begin.

This began in January, not six months ago, because Hachette refused to negotiate with Amazon prior to their contract with Amazon expiring.

Amazon has had no contract with Hachette for several months. And yet it still sells Hachette titles, while under no obligation to do so.

Refusing preorders – Why should Amazon sell advanced copies of work when they might not be selling any Hachette titles in the future if an agreement can’t be reached?

Delaying shipping – Amazon has said they aren’t delaying shipping, they simply aren’t stocking Hachette titles. If Hachette wants faster shipping, they should get their titles to Amazon faster.

Reducing discounting – Oh noes! Amazon is selling books for the prices that Hachette sets!

Using pop-up windows – First I’ve heard of this, and the few minutes I took clicking on Hachette titles on Amazon failed to produce any results. But if it is true, let’s look at the big picture:

1. Should Amazon be allowed to do whatever it wants to on its own website? Sell what it wants to, for prices it wants to? Sell ad space if it wants to? Stock what it wants to? Ship how it wants to?

2. If a retailer isn’t behaving like the supplier wants it to behave, should the supplier fight for better terms? Leave? Negotiate in good faith? Capitulate?

For some reason, Authors United believes that publishers have the right to tell Amazon, Bezos, and the board of directors, how to run their store.

Now, the US has a history of third parties trying to intimidate retailers. But at least the mob did it effectively. Authors United seems to be using the intimidation tool of shame.

Shame doesn’t work. I know this for a fact, because I’ve repeatedly shamed Authors United signatories to stop their nonsense, and they haven’t.

But I’ll keep trying. And I won’t have to try very hard. Seriously, read on, it gets extremely humiliating.

. . . .

This is an obvious fact. We all have choices. Amazon chose to involve 2,500 Hachette authors and their books. It could end these sanctions tomorrow while continuing to negotiate. Amazon is undermining the ability of authors to support their families, pay their mortgages, and provide for their kids’ college educations. We’d like to emphasize that most of us are not Hachette authors, and our concern is founded on principle, rather than self-interest.

So now Amazon owes authors a living?

I’m amazed by the permeating sense of entitlement in this letter. These authors believe the system owes them. And I say this as someone who was at the mercy of legacy publishers for a decade. I know what it’s like to have my dreams, hopes, and finances screwed by the whims of a giant corporation.

But here’s the thing: I signed those one-sided, unconscionable publishing contracts. I went into them willingly. And when something better came along, I got the hell out.

Authors United, your gripe isn’t with Amazon. You didn’t sign a deal with Amazon. You can self-publish with Amazon right now and get preorders and fast shipping and price your books as you wish.

Your problem should be with Hachette. Hachette, who wants to keep ebook prices high, even as you lament Amazon’s lack of discounting. Hachette, who cares more about its part of the paper distribution oligopoly than it does about its authors. Hachette, who you HAVEN’T CONTACTED YET.

. . . .

Books are not toasters or televisions. Each book is the unique, quirky creation of a lonely, intense, and often expensive struggle on the part of a single individual, a person whose living depends on that book finding readers. This is the process Amazon is obstructing.

We, at Authors United, are better than people working in China. We’re better than people who make toasters and televisions.

We’re special snowflakes, unique and quirky, and the lonely, intense struggle we endure for the sake of ART is much more difficult than coal mining or waitressing or mechanical engineering or brain surgery or conservationism or rocket science.

If I ever reach this level of self-importance, I want someone to slap the shit out of me.

Seriously. Slap me until I shit all over myself. It would be less embarrassing than agreeing with the above Authors United paragraph.

When all you have to do to humiliate someone is hold up a mirror, it’s time to stop making public statements.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath

Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books

In Latest Volley Against Amazon, Hachette’s Writers Target Its Board

15 September 2014

From The New York Times:

Amazon is at war with Hachette, and it sometimes seems as if it has always been that way.

As a negotiating tool in the battle, which is over the price of e-books, Amazon is discouraging its customers from buying the publisher’s printed books. After six months of being largely cut off from what is by far the largest bookstore in the country, many Hachette writers are fearful and angry. So this week, they are trying a new tactic to get their work unshackled.

Authors United, a group of Hachette writers and their allies, is appealing directly to Amazon’s board. It is warning the board that the reputation of the retailer, and of the directors themselves, is at risk.

“Efforts to impede or block the sale of books have a long and ugly history,” reads a letter being posted to the group’s website on Monday morning. “Do you, personally, want to be associated with this?”

. . . .

“Since its founding, Amazon has been a highly regarded and progressive brand,” it says. “But if this is how Amazon continues to treat the literary community, how long will the company’s fine reputation last?”

. . . .

The letter warns the directors that the discontent might spread.

“Since its founding, Amazon has been a highly regarded and progressive brand,” it says. “But if this is how Amazon continues to treat the literary community, how long will the company’s fine reputation last?”

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Tom for the tip.

Writers as Casualties of Commerce

15 September 2014

From author James Scott Bell via Kill Zone:

Since 2009 or so, the so-called midlist at traditional publishing houses has dried up faster than a mud patch in the Serengeti. The bleached bones of writers who did not earn out are scattered around in random configuration.

. . . .

I’ve heard from many friends and colleagues about traditionally published writers––some who have had relationships with a house for a decade or more––seeing their advances drop to record lows, or not being offered another contract at all.

And then what? What happens to these foundering careers?

. . . .

I was gobsmacked last month when I read a post by [NYT bestselling author Eileen] Goudge about her travails as a casualty of commerce. She describes what happened to her and many other writers this way:

I know from my husband, the aviation geek, that when a plane goes into what’s called a death spiral, as it reaches a certain altitude and succumbs to the pull of gravity, it can’t pull out. The same holds true for authors: fewer orders results in smaller print runs, a smaller marketing budget and lackluster sales, then a smaller advance for your next title, and the vicious cycle continues. In short, you’ve entered the “death spiral.”

The cold, hard truth is this: If the sales figures for your last title weren’t impressive enough to get booksellers to order your next title in sufficient quantities to make an impact, you’re basically screwed. It doesn’t matter if your previous titles sold a combined six million copies worldwide. You’re only as good as your last sell-through.

What’s even more dispiriting is that you’re perceived as a “failure” by publishers when your sales haven’t dropped but aren’t growing. You become a flat line on a graph. The publisher loses interest and drops the ball, then your sales really do tank. Worse, your poor performance, or “track” as it’s known, is like toilet paper stuck to your shoe, following you wherever you go in trying to get a deal with another publisher.

Goudge details some of the things that happened to her, personal and corporate. One of them is fairly common: a key executive or editor who is your champion leaves or gets laid off or moves to another company. You become an “orphan” at the house and your books don’t get the attention they used to.

. . . .

A writer friend of hers told Goudge she should go indie. She resisted at first, but the friend simply asked, “What’s the alternative?”

So Eileen Goudge jumped into the indie waters, more than a bit nervous about it. But then discovered something wonderful:

My creative wellspring that’d been drying up, due to all the discouragement I’d received over the past few years, was suddenly gushing. An idea for a mystery series, something I’d long dreamed of writing, came to me during a walk on the beach in my hometown of Santa Cruz, California, where I lived before I moved to New York City. Why not set my mystery series in a fictional town resembling Santa Cruz? … I immediately got to work. I was on fire!

Goudge is pro enough, and has seen enough, to know that nothing is rock-solid certain in a writing career. But she concludes:

Was it worth it? Only time will tell. Meanwhile there it is, beating in my breast: that feathered thing called hope. Something I thought I’d lost, regained. Something to celebrate.

Link to the rest at Kill Zone and thanks to Anthea for the tip.

Here’s a link to James Scott Bell’s books

Amazon, Publishers, and Readers

12 September 2014

From Clay Shirkey via Medium.com:

In the current fight between Amazon and the publisher Hachette over the price of ebooks and print-on-demand rights, Amazon’s tactics are awful, the worst possible in fact: They are denying readers access to books, removing pre-order options and slowing delivery of titles published by Hachette. Amazon’s image as a business committed to connecting readers to books is shredded by this sort of hostage-taking. The obvious goal for readers in should be to punish anyone using us as leverage.

This skirmish will end, though, and when it does, we’ll be left with the larger questions of what the landscape of writing and reading will look like in the English-speaking world. On those questions, we should be backing Amazon, not because different principles are at stake, but because the same principle — Whose actions will benefit the reader? — leads to different conclusions. Many of the people rightly enraged at Amazon’s mistreatment of customers don’t understand how their complaint implicates the traditional model of publishing and selling as well.

. . . .

[I]f your worry is market manipulation, the publishing cartel we have today has has already created decidedly non-hypothetical harms.

Back in 2007, when publishers began selling large numbers of books in digital format, they used digital rights management (DRM) to lock their books to a particular piece of hardware, Amazon’s new Kindle. DRM is designed to transfer pricing power from content owners to hardware vendors. The publishers clearly assumed they could hand Amazon consolidated control without ever having to conspire with one another, and that Amazon would reward them by passing cost-savings back as inflated profits. When Amazon instead decided to side with the customer, passing the savings on as reduced price, they panicked, and started looking around for an alternative conspirator.

Starting in 2009, five of the six biggest publishers colluded with Apple to re-inflate ebook prices.

. . . .

For all the worries about a future where Justice has to investigate Amazon, nothing that company has done comes close to conspiring against their customers. Coll concedes that these publishers did, in fact, break the law, but excuses them on the grounds that had they not colluded, they might make less money.

To defend this conclusion, Coll commits himself to an odd hypothesis: “There is no evidence that high retail book prices today discourage reading.” Set aside that fact that such a statement would contradict everything we know about the effect of price on human behavior; the book industry’s own practice produces just such evidence—the market for paperbacks. If prices didn’t deflect demand, there would be no bump in sales when the paperback appears. Instead, there is just such a bump, and for popular books, it is accompanied by a separate marketing campaign, designed to bring out the very customers previously discouraged by the high cost of the hardback.

. . . .

Although Hachette’s CEO recently claimed “The invention of mass-market paperbacks was great for all”, the real story is one of co-optation. When paperback publishers were independent, prices fell for the first two decades of the new format. Agitated publishers worried that the new format “could undermine the whole structure of publishing.” They finally figured out how to restore that structure in the early 1960s, through industry-wide consolidation. Over the next two decades, hardback publishers bought up the competition and increased paperback prices by almost 300%, while delaying their publication for a year or more.

All this had the effect of degrading paperbacks as a substitute for hardbacks. The industry’s idea of co-existence looks like a reduction in competition rather than a response to it. The same dynamics are playing out today. The big publishers complain about the Kindle, but they could create a competitive market for ebook readers tomorrow morning, by simply publishing without DRM (as Tor, O’Reilly, Baen and other publishers currently do.) This would make digital distribution more attractive, though, which is the last thing they want.

. . . .

As with Coll’s denial of the basic facts of the market, Packer poses his question about the fate of “books” to mask his concern for the fate of the insiders. (He quotes an old-line publisher disparaging Amazon in a tone so infused with aggrieved privilege — “I have no sense of the character of their house” — it would be almost impossible to parody.) Unlike Coll, though, Packer at least nods to the value of improved access:

Readers, especially isolated ones, adored Amazon. “We heard from people all the time,” Marcus said. “ ‘I live in some Podunk town, the nearest bookstore is a hundred miles from my house, and now I can get the most obscure book.’ ”

After devoting half a paragraph to the central fact of Amazon’s history — they are better at making books available to readers than anyone else in the world — Packer drops that line of thought. If more people having access to more books is a good idea, it becomes harder to argue on behalf of Little, Brown. The readers in Podunk towns get a cameo and are then banished from the conversation. (As usual.)

. . . .

The traditional industry belief — if you don’t live in a big city and have a lot of money, you deserve second-class access to books — is being challenged by a company trying to say “If you have ten bucks, there’s not a book in the world you can’t read.” If the current industry can’t keep their prices high while competing with instant distribution of a vastly expanded literature — and that seems to be their only assertion worth taking at face value — then it’s time for them to figure out how to make a business out of improved access. They can drop DRM, sell ebooks directly to readers, add or improve their subscription services, offer print-on-demand—any strategy, really, except continuing to insist that readers must accept high prices and restricted access.

. . . .

When Packer registers his concern for “books,” he masks the aristocratic core of his argument: fear of popular participation. Like Coll, he imagines a world where the current elites aren’t in charge, and he does not like it, ending his discussion of Amazon with a the question, “When the last gatekeeper but one is gone, will Amazon care whether a book is any good?”

To which the answer is obvious: Of course Amazon won’t care. That’s none of their business. And note well Packer’s concern: It is not that people will stop writing or selling books that rich, well-educated people want to buy (an unlikely outcome, in this or any market.) Instead, he is concerned that publishing will become too easy, that there will be no one who can stop the publication of dreck, and by dreck he means books he and I and our fellow members of the highly educated class won’t approve of.

Link to the rest at Medium.com and thanks to SMH for the tip.

What makes books different…

11 September 2014

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

Before the digital age, retailers that tried to sell across media were pretty rare. Barnes & Noble added music CDs to their product mix when the era of records and cassettes had long passed. Record stores rarely sold books and, if they did, tended to sell books related to an interest in music. For those stores, it wasn’t so much about combining media as it was about offering a defined audience content related to their interest, like Home Depot selling home repair books. For the most part in pre-Internet times, books, music, and video each had its own retail network.

But when media became largely digital in the first decade of the 21st century, the digital companies that decided to establish consumer retail tried to erase the distinction that had grown up dividing reading (books) from listening (music) from watching (movies and TV). The three principal digital giants in the media retailing space — Amazon, Apple, and Google — all sell all these media in their “pure” form and maintain a separate market for “apps” as well that might contain any or all of the legacy media.

The retailing efforts for all of them are divided along legacy media lines, acknowledging the reality that people are usually shopping specifically for a book or music or a cinematic experience. Most are probably not, as some seem to imagine, choosing which they’ll do based on what’s available at what price across the media. (This is a popular meme at the moment: books “competing” with other media because they are consumed on the same devices. Of course, only a minority of books are consumed on devices, unlike the other media. Even though this cross-media competition might be intuitive logic to some people, it has scarcely been “proven” and, while it might be true to a limited extent, it doesn’t look like a big part of the marketing problem to me.)

It seems from here that Amazon and Barnes & Noble have a distinct advantage over all their other competitors in the ebook space because, with books — unlike movies and TV and music — the audience toggles between print and digital.

. . . .

It should be more widely understood that the physical book will not go the way of the Dodo nearly as fast as the shrink-wrapped version has for music or TV/film. It hasn’t and it won’t. There are very good, understandable, and really undeniable reasons for this, even though it seems like many smart people expect all the media to go all-digital in much the same way.

. . . .

First of all, the book — unlike its hard good counterparts the CD (or record or cassette) and DVD (or videotape) — has functionality that the ebook version does not. Quite aside from the fact that you don’t need a powered device (or an Internet connection) to get or consume it, the book allows you to flip through pages, write margin notes, dog-ear pages you want to get back to quickly, and easily navigate around back and forth through the text much more readily than with an ebook. There are no comparable capabilities that come with a CD or DVD.

. . . .

But the differences between printed books and digital books are much more profound and they are not nuanced. In fact, there are categories of books that satisfy audiences very well in digital form and there are whole other categories of books that don’t sell at all well in digital. That is because while the difference between classical music and rock or the difference between a comedy and a thriller isn’t reflected in any difference between a streamed or hard-goods version, the difference between a novel and a travel guide or a book of knitting instruction is enormous when moving from a physical to digital format.

. . . .

So even though fiction reading has largely moved to digital (maybe even more than half), most of the consumer book business, by far, is still print.

Even eye-catching headlines like the one from July when the web site AuthorEarnings (organized and run by indie author Hugh Howey, who is a man with a strong point of view about all this) said “one in three ebooks” sold by Amazon is self-published, might not be as powerful at a second glance.

Although Howey weeds out the ebooks that were given away free, the share of the consumer revenue earned by those indie ebooks would be a much smaller fraction than their unit sales. The new ebooks from big houses, which is a big percentage of the ebook sales they make (and that AuthorEarnings report in July said the Big Five still had an even bigger share of units than the indies), are routinely priced anywhere from 3 to 10 times what indie ebooks normally sell for. So that “share” if expressed as a “share of revenue” might be more like five or ten percent. It really couldn’t be more than 15%.

. . . .

The facts, apparently, are that even heavy ebook readers still buy and consume print. There is not a lot of clear data about whether “hybrid readers” make their print-versus-digital choice categorically or some other way.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

PG and Mrs. PG are outliers in many ways (each reads for pleasure daily, for example), but they have almost never purchased physical books since shortly after they acquired Kindles.

PG suggests that among readers who purchase one book per week or more, purchases of ebooks will vastly outnumber physical books.

The future of books is digital.

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