Remember e-books? Those were the days, weren’t they? Those crazy few years when the fad of reading on a Kindle swept the nation. Now, of course, that fit of mass hysteria is behind us. E-book sales are falling, down more than 10% in 2015 — YA down 44%! — while used bookstores are coming back. Yes, that’s right; print is regaining its regal primacy; e-books are dead. Right?
You look suspicious. How strange. It’s almost as if you think that because those numbers come from the Association of American Publishers, they might indicate something rather different from the death of the e-book; they might be a signifier of the rise of smaller publishers not tracked by the AAP, and/or, the growth of online reading via eg Wattpad or Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. Author Earnings argues that what we’re really seeing is that AAP publishers “have seen their collective share of the US ebook market collapse.” Mathew Ingram in Fortune adds, rhetorically, “Isn’t a drop in sales just a natural outcome of the publishers’ move to keep e-book prices high?”
Somehow I don’t think Amazon is running particularly scared. They added three million new Prime members this Christmas season, who can use Amazon’s Kindle Owners Lending Library to check out free books. Those don’t count as e-book sales. Neither does Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s subscription service. I’m only one data point, but I’ve published eight books . . . and I can tell you that, for me at least, the ratio of “books read through Kindle Unlimited” to “Kindle copies sold” is about 8:1.
. . . .
I understand that publishers mostly want e-books to fail, largely because Amazon controls even more of the e-book market than the dead-tree market.
. . . .
So why doesn’t this status quo feel great? Because it provokes intense anxiety in everyone: publishers, authors, and readers.
Well, publishers, obviously, have to deal with the Amazon devil, whether they like it or not; and they have to worry about the cannibalization of their industry by micropublishers, online publishers, etc. Their share of the pie is shrinking (although it’s not going away.)
For authors, there used to be a well-known and well-understood path to success. A winding mountain path full of cliffs and high winds and deadly monsters, but a path nonetheless. Now publishing is more like a trackless jungle. You have to somehow find your way through it with no map, no compass, a really crappy knife, and a vague sense that the moss might grow on the north side of the trees, while hoping that you don’t walk under any leopards.
As for readers — they no longer know where to go to read the next book that transforms how they see the world. Buy a book on Amazon? Physical or e-? Or go to Smashwords, because you’ve heard they’re better for authors? Trek out to a physical bookstore? Check out something from Kindle Unlimited and/or the Kindle Lending Library, for free, before you commit your money? Surf through Wattpad or Feedbooks? It’s the anxiety of choice.
Link to the rest at TechCrunch and thanks to Elaine for the tip.
With his reader hat on, PG thinks this is a great time to be alive and reading. He finds lots of great ebooks at attractive prices and discovers new authors (and new sub-genres) all the time.
And he can do this on his computer, his tablet or his phone at a time of his choosing. What’s not to like?