From The Guardian:
Britons are abandoning the ebook at an alarming rate with sales of consumer titles down almost a fifth last year, as “screen fatigue” helped fuel a five-year high in printed book sales.
Sales of consumer ebooks plunged 17% to £204m last year, the lowest level since 2011 – the year the ebook craze took off as Jeff Bezos’ market-dominating Amazon Kindle took the UK by storm.
It is the second year running that sales of consumer ebooks – the biggest segment of the £538m ebook market, which fell 3% last year – have slumped as commuters, holidaymakers and leisure readers shelve digital editions in favour of good old fashioned print novels.
“I wouldn’t say that the ebook dream is over but people are clearly making decisions on when they want to spend time with their screens,” says Stephen Lotinga, chief exeutive of the Publishers Association, which published its annual yearbook on Thursday.
“There is generally a sense that people are now getting screen tiredness, or fatigue, from so many devices being used, watched or looked at in their week. [Printed] books provide an opportunity to step away from that.”
. . . .
The issue with consumer ebooks aside the UK book industry is in fine fettle. Total sales of print and digital books and journals climbed 7% to £4.8bn last year, the largest growth since 2007 when digital sales were first included.
Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Randall for the tip.
PG didn’t see any reference to how many ebooks were sold by publishers and authors who don’t report their sales to the Publishers Association. He also didn’t see Amazon’s name on the list of members on the Publishers Association website.
“Screen fatigue” sounds like something the marketing department invented. PG wonders if they considered “bookstore fatigue” or “high prices fatigue” while they were brainstorming.
Here’s a link to an interesting analysis of last year’s Publisher’s Association Yearbook at Publishing Perspectives, ‘As We Trade Less Neurotically’: A Nice Chat About Those UK Publishing Numbers.
The Publishing Perspectives article raises an issue PG would like to address more directly: Absent Amazon Derangement Syndrome, a decline in ebook sales of traditional publishers is hardly something the traditional publishing business should be celebrating.
Ebooks are a great business for traditional publishers – send an ebook file to Amazon and check once a month thereafter to see how much money Amazon sends back. No printing and shipping bills to pay, no inventory to manage (or to pay someone else to manage), no returns to deal with.
If Amazon hadn’t opened the gates to the unwashed horde of self-published authors, demonstrated that lower ebook prices resulted in much larger sales and then started its own imprints when the first ADS plague hit traditional publishing, the Publishing Association would be giving Amazon an award each year at its annual meeting for improving the profitability of UK publishers.
A pound (or dollar) of profit from an ebook licensed to a reader by Amazon counts for just as much as a pound of profit from a printed book sold by Blackwell’s.
A 17% drop in ebook sales is a disaster for the UK publishing business. Any assumption that each ebook not acquired is offset by a printed version that is purchased instead doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny.
For one thing, obtaining an ebook by touching an iPad screen is a much more effortless transaction than going to a physical bookstore to locate and buy a printed book. The alternative to an iPad ebook transaction may well be tapping on the Amazon Video app to watch a show.