New publishing trends reshaping reading

30 January 2015

From The Chicago Tribune:

In November, a pair of technology journalists issued the latest in what seems to be a constant stream of announcements proclaiming the start of a book publishing revolution. First, co-authors Jason Hiner and Lyndsey Gilpin said they would crowdfund their project, asking individuals to donate toward a $10,000 goal in exchange for free tote bags, book copies and, for $500, a chance to chat with the authors by phone.

. . . .

“Books have barely been touched by the digital revolution,” Hiner says in a video on the authors’ Indiegogo crowdfunding site. The publishing industry moves slowly. The technology world Gilpin and Hiner are writing about moves quickly. In the gap, anything a book says can be canceled by simple forward momentum while the author waits for the presses to roll.

Compared to what has happened in the music and newspaper industries, digital technologies are fueling more evolution than revolution in book publishing. But change is well under way, starting with the dizzying rise in self-publishing, the rapid growth of all-you-can-read book subscription services, a surge in crowdfunded publishing, and the growth of the e-book.

Mark Coker’s company, Smashwords, owes its existence to e-publishing. Coker launched it after a novel about the soap opera business he co-authored with his wife, Lesleyann Coker, left publishers cold.

“The more I thought about it, the more frustrated I got,” Coker says. Publishers told his agent that “Boob Tube” was a dud because soap-opera-based books always flopped. That’s what the record showed. But Coker wondered how much publishers really knew. “The vast majority of their books fail,” he says. “The dirty secret of the publishing industry is, at the end of the day, they’re really just throwing spaghetti against the wall.”

Link to the rest at The Chicago Tribune

January 2015 Author Earnings Report

28 January 2015

Executive Summary

  • AuthorEarnings reports analyze detailed title-level data on 33% of all daily ebook sales in the U.S.
  • 30% of the ebooks being purchased in the U.S. do not use ISBN numbers and are invisible to the industry’s official market surveys and reports; all the ISBN-based estimates of market share reported by Bowker, AAP, BISG, and Nielsen are wildly wrong.
  • 33% of all paid ebook unit sales on Amazon.com are indie self-published ebooks.
  • 20% of all consumer dollars spent on ebooks on Amazon.com are being spent on indie self-published ebooks.
  • 40% of all dollars earned by authors from ebooks on Amazon.com are earned by indie self-published ebooks.
  • In mid-year 2014, indie-published authors as a cohort began taking home the lion’s share (40%) of all ebook author earnings generated on Amazon.com while authors published by all of the Big Five publishers combined slipped into second place at 35%.

. . . .

U.S. ebook sales have plateaued — or are even declining, relative to print — declare some widely-cited industry statistics. Publishing pundits opine that readers’ Kindles are all “full” now, and talk about the “glut” of ebooks. News articles imply that consumers are abandoning ebooks and are returning to print books, and then those articles speculate about whether ebooks were “just a fad.” Other pundits assert that indie authors will no longer be able to compete with the Big Five traditional publishers, now that those publishers have begun to price some of their ebooks lower.

Lots of speculation. Lots of flawed studies based on 2008 methodologies. Lots of inaccurate statistics. And very few facts.

As always, we turn to the data for real answers.

This is our fifth quarterly Author Earnings report. It is based on a data snapshot of 120,000 of the best selling ebooks on Amazon, giving us a deep cross-sectional data sample comprising roughly 50% of Amazon’s daily ebook sales. According to the publishing industry’s most oft-cited estimate, Amazon controls 67% of the U.S. ebook market. Thus the title-level data used in our analysis includes roughly 33% of all daily ebook sales in the U.S. No other industry survey or ebook market-size estimate comes close to this level of accuracy or detail.

. . . .

The increasing prevalence of lower-priced Big Five titles has had no measurable effect on the Big Five’s share of titles on Amazon’s daily-sales-based ebook bestseller lists.

Similarly, the agency-pricing control afforded by the new contracts Big-Five publishers Macmillan and Simon & Schuster have signed with Amazon.com now allows them set their own final retail prices for many ebooks. Both of them have done so for the majority of titles we captured:

  • 81.6% of Simon & Schuster titles in our dataset were tagged with “This price was set by publisher”on their Amazon.com product page.
  • 94.4% of Macmillan titles in our dataset were tagged with “This price was set by publisher” on theirAmazon.com product page.

But what effect has Macmillan and Simon & Schuster’s return to agency pricing had on the overall ebook market? Apparently not much.

The return to agency pricing by two of the Big Five has had no measurable effect on the Big Five’s share of titles on Amazon’s daily-sales-based ebook bestseller lists.

. . . .

At least a third of all paid ebook unit sales on Amazon.com are Indie self-published ebooks.

But the 33% shown is an extremely conservative lower bound on the true indie market share. The real number is almost certainly several percent higher, because the vast majority of the Uncategorized Single-Author Publisher ebooks are also self-published titles — we simply didn’t have the time (or energy) to check all ten thousand of them, one by one. And what we’ve labeled as Small or Medium Publishers — a designation we use for all publishers that are not the Big Five and not Amazon Publishing Imprints  — includes a significant chunk of multi-author collectives and tiny indie micropresses publishing through KDP. Many in the industry would classify that fraction under self-published ebooks as well.

In our past reports on Barnes & Noble’s ebook sales, we found the ratio of ebook sales by publisher type to be roughly the same on Barnes & Noble as on Amazon, and together Amazon and Barnes & Noble command at least 75% of the U.S. ebook market. The large indie ebook market share is not an Amazon-only phenomenon. It’s safe to conclude that at least a third of all paid ebook unit sales in the U.S. are Indie self-published ebooks.

But publishing industry pundits usually prefer to talk about dollar market share instead of unit market share. They point to the higher average price of traditionally-published books and say that publishers bank dollars, not numbers of books sold. So what about gross consumer dollars spent on ebooks?

. . . .

The Big Five publishers as a cohort still command just over half of consumer dollars spent on ebooks. But this website is titled Author Earnings, not Publisher Earnings. Our focus is always on authors and how much they take home in earnings, rather than how much money is spent on corporate publisher overhead. We are primarily interested in the portion of that gross consumer spend that goes to authors in the form of traditionally-published ebook royalties or self-published ebook revenue share.

. . . .

40% of all dollars earned by authors from ebooks on Amazon.com are earned by Indie self-published ebooks.

A quick aside on Kindle Unlimited (KU). The indie share of author earnings includes 8% from KU borrows of indie books. In our last report, KU was a brand new part of the author-earnings landscape. To account for it accurately, we crowdsourced borrow-versus-buy ratios from hundreds of indie authors participating in KU, and found that they averaged 1:1 (half KU borrows, half full-price purchases). We used that 50% borrow ratio as a baseline in our author earnings calculations, although we found that plugging in any other ratio instead, even 0% borrows or 100% borrows, made little difference in the overall numbers and pie charts. In November, when Amazon.com announced the size of the October KU “pot” at $5.5 million and the indie per-borrow payout at $1.33, we could now double-check our crowdsourced KU-borrow ratio of 50%. So we did:

$5.5 million / $1.33 = 4,135,338 indie KU borrows in October

Which is exactly 48% of the 8,561,293 paid monthly downloads (purchases + borrows) of Indie & Uncategorized books in KU shown by our data — quite close to the 50% we originally crowdsourced. Perhaps the wisdom of crowds is a thing, after all.

. . . .

Only seven months ago, the idea that indie self-published authors and their ebooks were outearning all authors published by the Big Five publishers combined was jaw-dropping heresy. Today, it’s boring — a widely-acknowledged fact among knowledgeable authors, if not industry pundits. Many authors who publish both ways point out their earnings disparity in favor of their self-published titles, and so this data is no longer surprising.

But what is surprising is how consistent each of our quarterly snapshots has been. And because of that quarter to quarter consistency, we can discern a few broader trends…

. . . .

The most notable change over the last few quarters is the continued progressive growth of indie market share at the expense of traditionally published ebooks. Here, we can see it in unit sales terms, in gross consumer dollar terms, and in the all-important metric of author earnings.

a1 a2 a3

Somewhere between May and July of 2014, Indie Published authors as a cohort began taking home the lion’s share of all ebook author earnings generated on Amazon.com, while authors published by all of the Big Five publishers combined slipped into second place.

Link to the rest at Author Earnings

blinkbox Books to close after Waterstones talks fail

27 January 2015

From The Bookseller:

Tesco will close its e-books service blinkbox Books at the end of February after talks with Waterstones to buy the platform broke down.

All 60 core staff who work on the blinkbox Books platform are now expected to enter a consultation period over their jobs and are likely to be made redundant.

. . . .

“We have taken the decision to close our e-book service blinkbox Books. We’ve learnt a lot since launching the service and whilst we saw encouraging levels of take up, we believe that we can do more for our customers by focusing on our core business. The service will close by the end of February.” The spokesperson added: “Our focus now is on the colleagues affected and our customers.”

Tesco bought the e-book platform, then called Mobcast, for £4.5m from author Andy McNab and business partner Tony Lynch in September 2012 and rebranded it under the blinkbox name, to coincide with the film and movie streaming platform the supermarket had also bought in order to compete in the digital entertainment market.

Reports surfaced in October that Tesco had put all three arms of Blinkbox up for sale.

. . . .

Tesco’s e-book platform went live in March last year, with managing director Gavin Sathianathan saying the platform launch was “just the beginning”, with the service to “evolve” in the coming months.

Publishers welcomed its launch at the time as providing diversity in the digital marketplace to rival Amazon’s near 90% share of the e-book market.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Draft2Digital and Tolino Join Forces

27 January 2015

Ebook distributor Draft2Digital has announced that it has entered into a partnership with German bookselling conglomerate Tolino.

From the press release:

A powerful partnership between an American ebook distributor and a German bookselling conglomerate promises to bring many new books to a hungry European market. Starting today, any author who is part of Draft2Digital’s catalog of 40,000+ books can opt into Tolino’s digital stores.

Originally a German response to Amazon’s Kindle, the cooperative of five German tech and media companies have made moves into other European countries as well.  Through partnerships with Belgian, Italian, and Dutch booksellers, Tolino has created a significant footprint in central Europe. Recent reports suggest that Tolino has as much as 42% of the German ebook market, which is the third largest English-language ebook market in the world.

Tolino offers their own proprietary ebook readers that tie into an infrastructure allowing the partnered companies and booksellers to share development and maintenance costs for both the online stores and ereader technology.

Draft2Digital is pleased to add to the power of the Tolino market with their catalog, but even more excited to open a whole new, international market for their authors.

. . . .

Checking a box is all an author needs to do in order to opt into the Tolino markets.

More information at Draft2Digital

Mixed Results for Bricks-and-Mortar Stores with Digital Content

26 January 2015

From Publishers Weekly:

For many bricks-and-mortar bookstores, 2014 was a banner year, helped by the overall improvement in the sale of print books. Some independents, such as BookPeople in Austin, Tex., and Titcomb’s Bookshop in East Sandwich, Mass., reported that they had their best year ever. Barnes & Noble’s physical stores reversed a downward trend and posted some gains for the nine-week holiday season, which ended January 3, compared to the similar period the previous year. But when it comes to digital, the results have been mixed. Holiday sales of digital content dropped 25% at B&N, and device and accessory sales fell even further, down 68%.

. . . .

Indies first dipped their toes in the digital waters in 2010 through an arrangement with Google. After that deal fell apart, the American Booksellers Association announced in August 2012 a three-year contract with Kobo and rolled out an e-book and device program to booksellers in time for the 2012 holiday season.

. . . .

Booksellers who want to offer their customers print and e-book options appreciate ABA’s support in the digital market, even though e-book sales have been far from vibrant. Hudson Group, which operates more than 65 bookstores at airports and train stations and sells books through several hundred newsstands, saw its e-book sales through IndieCommerce decline by 20% in 2014. But it has no plans to stop selling them. “It doesn’t cost us anything additional [to sell e-books],” said Sara Hinckley, v-p of book buying and promotions at Hudson. “And every sale helps. We do hope that the future will bring us better opportunities to become part of the e-book market.”

E-book sales were also down by double digits at Green Apple Books in San Francisco. “E-books are minimally profitable,” said co-owner Pete Mulvihill, whose digital content sales declined 18% in 2014. He’s scaling back his effort to sell digital content and devices, as the Kobo partnership, in his opinion, “loses steam.” But Mulvihill has no plans to give up e-books entirely. He views e-books, which represent less than 1% of store sales, as a service for customers who want to e-read and still support the bookstore.

. . . .

 Enthusiasm for devices has cooled at Village Books in Bellingham, Wash., despite 500 active e-book customers, according to events coordinator and eTeam leader Sam Kaas. “We continue to carry Kobo devices for the time being, although as return terms and support from Kobo have changed, we are reevaluating that,” he said. Last month the store sold 11 devices. On the other hand, e-book sales have remained steady. “E-books are profitable in terms of sales,” said Kaas, “especially since they do not take up space on our shelves or carry the risk of making us order and return multiple copies. However, if we need to provide instruction or service to customers, an hourly staffer’s time quickly becomes more expensive than the commission we make.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Timothy for the tip.

China’s Book Consumption in 2014

26 January 2015

From Cnhui.org:

China’s largest online book retailer, dangdang.com, released its 2014 book consumption report on 13 January 2015.

. . . .

E-book consumption has increased dramatically along with the development and popularization of smart phones. The ratio of e-book sales to hardcopy sales rose from 10 percent to 30 percent in 2014. The top three sales regions are also the biggest e-book markets: Guangdong, Beijing and Jiangsu. It has become popular for readers to read and buy e-books by mobile phone. In 2014, 60 million e-books were downloaded, which is equal to 20 percent of hardcopy sales. That figure is 10 percent higher than that in 2013.

. . . .

The report shows that readers in Guangdong Province bought one sixth of the national total. Tianjin citizens buy the most children’s books, while Chinese dictionaries dominate sales in Hubei Province.

. . . .

Chinese people purchased 33 million books via dangdang.com in 2014. The top three provinces for book consumption are Guangdong with 16.89 percent, Beijing 11.39 percent, and Jiangsu 7.01 percent. They are followed by Shanghai 6.45 percent, Shandong 6.23 percent and Zhejiang 5.71 percent.

Link to the rest at Cnhui.org

B&N’s Digital Textbook Platform Yuzu Continues to Frustrate Students

26 January 2015

From Ink, Bits & Pixels (formerly The Digital Reader):

This being January, a new semester is starting at many colleges across the US, and that means that many students are encountering B&N’s textbook platform for the first time.

Barnes & Noble hasn’t officially launched Yuzu in the 9 months since they turned the platform on, but that doesn’t mean they’re not inflicting it upon college students.

The retailer has been promoting Yuzu in the college bookstores it runs while at the same time neglecting to mention that the platform is still under development. Basically B&N has been recruiting college students to be unwitting guinea pigs in the development process, and conning them into paying for the privilege (with no refund option).

. . . .

Three students have left comments on this blog in the past week, all of which have complained about Yuzu.

For example:

I just rented my first e-book for school and of course it’s Yuzu. I hate hate hate it.

The text is tiny and you can’t enlarge the whole page. Highlighter feature seems useless to me. No, you cannot print and I even tried sending to onenote to enlarge it there, but it didn’t work. I so regret the $73 I had to spend for this and hope they get enough of the same feedback to stop using this affiliation for textbooks. I would have been so happy if I could have read on another platform…sigh.

And then there’s this one from yesterday:

Yuzu is horrible. I wish I would have gotten the hard textbook because it takes twice as long to read the digital book. It is hard to turn the pages, every time you touch the screen the note tab pops up, so you have to close it. Very irritating. It is hard to navigate, not intuitive at all. It also freezes up frequently, so you have to reload it all the time. Do not use yuzu!

Link to the rest at Ink, Bits & Pixels

What Nielsen Bookscan data tells us about ebook sales cycles & the ebook plateau

21 January 2015

From Publishing Technology:

Last week at Digital Book World, Nielsen’s Jonathan Nowell gave a presentation where he broke down how the ebook and print book markets were faring on both sides of the Atlantic.

. . . .

In the UK, a slight recovery in print book sales were coupled with remarks from the James Daunt, the managing director of Waterstones that Kindle ereader sales had ‘collapsed’, have been interpreted as a resurgence of ‘real’  books. Regardless of whether anyone in publishing benefits from efforts to talk down the industry’s future prospects, the narrative over ebooks reaching an alleged plateau of sales raises some interesting questions. Many of these relate to the way the industry collects and interprets data on its own performance. How reliable are the publishing industry’s estimates of ebook sales, for example? Do ebooks follow their own sales cycle apart from print books?

. . . .

Ebook sales cycles are different from print book sales cycles

. . . .

There isn’t (yet) enough data in Nielsen’s charts to be categorically certain of this, but it looks as though ebook sales have their own cycle. Sales of print books tend to peak in the last quarter of the year as consumers buy books as Christmas presents, though this trend may itself be in decline. Sales of ebooks, however, seem to peak in the first two quarters of the year, presumably as consumers load up on content to enjoy on the tablet, smartphone or ereader that they received as a Christmas present.

This trend has important implications for how commentators view the book market. Until now, the tradition has been to monitor the health of the book market in January following Christmas sales.

. . . .

Ebooks aren’t plateauing, adult fiction is declining

The second key takeaway from Nielsen’s figures was that ebook sales volumes did unquestionably take a year-on-year dip in Q2 and Q3, after enjoying their best Q1 ever. Looking more closely at where sales were allocated it appears that this can be attributed to flattish year-on-year performance for adult fiction. Strong sales of ebooks in Q1 2014 appear to have been driven by a one-off spike in sales of religious non-fiction.

Perhaps a more appropriate question to ask when faced with this data is not why did ebooks under-perform as a format, but why did adult fiction not hold its own as a category in 2014. While it has been possible for some industry watchers to brush over this fact by pointing towards strong sales in print for children’s books, the continued decline of adult fiction is a disquieting overall trend that can’t help but have a knock-on effect on the ebook market.

Link to the rest at Publishing Technology

Children’s/YA Growth Spurt Continues

20 January 2015

From Shelf Awareness:

In the first 10 months of the year, total net book sales rose 5.5%, to $13.2 billion, compared to the first 10 months of 2013, representing sales of 1,209 publishers and distributed clients as reported to the Association of American Publishers. Net book sales in October jumped 11.9%, to $1.03 billion.

. . . .

Among highlights for the year to date: children’s/YA continued to grow, with sales up 21.6%, to $1.5 billion.

. . . .

By category for January-October 2014:


Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

The UK e-book market in 2014

20 January 2015

From Futurebook:

Last week The Bookseller published, as part of its “Review of 2014″, the e-book volume numbers for all of the big UK publishers, confirming that though e-book sales outpaced print sales during the year, the rate of growth continues to relent.

Domestic e-book sales for the five groups—Penguin  Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Pan Macmillan—totalled 49m units in 2014, a 15.3% rise on 2013. Three of the five publishers recorded double-digits growth, with only Simon & Schuster down—albeit marginally—on 2013. By contrast, the top five publishers recorded an 18% rise in digital volume versus 2012, which followed that huge 105% gain in 2012 (on 2011).

For the past few years, we have used the numbers provided by the big groups to make some assumptions about the overall digital market. The top five publishers represent 56% of BookScan’s print volume in 2014; if we assume their digital market share is broadly in line with this, we can argue that the overall e-book market in 2014 amounted to 87.8m units, representing a year on year rise of 18.5% (compared with 20% in 2013). From this we extrapolate an overall market value of £370m: which is based by using the average selling price for digital content up to October as recorded by Nielsen.

. . . .

This context is important to understand when trying to figure out the growth rates of a market that is still in its infancy, and prone to tantrums. Last year I wrote that—in the UK at least—the rate of growth in the e-book market was exaggerated in 2012 because of the Fifty Shades trilogy, which also then further skewed the perceived slowdown in sales growth in 2013—for example in 2012 the companies that would become Penguin Random House reported e-book sales volume growth of 169%, but one year later their e-book sales business fell by 20%. By contrast, Hachette followed a more understandable pattern, recording growth of 82% in 2012, 58% in 2013 and 7% in 2014.

If we remove the Penguin Random House numbers from the calculations altogether, the market growth over the past three years has been as follows: 95% in 2012, 40% in 2013, and 13% in 2014.

If that looks familiar it should, in the US, e-book sales registered treble digit growth rates until 2012 when that market came off the boil and (in volume terms) recorded growth of around 50%, which then relented further in 2013, when the rate dropped to 10%.

. . . .

Of course the usual caveats apply to this piece, which is inevitably focused on trade publisher sales (and the sales of the big publishers). There is currently no way of tracking the clearly growing shadow market of independently published titles, and for the purposes of this analysis we have ignored the nascent digital textbook market, about which we will hear more when the Publishers Association releases its 2014 statistics.

There are one or two conclusions worth reflecting on.

The first, follows the view put forward by HarperCollins UK chief executive Charlie Redmayne that the traditional Christmas sales spike has “all but” disappeared, confirming what Waterstones m.d. James Daunt told us two weeks ago that e-readers are no longer a Christmas gift item. Ironically, this may help the book business, if book spend that was deviated to devices comes back to the trade.

The second conclusion, is around the “print renaissance” we have been hearing so much about. Or as Anthony Forbes Watson put it in The Bookseller last week, how the trade “rekindled its love affair with the physical book”. Rather than seeing the print book and e-book markets as two counter-vailing forces, it may be wise to figure out how they are working together. If the big fiction bestsellers are now predominantly being bought digitally, then has this created space within book stores to focus on different books? For journalists looking to report on this sector, the narrative might be how digital has helped revive and reinvent print, rather than the other way round.

Link to the rest at Futurebook

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