Over the last year, we’ve been talking to writers like A.G. Riddle who have been making a more than comfortable living selling e-books directly to readers on Amazon. That’s why it’s always seemed a bit strange to see media accounts reporting on the shrinking market for e-books.
News outlets like The New York Times report that e-book sales continue to slip, which is true if the data only covers part of the market. Reports from the Association of American Publishers has data from 1,200 publishers. They are the largest publishers, but they are also losing market share.
E-book sales never declined, according to a presentation yesterday at Digital Book World in New York City. In fact, if anything, we don’t yet have an adequate way to estimate how much the market segment has grown.
In back-to-back presentations from from the data site Author Earnings and publishing tech firm Overdrive, it became clear that “unit sales” may not be the best way to measure the size of the book market. In more and more ways it’s becoming clear that there are additional ways for writers to earn money than by readers buying whole books or even buying books at all.
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E-books, Data Guy told the crowd, “Never stopped growing.”
It looks as though sales stuttered because traditional publishers have been losing market share to indie authors who publish directly through online platforms. Amazon is by far the largest of these platforms.
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Reports on the e-book market tend to ignore Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s Netflix for ebooks. Amazon splits up each month’s Kindle Unlimited revenue among participating authors based on how many pages members read.
Science-fiction author Hugh Howey said that being part of the program increased his revenue so much that it was worth pulling his books from all other platforms, such as Kobo and iBooks.
Data Guy acknowledged that some industry watchers might argue that a Kindle Unlimited download isn’t really a sale, but Author Earnings takes the position that any money in a writer’s pocket counts.
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Local book stores saw a 5 percent growth in sales last year, but every other channel (such as big stores, Walmart and etc) saw a 5 percent decline. Those channels were so much larger that local stores’ growth was more than made up for by the declines everywhere else. “Perhaps 10 fold,” Data Guy said.
Let’s hear it for your favorite local shop, but the truth is that Amazon has been the one closing those new print sales.
Link to the rest at Observer.com and thanks to Nirmala for the tip.