From Book Riot:
It’s not news that ebook reading surged during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Library ebook borrowing, in particular, saw an increase in 2020 and 2021. Though ebooks have not eclipsed print for a long time, they still enjoyed an ounce of quiet popularity.
At the start of the year, however, it looks like that’s changing.
In 2020, ebook sales rose by 11%. But in 2021, sales declined by 3.7%. Ebook sales also plummeted from January to March this year, according to the Association of American Publishers. In January, it was a 10.1% fall from last year. In February, sales dropped by 6.9% as that trend continued. In March, it went down again as sales dipped by a whopping 12.2%.
Meanwhile, in the UK, ebook sales are down in 2021, the “lowest point since 2012,” according to The Bookseller. The UK magazine reported that 80 million ebooks were downloaded in 2021, which is a disappointment next to its 95 million in 2020.
. . . .
Ebook reading rose in the late 2010s when Amazon released its Kindle ereaders; ebooks back then were as low as $9.99. During that era, there were even predictions that ebooks would eventually kill print, shutter bookstores, and that ebooks would be the future of reading. But those forecasts missed the mark, obviously.
The interest in ebooks started to plateau when the drama between Amazon and the then Big 6 publishers happened in 2012. The publishers wrestled control of ebook pricing from Amazon, raising it so that people would have reasons to read in print. This led to a collusion with Apple, which got all of them sued by the Department of Justice. Unfortunately, the pricing scheme set by the publishers stayed on.
Since then, ebooks have enjoyed a decent popularity. Sales are down, and sometimes up. But they have never killed print. People moved on from the digital and went back to physical eventually, for the most part.
And then the COVID-19 pandemic froze everything, preventing people from easily buying physical books. This made many readers turned to ebooks once again. But as the world is opened up again in 2022, people are going out and dropping by the bookstores again. And so starts the dipping sales of ebooks.
. . . .
By the looks of it, the future of ebooks looks grim. However, one important thing unbeknown to many is that the AAP’s reports don’t include Kindle sales, “so the data might be skewed,” as Kozlowski put it. Amazon’s Kindle obviously has a larger market share than its competitors such as Kobo and Barnes & Noble, and so it leaves a lot of numbers on the table.
Mark Williams, the editor of the publication The New Publishing Standard that covers publishing news, said that AAP’s 2021 report fails to account for tens of millions of dollars in ebook revenue. “We simply don’t know the true scale of the impact ebooks have on the U.S. and global book markets, either in revenue terms or in consumer engagement, but we can say with absolute certainty that the AAP numbers only paint a partial picture,” he wrote in May 2021.
He also said that many of the uncounted participants do not report to the AAP, including Amazon Publishing, a slew of small presses, and thousands of self-published authors. That definitely leaves a lot of figures, and it suggests that ebooks may not be in a nosedive after all. AAP’s 2021 report, according to Williams, “warps the picture in favor of print.”
. . . .
So are ebooks losing their shine again? Are they in decline thanks to the “disappointing” sales, and maybe, because of the extreme dislike by many?
Data suggests that the ebook market may actually be a lot bigger.
Link to the rest at Book Riot
PG notes this is a near-perfect model of a clickbait title.
The traditional publishers who report ebook sales to the AAP (Association of American PUBLISHERS) say their ebook sales may be falling.
Traditional publishers have always held an irrational prejudice against ebooks even though ebook sales don’t entail a great many expenses that physical books require: printing costs (including set-up costs), warehousing expenses, shipping expenses, the fact the publishers need to sell pbooks at a wholesale price that allows physical bookstores to cover their expenses and persuade customers to pay a lot more than they would if they bought the very same content in ebook form from Amazon. (long sentence, PG acknowledges)
The cost of creating ebooks for traditional publishers includes overpriced real estate, starvation wages (by New York standards), but they don’t include the costs of a bunch of employees that deal with the complexities and inevitable inefficiencies and screw-ups of print publishing.
Once the ebook manuscript is received as a bunch of bits from an author, all that happens to it is digital – reviewing the digital manuscript to see if they want to publish it, editing it on computers, formatting it on computers and shipping those refined bits over the internet to Amazon and other e-tailers for publication. (PG understands that Ingram gets involved with distribution of ebooks and takes its percentage, which is Exhibit 2 demonstrating the overwhelming technology cluelessness of major publishing.)
Of course other publishers (located in much lower-cost locations without New York taxes, etc.) and self-publishers don’t have all those overhead and staff costs. They also don’t “have to” protect their relationships with traditional bookstores by selling at wholesale prices, etc., etc.
PG says the Association of American Publishers is reporting sales problems with overpriced ebooks, not ebooks that are priced intelligently. What does PG mean by overpriced?
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, published by Simon & Schuster and a New York Times Bestseller is priced at $14.99 for the ebook.
Per Amazon, used copies of the hardcover can be purchased for less than the ebook.
PG suggests that Simon & Schuster could sell way more ebooks if they dropped the price to $4.99 instead of trying to help Barnes & Noble make money selling hardbacks. If Big Publishing priced ebooks for optimum sales and profits, there wouldn’t be any “decline” in ebook sales to write clickbait stores about.