Have people stopped reading books?

From KBoards:

I started publishing ebooks at Amazon in 2011. That was before Select and you weren’t allowed to give books away. You had to charge at least $.99. I started making money since I had a backlog of books that I had written. The golden years came, and everyone was happy and made money. A few writers found a way to give away books and that helped them. Then Select let everyone give books away and our sales went up.

A point was reached when sales started going down. So, lots of people starting advertising to help their sales. That helped the ones that advertised so many people started doing it. Then sales started dropping again.

Each year sales continued to drop regardless of what we did.

The number of book stores and publishing companies went out of business. We weren’t the only one’s suffering.

That makes me wonder if people have stopped reading books or reading less.

Link to the rest at KBoards

PG notes there is quite a discussion responding to this post on KBoards.

PG’s opinion is that traditional publishing is mostly flat while indie publishing, while much more competitive than it was ten-fifteen years ago, is growing.

In 2010, Amazon announced that it was selling more ebooks than printed books. PG sees no reason to suspect that the ebook/printed book sales ratio for Amazon has become more and more larger for the ebook side of the house. He would be interested in seeing any credible estimates of Amazon’s ebook vs. POD sales numbers, however.

Another source estimated that there were about 9 Million ebooks in the Kindle store in 2021. That same source estimated that there were 12 Million ebooks in the Kindle store in May of 2022.

Wikipedia estimates that the United States has issued a total of 3,485,322 ISBN numbers for books. The UK is in second place with 185,721 ISBN numbers issued. That said, it is PG’s understanding that few indie authors publishing on Amazon bother getting an ISBN number, especially for their ebooks since ISBN service is used primarily by physical bookstores and libraries for ordering traditionally-published books.

PG’s bottom line is that the number of authors on Amazon is growing rapidly. The number of authors who earn a significant sum of money from their books on Amazon is growing, but less rapidly.

Traditional publishing numbers are pretty flat. PG hasn’t seen any inflation-adjusted numbers showing year-by-year sales of traditional publishers, however.

9 thoughts on “Have people stopped reading books?”

  1. PG – one can (roughly) inflation adjust the reported sales of publishers oneself.

    Of course, that depends mightily on what inflation measure you use. If you use the “Core CPI” from the government (that excludes food and energy), it is currently 6.01%. If you use the “Raw CPI,” it is 9.10%. If you use the site that I do (Truflation), it is 9.86%. Finally, if you use the measure that I do – taking four categories from Truflation (food, housing, transport, utilities), it is 12.07%.

    I use the last measure exclusively for both personal and business thinking – it is how much more I am spending for what my family must have – and also how much more my possible customers are paying for what they must have that I do not sell, which mightily affects how much they are able and/or willing to throw my way.

    The OP obviously cannot be talking about total sales of books, unless they have an Amazon spy. They’re talking about their own personal sales. “First to market” sellers always see this, at least once supply catches up with demand – and I believe that demand is probably still growing, just not as fast as supply. (I do suspect that inflation adjusted total ebook sales at Amazon may be declining at the moment, although I don’t have any more concrete basis for that suspicion than anyone else on the outside.)

    • I use the WH NASA budget ask: 11% with no increase in project value.
      Or 10% for the currently projected SS COLA.
      By most any sane estimate we’re looking at double digits for the duration.
      I’m planning accordingly.

  2. Wrong question.
    Proper question: How many people have shifted at least part of their reading budget to Kindle Unlimited or ScribD?

    Phrased differently: have people stopped buying as many books as before?
    (Answer: almost certainly.)

    • Actual question is whether people are spending less total dollars on reading material. Answer to that is “Don’t really know, Amazon doesn’t tell us anything.”

      BPH is certainly down there, although if you smooth out the “CoViD Blip,” the trend is not quite as steep as it looks over the short term.

      As I said, I suspect that real dollar sales are down across the board – but again, I have no backup for that without Amazon numbers.

      • You don’t need Amazon revenue numbers to see KU eyeball hours going steadily up. And given that the KU customer base leans heavily on avid readers those reading hours substitute for a lot of sales.
        Not all KU engagement is canibalizing sales but a lot of it is.
        And with inflation kicking in it makes sense to see more of it.

  3. If you have a store, and you keep adding items to it, and demand is more or less constant – then the percentage of your total stock that will sell in a period of time will go down.

    OTOH, and I have written this before – I participate in a neighborhood “free stuff” program, and the hardest thing to give away is books. Usually there is just no interest.

  4. Let available supply increase at X%
    Let sales increase at Y%.

    If X > Y, then average book sales fall.

    This is easy to fix. Concerned authors can pull their book from the market so supply falls. Then the remaining books will earn more.

  5. For indies, it’s too much product chasing too few buyers. Too much product creating a situation where drawing attention to something new (or retaining attention for something old) has become very difficult.

    I used to follow KBoards quite closely until it imploded a few years ago. As an observer it always seemed to me that way too many authors were “quitting their day jobs” on the assumption that their sales levels would always remain constant.

    • In those thrilling days of yesteryear a few days of Select free could generate thousands of sales. I’m still driving around in one of them. Dropping the day job at the peak of a fluke doesn’t work too well.

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