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Old 05-13-2017, 09:19 AM   #1
leebase
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Myth of Print Sales Comeback

Good article: https://janefriedman.com/myth-print/...riting+Related
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Old 05-13-2017, 12:28 PM   #2
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That's basically been my impression too. I just need more of that shift to indie ebooks to happen in the direction of mine.
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Old 05-13-2017, 12:47 PM   #3
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(New) Print has been in decline all century and more. It has been masked by the use of retail dollar sales as a metric which allows price hikes and driving sales away from mass market to higher price formats like hardcover, trade paperback, and yes, ebooks to obscure lower unit sales. People have been buying less new print books year after year for decades.

So yes, all the net increase they cheer is at Amazon.
But there is another dirty secret nobody reports: B&M availability of midlist and backlist titles has declined dramatically and continues to. decline daily. Lost in the breathless cheers for the parallel zombie meme of "Independent bookstores are back" is that successful indie stores rely a lot on used books. And all book stores rely on the top selling titles from the "name" authors. So, when a Borders or B&N stocking say 50,000 titles closes and is replaced by an Indie store with 30,000 titles, the top sellers will remain available but there's an immediate loss of shelf space for 20, 000 titles. More if the. Indie bookstore is deep into used books.
This is non-trivial.
After all, the appeal of the megastores was their (for the times) deep catalogs.
When Borders was pushed into liquidation they took with them a quarter of the total available shelf space but, worse, they took something like half the midlist/backlist shelf space.
And that is why all their pbook market share ended up at Amazon.
Top sellers and recent releases are "everywhere" books. You can find them at supermarkets, newstands, drug stores, and bookstores big and small. But midlist/ backlist? Good luck finding them at B&M.
Of course, there's always Amazon. And ebooks...
For all the whining over Amazon pricing their real advantage is availability. You can't buy what you can't find.
The more tradpub pushes their loyalists to print, the more power they give to Amazon.
The best way to reduce Amazon' s market power is to grow ebook sales. At least that way Apple and Kobo,etc have a shot.
Print isn' t back. And even if it were, it would not be a good thing.

Last edited by fjtorres; 05-13-2017 at 12:53 PM.
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Old 05-13-2017, 03:58 PM   #4
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Interesting article, thanks for the link.
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Old 05-13-2017, 06:47 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by fjtorres View Post
(New) Print has been in decline all century and more. It has been masked by the use of retail dollar sales as a metric which allows price hikes and driving sales away from mass market to higher price formats like hardcover, trade paperback, and yes, ebooks to obscure lower unit sales. People have been buying less new print books year after year for decades.

So yes, all the net increase they cheer is at Amazon.
But there is another dirty secret nobody reports: B&M availability of midlist and backlist titles has declined dramatically and continues to. decline daily. Lost in the breathless cheers for the parallel zombie meme of "Independent bookstores are back" is that successful indie stores rely a lot on used books. And all book stores rely on the top selling titles from the "name" authors. So, when a Borders or B&N stocking say 50,000 titles closes and is replaced by an Indie store with 30,000 titles, the top sellers will remain available but there's an immediate loss of shelf space for 20, 000 titles. More if the. Indie bookstore is deep into used books.
This is non-trivial.
After all, the appeal of the megastores was their (for the times) deep catalogs.
When Borders was pushed into liquidation they took with them a quarter of the total available shelf space but, worse, they took something like half the midlist/backlist shelf space.
And that is why all their pbook market share ended up at Amazon.
Top sellers and recent releases are "everywhere" books. You can find them at supermarkets, newstands, drug stores, and bookstores big and small. But midlist/ backlist? Good luck finding them at B&M.
Of course, there's always Amazon. And ebooks...
For all the whining over Amazon pricing their real advantage is availability. You can't buy what you can't find.
The more tradpub pushes their loyalists to print, the more power they give to Amazon.
The best way to reduce Amazon' s market power is to grow ebook sales. At least that way Apple and Kobo,etc have a shot.
Print isn' t back. And even if it were, it would not be a good thing.

For the most part, I agree with you.

One point that I would make is that the reader community is made up of many types of buyers. Someone who buys at the most 10 books a year is more likely to bounce between paper and ebook than someone who buys 100 books a year. If you look at individual buyers, then the vast majority belong to the max 10 books a year group. If you look at the volume of books sold, then the 100+ books a year group dominates. I would wager that if a new Harry Potter book came out, then percentage wise, you would see a lot more paper sales. In the non best seller group, ebooks makes up more and more of the sales.
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Old 05-13-2017, 08:53 PM   #6
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The thing is they can't put the cork back in the bottle now. Ebooks are here to stay I'm thinking. Overpricing them to make print books more appealing won't help in the long run. People will just wait them out til the prices come down or find another source (legal or not) to acquire a given ebook. Not that I'm advocating for pirate sites or anything of course. All the publishers are doing is hurting themselves by refusing to join the 21st century.
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Old 05-13-2017, 09:35 PM   #7
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For the most part, I agree with you.

One point that I would make is that the reader community is made up of many types of buyers. Someone who buys at the most 10 books a year is more likely to bounce between paper and ebook than someone who buys 100 books a year. If you look at individual buyers, then the vast majority belong to the max 10 books a year group. If you look at the volume of books sold, then the 100+ books a year group dominates. I would wager that if a new Harry Potter book came out, then percentage wise, you would see a lot more paper sales. In the non best seller group, ebooks makes up more and more of the sales.
My consumption of books is well in excess of 100 a year. And in the past 3 years I have read one paper book. And that was a library book. I doubt I'm alone.
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Old 05-13-2017, 10:12 PM   #8
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My consumption of books is well in excess of 100 a year. And in the past 3 years I have read one paper book. And that was a library book. I doubt I'm alone.
My consumption of books is I lost count. I have bought 2 new paper books in the last several years. They were both fund raiser cookbooks. Everything else is either used or ebook.
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Old 05-13-2017, 10:57 PM   #9
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Overpricing them to make print books more appealing won't help in the long run.
I'm sure that's part of the reason for high ebook prices but I suspect the publishers major reason for high ebook prices is concern about devaluing books. If you can buy the latest ebook for less money the price of print books will decline too, and that's probably pretty scary to the publishers.

Likely the publishers worry about a future where books sell for a lot less than they do now. And that's probably a realistic fear.

Barry
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Old 05-13-2017, 10:58 PM   #10
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My consumption of books is I lost count. I have bought 2 new paper books in the last several years. They were both fund raiser cookbooks. Everything else is either used or ebook.
I think it's worth remembering that those of us in these forums aren't typical readers. I doubt if we're good examples of anything involving the publishing industry. I know I'm not.

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Old 05-13-2017, 11:07 PM   #11
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B&M availability of midlist and backlist titles has declined dramatically and continues to. decline daily.
I guess everyone is aware of the long tail in ebook publishing but reading your post made me think about it in a somewhat different way. I've always seen that as an advantages for publishers and for readers but maybe it ain't so. Maybe when ebooks become "the thing" and paper books are a minor format and that makes old books more readily available to more people, readers will have less interest in the latest book and there'll be fewer blockbusters.

I'm sure the blockbusters will never go away but they're so heavily depended on by publishers any significant decline in them could be pretty harmful to the bigger publishers.

Personally I like older books and I love the idea of the long tail. Anyone remember Pat Frank's book "The Age of the Tail" where everyone after a certain date was born with a tail? That made it really hard to hide your age when you were older than that and it made for a big market for artificial tails.

Wait! Was that a digression?

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Old 05-13-2017, 11:31 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by fjtorres View Post
(New) Print has been in decline all century and more. It has been masked by the use of retail dollar sales as a metric which allows price hikes and driving sales away from mass market to higher price formats like hardcover, trade paperback, and yes, ebooks to obscure lower unit sales. People have been buying less new print books year after year for decades.

So yes, all the net increase they cheer is at Amazon.
But there is another dirty secret nobody reports: B&M availability of midlist and backlist titles has declined dramatically and continues to. decline daily. Lost in the breathless cheers for the parallel zombie meme of "Independent bookstores are back" is that successful indie stores rely a lot on used books. And all book stores rely on the top selling titles from the "name" authors. So, when a Borders or B&N stocking say 50,000 titles closes and is replaced by an Indie store with 30,000 titles, the top sellers will remain available but there's an immediate loss of shelf space for 20, 000 titles. More if the. Indie bookstore is deep into used books.
This is non-trivial.
After all, the appeal of the megastores was their (for the times) deep catalogs.
When Borders was pushed into liquidation they took with them a quarter of the total available shelf space but, worse, they took something like half the midlist/backlist shelf space.
And that is why all their pbook market share ended up at Amazon.
Top sellers and recent releases are "everywhere" books. You can find them at supermarkets, newstands, drug stores, and bookstores big and small. But midlist/ backlist? Good luck finding them at B&M.
Of course, there's always Amazon. And ebooks...
For all the whining over Amazon pricing their real advantage is availability. You can't buy what you can't find.
The more tradpub pushes their loyalists to print, the more power they give to Amazon.
The best way to reduce Amazon' s market power is to grow ebook sales. At least that way Apple and Kobo,etc have a shot.
Print isn' t back. And even if it were, it would not be a good thing.
You are right but still I miss Borders and browsing just like I miss the occasional "book fair" where a large defunct store would be rented and old shelves and new shelves would be stocked with over runs, etc at very cheap prices. I loved those. Now you might have an occasional church sale of old donated books.

And most of all I miss my old library from my childhood where all those old volumes of "forgotten lore" would be on the dim and lightly dusty (less dusting back in the back) shelves in the back. That was where the old SciFi books were. The old red covered "John Carter of Mars" series when Edgar Rice Burroughs went "intestate," and the Hobbit. Ah, the discoveries I made in those dusty carrels. Like discovering gold in a forgotten mine. [[And where is my old Mining friend whom I used to converse with on this forum? I need to contact him I guess.]]
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Old 05-14-2017, 08:01 AM   #13
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I'm sure that's part of the reason for high ebook prices but I suspect the publishers major reason for high ebook prices is concern about devaluing books. If you can buy the latest ebook for less money the price of print books will decline too, and that's probably pretty scary to the publishers.

Likely the publishers worry about a future where books sell for a lot less than they do now. And that's probably a realistic fear.

Barry
We go through this discussion on a regular basis. Some people seem to struggle with the idea of there being a cost associated with publishing a ebook.

Ultimately, in economics, businesses charge what the market will bear. The current business model in the publishing industry is that best sellers support the cost of books that don't make back expenses.

One of the big lessons I've learned over the years is that a business needs multiple streams of revenue to stay healthy. I tend to see paper books and ebooks as complementary streams of revenue rather than competing formats. If the publishers were wise, they would be looking at going into the audiobook industry as well as looking at trying to encourage new ebook stores.
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Old 05-14-2017, 11:12 AM   #14
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I'm sure that's part of the reason for high ebook prices but I suspect the publishers major reason for high ebook prices is concern about devaluing books. If you can buy the latest ebook for less money the price of print books will decline too, and that's probably pretty scary to the publishers.

Likely the publishers worry about a future where books sell for a lot less than they do now. And that's probably a realistic fear.

Barry
Just this week we've seen yet another tradpub vs Amazon crapstorm over the two month old switch in policy to steer consumers to the lowest new book price, even if the source isn't Amazon LLC.

It took a while but the authors guild finally discovered there's tons of dirt cheap new books out there, mostly remaindered copies.

Nothing devalues books as much as the publishers return and remainder policies.
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Old 05-14-2017, 12:15 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by barryem View Post
I guess everyone is aware of the long tail in ebook publishing but reading your post made me think about it in a somewhat different way. I've always seen that as an advantages for publishers and for readers but maybe it ain't so. Maybe when ebooks become "the thing" and paper books are a minor format and that makes old books more readily available to more people, readers will have less interest in the latest book and there'll be fewer blockbusters.

I'm sure the blockbusters will never go away but they're so heavily depended on by publishers any significant decline in them could be pretty harmful to the bigger publishers.

Personally I like older books and I love the idea of the long tail. Anyone remember Pat Frank's book "The Age of the Tail" where everyone after a certain date was born with a tail? That made it really hard to hide your age when you were older than that and it made for a big market for artificial tails.

Wait! Was that a digression?

Barry
Blockbusters have already declined.
Even the biggest of names are hurting:

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/b...04e5-304500337

The way it works is that the everywhere books (I need to trademark that phrase. ) get the bulk of their sales from casual readers but (big but) casual readers aren't early buyers, much less preorder buyers. Early sales are what create the buzz for the bandwagon buyers that follow and make the blockbusters blockbusters. Early sales come from true fans (gotta have it now!) and heavy readers. True fans are showing up in similar numbers as ever. The heavy readers aren't. As a result the buzz isn't building and the bandwagons aren't rolling and there is a shortage of old school blockbdsters. There will be another Potter or Twilight or Fifty Shades but it won't be soon.

The reason is, as you inferred: heavy readers are spreading their attention and money around. No longer does the bulk of the money go to the top one hundred titles but instead it goes to the top ten thousand. And no longer do new releases have to contend solely with recent releases but instead they have to contend with all releases in their genre and subgenre going back years and decades. For SF&F this isn't a great change--the genre has long celebrated its history and backlist--but for other genres it's a sea change.

Where before the sales/revenue vs ranking curve had a very high peak and a very steep angle, today the peak is lower and the falloff smoother and less steep.

Authors are noticing it takes lower sales to attain a given sales rank at Amazon but measurable sales go way lower than before. Unavoidable, when their catalog is five million deep, compared to maybe 50,000 when Kindle launched. And then there is KU delivering hundreds of millions in author payouts and probably costing even more in displaced sales.

The pyramid will likely continue its "melt" indefinitely. The top sellers will probably stabilize at some low multiple of the size of their truefan base and others will go down from there.

Along the way I think publishers' frenzied pursuit of blockbusters will decline and they will be forced to actually market their midlist. Not a bad thing for those writers stuck in tradpub contracts.

Us readers, on the other hand, will benefit from the ever-increasing supply of known-good books to choose from.

The end of the tyranny of the blockbusters is a good thing; there's alot of good books that have been shortchanged by the obsession with the big early sales. Some books just need time to find their audience. Now they'll get it instead of being gone and remaindered after three months.

Last edited by fjtorres; 05-14-2017 at 12:19 PM.
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