Are Book Publishers Dying? E-Book Sales Increase by 300%

I am starting to notice the dedicated eBook reader Kindle displaying a more prominent presence in public and amongst friends and family. The price drop last year to a $139 (when they first came out they were $399) has made the case for the Kindle dedicated e-book reader compelling (I even bought one)  and Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey estimates Amazon has sold about 6 million and has two-thirds of the e-reader market. Is The eBook Market At A Tipping Point

The American Publishers have just announced that compared to the previous February, sales of eBooks have more than tripled with more e-books selling in February than the whole first quarter of last year, added to this is the iPad App for the Kindle, making it easy to read an eBook even on Apple’s iPad.

Newspapers are being replaced by smart phones and hard cover books are being supplanted by digital hardware that enables reading in a digital medium that challenges long held traditions and book publishing models.

It is early days but authors like Seth Godin with his latest venture with Amazon titled “The Domino Project” are looking long and hard at the future of publishing. Anecdotally I am sensing a market shift that threatens the continuing wide spread distribution of hardcover and paperback books that currently dominate our bookshelves. Will printed books become gifts and souvenirs?

Bricks and Mortar Book Stores Are Closing

“Bricks and Mortars” book stores are suffering and dying with the rise of digital media and the Apple iPad and dedicated eBook readers such as the Kindle are challenging the paradigm of publishing and redefining reading mediums. Publishing is facing business model shifts and disruption that are unparrallled since the invention of the Gutenberg printing press that initially leveraged book distribution and knowledge transfer way beyond the “written word”. The initial long hand book market was ponderous and time consuming as authors had to write every book by hand. Today we have publishing models that are low cost and almost instant. I don’t have to wait for a book to arrive by courier, I just hit “buy” on my Kindle at a cost of $9.99 and the book is here in 30 seconds and the cost of delivery.. almost zero!  The alternative is paying $30 and a wait of several days.

The Publishing “Abundance Model”

The market is also no longer just local or national but global and multi-lingual. The opportunities are not based on the scarcity mindset with small local markets, but on the abundance model with almost infinite volume with access to a global market in the billions and zero distribution costs. Authors and bloggers are generating self earned credibility. Distribution channels and platforms on Blogs, Facebook and Twitter and other social media  networks offer unprecedented potential to bypass traditional publishers. The ability for followers to easily share your content is now assured with Facebook “likes” and Twitter “retweets” that allow your ideas and content to spread. An author with 100,000 subscribers to their blog, 50,000 followers on Twitter and 20,000 likes on their Facebook “Page” has marketing leverage that bypasses traditional channels.

Authors Earning $1 Million A Year With eBooks

It is rumoured that some authors such as Amanda Hocking are earning a million dollars a year just from her eBooks and Joe Konrath has turned down $500,000 in advances because he can self publish, earn more money and remove publishers and middlemen that add little or no value. eBooks can be much more compact and offer reading that is compatible with today’s snack size  appetite and as Seth mentions, “To most people a 100 page book is a gift but a 400 page book is an obligation“. Our time poor society is reducing both out attention spans and our capacity for long reads. How will “Generation Internet” consume books in the future? Could you write a 50 or 100 page eBook on your passion and topic of choice?  Is the current publishing model broken? Are we at the frontier of self publishing? There is maybe a global market niche that wants to hear your story. The eBook tipping point has arrived. More Reading

Comments

  • http://www.marianneworley.com Marianne Worley

    I think this is another case of an industry not keeping pace with what technology offers or what their customers demand. I’m an avid reader. I’ve been an Audible member for 10+ years, I always carry my Kindle, and my house is filled with bookshelves. You’re definitely right about this: When I hear about a great new book, I want it NOW! If there is no Kindle or Audible version available, I usually move on to something else. Plus, I’m actually purchasing more books than ever due to the lower cost of the Kindle versions. A big win for forward-thinking authors like Seth Godin.

    • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

      Thanks Marianne for your insightful comment. We live in a “now generation” so if you want sell more make it available “now” not next week!

      • http://vaughndumas.wordpress.com/ Vaughn Dumas

        What happens when the digital format changes?  Likes stiffies and floppies all those years ago?  Will devices in 10 (20?) years’ time still be able read epub, pdf etc?  We might have to go on a large conversion drive to convert old formats to any (possible) new format.

  • http://fernando-gutierrez.com Fernando Gutierrez

    I have an addiction to books, both electronic and paper, and I’m fascinated with the transformation we are seeing in the sector. But my main problems is still unsolved… there’s no way I can find the time to read all the things I want to read!

    • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

      Thanks for the comment Fernando. There are two simple answers to that dilemma.
      Work out how to
      1. Live longer and
      2. Sleep less
      Cheers :)

  • http://fernando-gutierrez.com Fernando Gutierrez

    I have an addiction to books, both electronic and paper, and I’m fascinated with the transformation we are seeing in the sector. But my main problems is still unsolved… there’s no way I can find the time to read all the things I want to read!

  • RockieShapiro

    The publishing world is definitely changing and everyone is abuzz about e-books, indie authors, and the future of traditional publishers. I do love traditional books, but on the one hand I’m excited, or at least open-minded, about reading on e-devices as well as the new frontier of self publishing. For travelling, I think e-books are best since hundreds of books on an e-device weigh as much as one average paperback. Can’t beat the convenience. As far as self-publishing, writers who haven’t been picked up by the traditional publishers or want to retain full control can now share their words with the electronic world. However, on the other hand, with self-publishing, I fear the lack of quality that a good publishing team offers. Not every writer has copy editing or proofreading skills—hopefully, they’ll seek support in those areas. I think it’s easier to overlook misspellings and bad grammar in a tweet or a blog (“unparrallled” vs. “unparalleled” or “out” instead of “our”), then in an e-book or e-zine. Now, I have to admit, I just got an iPad2 and look forward to loading several books for my next trip. Thanks for your thoughts on the changing world of publishing. @rockieshapiro aka http://linkd.in/dFhSBS

    • http://vaughndumas.wordpress.com/ Vaughn Dumas

      Rockie,
      I agree with your comment regarding quality.  Perhaps that’s where publishers could offer a reduced service to self-publishing authors by proofreading their texts first.

  • http://www.facebook.com/vladimir.dobrovinsky Vladimir Dobrovinsky

    Need for fresh iPad Usage Statistics 2011. Particularly interested in the top Paid ipad books. Thanx in advance.

  • Jack W Perry

    Publishers aren’t dying – just transforming. Many are having very strong years because of embracing digital books.

    Amanda Hocking may have sold 900,000 Kindle ebooks, but she signed a $2-million deal with SMP. Barry Eisler was the author who walked away from $500,000. He decided to do so after talking to JA Konrath. Konrath has been very successful self-publishing afte he failed through the traditional method. I have a lot if respect for Konrath.

    I think self-publishing is great for some. But or others, traditional is still very profitable.

  • http://twitter.com/GregChirinian Greg Chirinian

    I use the library a lot , but even the library has gotten into the act with E -Books . E-Books are very convenient and this accounts for the popularity. I find it extremely useful if I am doing research, I can load up the books and go anywhere..Definitely a lot lighter and eliminates the need for a backpack. Who knows maybe in school they will eventually switch .Kids  have to carry a lot of weight in school books

  • http://twitter.com/GregChirinian Greg Chirinian

    I use the library a lot , but even the library has gotten into the act with E -Books . E-Books are very convenient and this accounts for the popularity. I find it extremely useful if I am doing research, I can load up the books and go anywhere..Definitely a lot lighter and eliminates the need for a backpack. Who knows maybe in school they will eventually switch .Kids  have to carry a lot of weight in school books

  • Jack W Perry

    Enjoyed your post. But also note that Amanda Hocking turned her self-published success into a $2-million book deal from a publisher. So there is still some life there.

    • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

      Thanks for the comment Jack. I think the new social web provides the means to self publish in multiple formats as well as use traditional and create synergy between the two.

  • http://twitter.com/JYoffie Domino Theory

    Printed books and magazines are the LP’s of the next ten years. They’ll still be around in a decade, and some people will swear they are far better than their digital counterparts, but the large majority of the market will have gone digital.

  • http://www.wonderoftech.com Carolyn Nicander Mohr

    Hi Jeff, fascinating analysis. eBooks are the biggest change to the written word since Guttenberg. I agree with your response to Marianne, this is a “now” generation with appreciation for instant gratification. As the music industry changed, the book industry will change.

    Like Marianne, I’m a huge fan of Audible and eBooks. If a title isn’t available in those formats, I will generally wait until it is.

    But several things worry me about our increasing affection for eBooks. First, adoption of the eBook format means that we are relying on that format never becoming obsolete. As we replaced our LP’s with 8 tracks, cassettes, CD’s and now digital files, we have seen that updating formats can be time-consuming and costly. It’s one thing to pay 99c to repurchase a song, are we going to repurchase a book we’ve already read in a new format?

    Second, I worry about companies having control of our books. As Amazon showed with (ironically) 1984, it can remove eBooks from the Kindle at any time. We don’t own eBooks, we have a license to use them. Big difference.

    Does that diminish my affection for eBooks? Not enough to stop buying them. But I still worry.