at least, that has been my experience of late.
ebooks are doing pretty good. paperbacks are hardly moving. I’m pretty sure this isn’t a phenomenon exclusive to me. other writers I’ve spoken to are experiencing the same thing.
but here is my question-why?
everywhere you look, there are folks who still love the feel of a dead tree book in their hands. plenty of them. and that’s cool. I love books myself. so, this leads me to wonder if the people who really like good old fashioned books have become somewhat resentful of the low prices of ebooks, which, if true, is kind of a lose-lose situation, because I don’t see many publishers other than the huge ones charging an arm and a leg for an ebook. and even if they did, would they sell for anyone but the hugest names in the industry? but everyone knows an ebook costs pretty much nothing to produce, whereas putting a physical copy in someone’s hands does cost money. so what’s the beef, really?
maybe I’m just being a moron. I don’t know. I’m pretty tired and basically just rambling, thinking out loud, but I’d love to hear anyone’s opinion on this subject, if you have one.
I’d like to get to the bottom of this mystery. could there be another reason, beside the money issue? are you someone who has stopped buying paperbacks for a reason other than you prefer your e-reader? I know money is tight, but the difference is huge. and, I know you’re out there, peanut gallery (they’re not selling ’cause you suck ostrich eggs, ranalli!) but other than that, what’s different?
I might post more about this at some point, because I’m interested and my mind is whirling and I’m avoiding fiction writing.
anyway, let me know what you think. get at me, chickadees!
Cost is definitely an issue, and the more I consider it, I wonder if availability is, too. Many publishers use Print on Demand now, which of course helps keep warehousing, materials and distribution costs down, but also means there are less extra copies floating around waiting to be snapped up at used stores, thrift bins, whatever…which of course, still falls back on cost-effectiveness, but you get the idea. Might be another contributing factor. No one’s ever told me they found my books in a second-hand store…and when you take that away, the best option is digital, unless you really just get excited about what a book feels like in your hands.
Worth noting that (at least last time I checked) international availability of bizarro paperbacks was either limited or grossly disproportionate in terms of price – a chapbook that might retail for $6.66 in the US would be £6.66 here. Makes sense, of course – but when the digital editions keep relative parity, it makes sense to opt for that.
I can’t really explain it myself. I see people who swear they only want print, but they must not be buying many books.
I think part of it comes down to the ease of buying ebooks and the complete lack of nonmonetary cost. By that I mean it’s real easy to buy on impulse and not “feel” the money being spent and not lose physical space to a book you might only be mildly interested in. The same principle is behind some pirates. They don’t actually want the book in question they just like hoarding the information and download any book that they think they might want to read some day. It’s just easier to buy seeing as you don’t have an object taking up physical space. I’m not sure that means the ebooks get read.
I’ve been in publishing, both editorial and marketing, for the past 10 years, and a longtime collector and reader of horror fiction.
Here are the issues I see:
The #1 problem in the world of eBooks is the perception by consumers that it costs nothing to produce an eBook, or at least much less than a printed book–but this is NOT true. A good publisher must still pay an artist, a copy editor, sometimes a proofreader, not to mention an author advance, future royalties, and associated marketing costs. The only thing that changes is the cost of printing the actual book, which is a modest portion of the overall production unless we’re talking about a super-duper collectible limited edition. Thus, almost all eBooks are priced slightly lower than hardbacks or paperbacks to make up that difference.
The #2 problem is self-published works from writers who think they’re writers but simply throw some words on a page, upload them to Amazon, call them a book, then sell them for next to nothing. Consumers don’t realize that these people aren’t actually writers but weekend warriors who want to call themselves writers, and when consumers consistenly pay next to nothing for fiction, albeit bad fiction, they become accustomed to that price point, which hurts real honest-to-god writers who have toiled away for years at their craft and have established bodies of work and a loyal following. This free-to-$.99 price point hurts reputable authors in the long run, even though they may see a short-term uptick in downloads. It also hurts publishers as they’re not seeing a dime (literally) from sales like that, which in turn hurts the publisher’s profit margin, thus making it harder to commit to more books in the future or to pay better royalties.
The #3 problem is people have forgotten when they buy a book, they are essentially buying an idea, a figment of another person’s imagination, not the paper said idea is printed on. But in today’s world, people want “stuff.” They want fancy covers and foil stamps and cover art and dust jackets and so on. The words in the book, or the feelings those words evoke in one’s mind, have taken the backseat. People want stuff to put on their bookshelves to have other people look at. (Don’t get me wrong, I dig pretty books, too, but it’s the ideas behind them that make me read.)
The #4 problem is that authors are undervaluing their work. A good novel or novella shouldn’t be sold for less than 5 bucks. The more often good fiction stays at a $.99 price point, the harder it’s going to be to get a consumer to pay any more than that in the future, so we could be seeing a downward spiral where fiction is never sold for more than a buck. I think authors should stand behind their work and try to work with publishers who are willing to commit to helping them sell their books. (Admittedly, these kinds of publishing relationships are becoming harder and harder to find; this comes from a former Dorchester/Leisure editor who lost a ton of money by trusting in the company.)
There are gray areas and exceptions to all these points, but this is the landscape as I see it this morning.
I’ve had way too much coffee!
Although I have a kindle, I’m still buying mainly paper books and can’t see that changing any time soon. My kindle is mostly full of online magazines and novels/novellas only available as ebooks.
Commented over on your FB page!
I’m partial to print books myself, although I wnn a Kindle and read ebooks on that, my phone, and my computer. I buy real books for things I want to keep or reread, and use a library or buy ebooks for things I only want to borrow or read once. So while I definitely want to own ALL your work, I have to admit that a lot of my other pleasure reading wouldn’t require a book purchase.
Cost and convenience for me. I generally prefer ebooks now. I love it when I hear about an interesting book, I look it up, click a button and BAM! There it is, right in my hands. It’s great! And being able to contain so many books on one little device is amazing. I’ve got about 80 right now.
I avoided ebooks for a long time, because I just couldn’t imagine anything being as good as reading on paper, until a coworker brought in his Kindle and I took a look @ it, and was amazed @ how clear it was. Last month I got an iPad, so now I use that to read my Kindle books.
I still like the feel of a good physical book in my hand (although I prefer hardcover over paperbacks, in general), and continue to buy some physical books, because sometimes a used copy is much cheaper than the Kindle version. Plus, I now have Amazon Prime membership where, for $79 a year, I can get many items with free 2-day shipping (or 1-day shipping just for an extra $3.99), which cuts down on the waiting time to get the book (I find that I’ve become more impatient as I get older, when I buy something, I want it as soon as possible). But I can foresee a time where I’ll stop buying printed books completely.
I think Dave Thomas has covered the issue in a very succinct yet complete form.
There’s nothing else I could add.
thanks so much for the replies, guys. now my head is whirling even more (which is a good thing!)
I’m coming in late, but it comes down to convenience and cost for me, too. Plus, through the lower price of ebooks, I get to support my favorite indie authors. I’m just not in a financial position where I can shell out $10 a book for a whole whack of titles. But $2.99 or $3.99, and I don’t need another bookshelf? That’s awesome! Don’t get me wrong. I still love print, but ebooks are much easier for me all around. (Storage and wallet thank me. lol)
Also, you really can make them for an inexpensive price if you can pool your resources (talent). I’ve seen some excellent covers, and read some great titles, that I know the author produced for minimal to no overhead. It can be done, but you do need to know what you’re doing. (Peppermint Twist is a good example, for instance, imho.) Just my .02 cents. 🙂
I love the feel and smell of a new book (or even the smell of a well aged book when I pick it up from a used paperback shop). There’s nothing like that feeling. I’ll never stop buying print books. However, that said, I do the vast bulk of my reading on my nook or my kindle. It’s convenient and the lower price point doesn’t hurt. Plus it’s easier to tote a single kindle on vacation vs 8-10 books(especially on a plane). Call me crazy, but I would really be pleased if publishers could figure out a good way of including a digital copy of any physical book purchased. I have a tendency to buy both for authors I really like (I have the Cargo Cult, Grindhouse, and Kindle versions of House of Fallen Leaves for example) and think it would be nice to get the digital as a bonus (or for a super lowball price- after spending $17 on Stephen King’s 11/22/63, ponying up another $15 is a bit steep). Ayway- I love and will always love real books, but I’m liking the e-readers.
I buy paperbacks every so often if an e-book version isn’t available for one reason: space concerns. Wonderful, real books take up space and are a pain when I move.