Since Amazon began selling the Kindle in November 2007 there has been a revolution in ebook sales. The Kindle is the most popular ebook reader on the market at the moment, and as all Kindle sales for ebooks are locked into Amazon it made sense to me to look at Amazon’s sales reports for an overview of how digital books are performing as opposed to paper books.
On May 19th 2011 Amazon.com reported that it was selling more Kindle books than print books. It’s important to look at the details of this announcement. Amazon reported that for every 100 print books they had sold, it had sold 105 Kindle books. ‘Today, less than four years after introducing Kindle books, Amazon.com customers are now purchasing more Kindle books than all print books – hardcover and paperback – combined. This includes sales of hardcover and paperback books by Amazon where there is no Kindle edition. Free Kindle books are excluded and if included would make the number even higher.’
There can hardly be any doubt that since the introduction of the Kindle, ebooks have dramatically increased in popularity. It will take a more well informed person than myself to explain the explosion in Kindle sales, but maybe Oprah Winfrey declaring it her favourite gadget in October 2008 and devoting an entire show to promoting it (with guest, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos) was a factor.
Another reason for the popularity of ereaders is the new opportunity for anybody to publish a book, and reach an international audience. The Big 6 publishers who have for so long have dominated the publishing world are now having their role as ‘gatekeeper’ of what does and doesn’t get published challenged. The lock they have held on distribution is now broken, with virtual bookshelves available to all authors via the internet. The mainstream publishers seem to be doing everything they can to slow the uptake of ebooks. The current trend is for designing the hardcover books as art objects, and publishers talking of ebooks cannibalising physical sales surely displays their fear of the future of digital publishing.
So what will happen in 2012 in the publishing industry? Will paper books disappear, leaving us all to read from electronic, hand held devices? Will we see more established authors turning their backs on the Big Six, and self publish instead? Will Amazon take over the world?
I seriously doubt it.
Amazon, in my opinion, have made their first major misstep in the world of publishing, with the introduction of KDP Select, although it seems to be working for indie author J A Konrath. It will take time before we see how this is going to work, how the limited monthly pot is going to be distributed, and what the uptake of books is like after the free promotion ends. As in everything else I see I think this will work better for the already established authors than the newbies.
Will mainstream publishers change their publishing models and embrace the ereader? Not according to Jeff Gerke. The Big Six will continue denying the problem, refuse to change their publishing model, and lose more authors to self publishing in the process.
I tend to agree. I think the ereader will continue to rise in popularity, along with ebooks. We won’t see paper books disappearing, ever, I think, but slowly become more of a niche product.
The more interesting side for me is the future of self published authors on digital platforms. There are a lot of us out there now and, let’s be honest, most of those self published novels are terribly written and, often, poorly formatted. How do we rise to the surface of this sea of fiction and get ourselves noticed and, ultimately, sold? I’m not sure that pricing our books as low as possible is the answer, as cheap ebooks may well soon equate with rubbish ebooks in the minds of many buyers.
2012 is going to be an interesting year in the publishing world. What are your predictions?
Do you think there will be a resurgence in popularity of paper books, or will the Kindle come to dominate the marketplace?
And how many self published authors do you think the digital ebook revolution can cope with? Maybe there will be a tipping point, where readers flock back to the established names, and a self published author, no matter how good their writing is, will not be able to give their book away?
I’m interested to know what you think.