I’ve recently been reconnecting with some friends from high school on FaceBook, a benefit from social media that I never expected. (I was dragged kicking and screaming onto FaceBook because it’s ONE MORE THING I have to attend to so this is truly a plus.)
This morning, one of these oh-so-pleasant reconnections was applauding the fact that print books are still outpacing electronic books in the overall sales of books. Personally, I don’t think books-on-paper were ever in any danger of disappearing.
If you remember back to the thrilling days of yesteryear (2010–2013), the media were full of stories about the meteoric rise of ebook sales. There were thunderous predictions of how the ebook would swamp print sales. Paper-and-ink were out! In with the digital!
We haven’t heard any of those stories lately, have we? Somehow, the flattening out of ebook sales and the non-death of print are just not as interesting.
Now I watch the publishing industry pretty closely, both because I’m a writer and because I own a book production company, Full Circle Press, so I have to understand the latest trends in order to advise my clients intelligently.
Or at least try to.
So for those of you who may be interested, here’s the full scoop.
Of all book sales in the U.S., approximately 30 percent of them are now ebooks, and that figure’s been holding steady for about a year and a half.
Genre fiction—fantasy, sic-fi, mystery, thrillers, romance—account for more ebook sales than all other categories combined.
Even though there are lots of non-fiction and children’s titles available electronically, the sales of these types of books are still relatively low as a percentage of all ebook sales. And books that are image-heavy (art books, how-to books, cookbooks) sell even less in the ebook format.
Now there’s a third media format for books that needs to be part of this discussion—audiobooks.
Even though the media is not shouting about this from the rooftops, you might be interested to know that the sales of audiobooks is growing rapidly. There are now online service companies that help independently publishing authors convert their books to the spoken word.
That is what is feeding this trend because traditional book publishing companies (the Random Houses of this world) are once again lagging behind when it comes to keeping up with reader preferences. (They were so late to the party on the ebook front, they almost didn’t show up.)
Books-on-paper as we know them—pages cut to the same size held together by a cover of some sort, a format called a codex—came into being somewhere around the 3rd century. That’s a longterm relationship if I’ve ever seen one.
That’s why I don’t think anything will ever replace ink-on-paper books. We like them too much.
To me, ebooks and audiobooks are just another choice for readers, not a replacement for the original.
Read any good books lately?