The Rise of Indie Publishing and Dwindling Amazon’s Sales

The Rise of Indie Publishing and Dwindling Amazon’s Sales
by Sando Sasako
Jakarta, 12 January 2016
Last update: 8 October 2016

Sebagai perangkat elektronik serbaguna, telepon genggam telah bertransformasi dari sekedar alat telekomunikasi suara sesama manusia menjadi media komunikasi digital yang semakin terpadu dan menyeluruh. Objek atau pesan komunikasi dalam media digital bisa memuat unsur tulisan, suara, gambar, dan gambar bersuara (multimedia).

Media komunikasi pada umumnya bersifat satu arah. Koran, buku, tulisan, lukisan, foto, siaran tv dan radio, serta film merupakan bentuk yang paling umum. Interaksi bisa terjadi saat media komunikasi sedang dalam proses produksi, konsumsi, maupun distribusi. Sifatnya yang kreatif dan personal membuat media komunikasi banyak mendapat tempat dan apresiasi sebagai karya seni.

Nilai jual suatu karya seni bersifat relatif. Nilai beli suatu karya seni tergantung preferensi pembeli yang akan dan mau membayar mahal suatu karya seni bila sesuai dengan keinginan dan kebutuhan. Ketika ada kesesuaian antara nilai jual dan nilai beli di satu tingkat harga, pasar atas karya seni tersebut menjadi wujud dan menciptakan pertukaran.

Mempertemukan penjual dan pembeli bukan perkara yang mudah. Pasar penjual dan pasar pembeli merupakan dua pasar yang berbeda. Demikian pula pada kasus pasar produsen dan pasar konsumen. Calo atau Man in the Middle merupakan pihak yang mencoba menjembatani kedua pihak. Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, dan Sony merupakan 4 pemain utama MitM di bisnis e-book reader.

Dengan harga gadget yang tinggi, Amazon berhasil memenangkan pasar e-book di seluruh dunia dengan menggratiskan peminjaman jutaan e-book bagi pembeli produknya untuk beberapa waktu. Amazon pun hanya mengenakan biaya langganan bulanan sebesar $10 untuk fitur all-you-can-read. Harga e-book dipatok paling mahal sebesar $9,99.

Banyak pihak sudah mengkonfirmasikan anjloknya penjualan e-book di seluruh dunia, terutama di kalangan 5 penerbit besar AS (Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, dan GooglePlay). Laporan yang ada kebanyakan tidak menyertakan data jumlah e-book baru yang mereka terbitkan, apalagi jumlah penjualan.

Hampir semua Ts&Cs yang diberikan penerbit pada umumnya sangat merendahkan penulis, terutama dalam hal apresiasi dan royalti. Akibatnya, mereka banyak yang beralih menjadi penerbit indie. Berdasarkan penelusuran tren 27 bulan AuthorEarnings.com, pangsa e-book dari penerbit indie sudah lebih dari 25% sejak awal 2016. Silahkan cek datanya di sini http://bit.ly/1stnLDb.

Silahkan download buku “Kemana Mau Jual Buku Online” gratis, di sini http://bit.ly/2dauOvZ


The Plot Twist: E-Book Sales Slip, and Print Is Far From Dead
By ALEXANDRA ALTER, SEPT. 22, 2015


Penguin Random House last year doubled the size of its distribution center in Crawfordsville, Ind., to speed up book distribution. Credit A J Mast for The New York Times

Five years ago, the book world was seized by collective panic over the uncertain future of print.

As readers migrated to new digital devices, e-book sales soared, up 1,260 percent between 2008 and 2010, alarming booksellers that watched consumers use their stores to find titles they would later buy online. Print sales dwindled, bookstores struggled to stay open, and publishers and authors feared that cheaper e-books would cannibalize their business.

Then in 2011, the industry’s fears were realized when Borders declared bankruptcy.

“E-books were this rocket ship going straight up,” said Len Vlahos, a former executive director of the Book Industry Study Group, a nonprofit research group that tracks the publishing industry. “Just about everybody you talked to thought we were going the way of digital music.”

But the digital apocalypse never arrived, or at least not on schedule. While analysts once predicted that e-books would overtake print by 2015, digital sales have instead slowed sharply.

Now, there are signs that some e-book adopters are returning to print, or becoming hybrid readers, who juggle devices and paper. E-book sales fell by 10 percent in the first five months of this year, according to the Association of American Publishers, which collects data from nearly 1,200 publishers. Digital books accounted last year for around 20 percent of the market, roughly the same as they did a few years ago.

E-books’ declining popularity may signal that publishing, while not immune to technological upheaval, will weather the tidal wave of digital technology better than other forms of media, like music and television.

E-book subscription services, modeled on companies like Netflix and Pandora, have struggled to convert book lovers into digital binge readers, and some have shut down. Sales of dedicated e-reading devices have plunged as consumers migrated to tablets and smartphones. And according to some surveys, young readers who are digital natives still prefer reading on paper.

The surprising resilience of print has provided a lift to many booksellers. Independent bookstores, which were battered by the recession and competition from Amazon, are showing strong signs of resurgence. The American Booksellers Association counted 1,712 member stores in 2,227 locations in 2015, up from 1,410 in 1,660 locations five years ago.

“The fact that the digital side of the business has leveled off has worked to our advantage,” said Oren Teicher, chief executive of the American Booksellers Association. “It’s resulted in a far healthier independent bookstore market today than we have had in a long time.”

Publishers, seeking to capitalize on the shift, are pouring money into their print infrastructures and distribution. Hachette added 218,000 square feet to its Indiana warehouse late last year, and Simon & Schuster is expanding its New Jersey distribution facility by 200,000 square feet.

Penguin Random House has invested nearly $100 million in expanding and updating its warehouses and speeding up distribution of its books. It added 365,000 square feet last year to its warehouse in Crawfordsville, Ind., more than doubling the size of the warehouse.

“People talked about the demise of physical books as if it was only a matter of time, but even 50 to 100 years from now, print will be a big chunk of our business,” said Markus Dohle, the chief executive of Penguin Random House, which has nearly 250 imprints globally. Print books account for more than 70 percent of the company’s sales in the United States.

The company began offering independent booksellers in 2011 two-day guaranteed delivery from November to January, the peak book buying months.

Other big publishers, including HarperCollins, have followed suit. The faster deliveries have allowed bookstores to place smaller initial orders and restock as needed, which has reduced returns of unsold books by about 10 percent.


Steve Bercu, co-owner of a bookstore in Austin, Tex., where 2015 sales are up 11 percent, and profits are the highest ever. Credit Ilana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times

Penguin Random House has also developed a data-driven approach to managing print inventory for some of its largest customers, a strategy modeled on the way manufacturers like Procter & Gamble automatically restock soap and other household goods. The company now tracks more than 10 million sales records a day, and sifts through them in order to make recommendations for how many copies of a given title a vendor should order based on previous sales.

“It’s a very simple thing; only books that are on the shelves can be sold,” Mr. Dohle said.

At BookPeople, a bookstore founded in 1970 in Austin, Tex., sales are up nearly 11 percent this year over last, making 2015 the store’s most profitable year ever, said Steve Bercu, the co-owner. He credits the growth of his business, in part, to the stabilization of print and new practices in the publishing industry, such as Penguin Random House’s so-called rapid replenishment program to restock books quickly.

“The e-book terror has kind of subsided,” he said.

Other independent booksellers agree that they are witnessing a reverse migration to print.

“We’ve seen people coming back,” said Arsen Kashkashian, a book buyer at Boulder Book Store in Boulder, Colo. “They were reading more on their Kindle and now they’re not, or they’re reading both ways.”

Digital books have been around for decades, ever since publishers began experimenting with CD-ROMs, but they did not catch on with consumers until 2008, shortly after Amazon released the Kindle.

The Kindle, which was joined by other devices like Kobo’s e-reader, the Nook from Barnes & Noble and the iPad, drew millions of book buyers to e-readers, which offered seamless, instant purchases. Publishers saw huge spikes in digital sales during and after the holidays, after people received e-readers as gifts.

But those double- and triple-digit growth rates plummeted as e-reading devices fell out of fashion with consumers, replaced by smartphones and tablets. Some 12 million e-readers were sold last year, a steep drop from the nearly 20 million sold in 2011, according to Forrester Research. The portion of people who read books primarily on e-readers fell to 32 percent in the first quarter of 2015, from 50 percent in 2012, a Nielsen survey showed.

Higher e-book prices may also be driving readers back to paper.

As publishers renegotiated new terms with Amazon in the past year and demanded the ability to set their own e-book prices, many have started charging more. With little difference in price between a $13 e-book and a paperback, some consumers may be opting for the print version.

On Amazon, the paperback editions of some popular titles, like “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt, are several dollars cheaper than their digital counterparts. Paperback sales rose by 8.4 percent in the first five months of this year, the Association of American Publishers reported.

The tug of war between pixels and print almost certainly isn’t over. Industry analysts and publishing executives say it is too soon to declare the death of the digital publishing revolution. An appealing new device might come along. Already, a growing number of people are reading e-books on their cellphones. Amazon recently unveiled a new tablet for $50, which could draw a new wave of customers to e-books (the first-generation Kindle cost $400).

It is also possible that a growing number of people are still buying and reading e-books, just not from traditional publishers. The declining e-book sales reported by publishers do not account for the millions of readers who have migrated to cheap and plentiful self-published e-books, which often cost less than a dollar.

At Amazon, digital book sales have maintained their upward trajectory, according to Russell Grandinetti, senior vice president of Kindle. Last year, Amazon, which controls some 65 percent of the e-book market, introduced an e-book subscription service that allows readers to pay a flat monthly fee of $10 for unlimited digital reading. It offers more than a million titles, many of them from self-published authors.

Some publishing executives say the world is changing too quickly to declare that the digital tide is waning.

“Maybe it’s just a pause here,” said Carolyn Reidy, the president and chief executive of Simon & Schuster. “Will the next generation want to read books on their smartphones, and will we see another burst come?”

A version of this article appears in print on September 23, 2015, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: The Plot Twist: E-Book Sales Slip, and Print Is Far From Dead . Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe


Readers’ Picks

cph Denver September 23, 2015
Everybody in our household bought Kindles five years ago, and we’ve all returned to print. For myself, I can’t “see” the words on a screen like I can a page, or turn back to pick up the character, plot, or detail mentioned earlier that I need to understand what I’m reading. I can’t highlight, study, or write in the margins in a way that’s retrievable later without print. Long live print! Long live independent bookstores!

luckypoodle Rochester, NY September 23, 2015
Yay! If I don’t see all the books I’ve read in my bookcases it’s harder to remember who I am.

John Salt Lake City September 23, 2015
I own treasured books given to me by long-deceased relatives, and I have inherited historically meaningful books over a century old. Once you buy a physical book it is yours to keep or give away. When you “buy” (really rent) an e-book you will have access only as long as the arrangement fits Amazon’s business model.

Richard Portland, OR September 23, 2015
The answer is probably much less complex than this article suggests. It comes down to the fact that much as everyone in the book business will hate to admit it, Jeff Bezos was right: $9.99 was the sweet price point for e-books. When publishers got greedy and forced Amazon to sell at $14 and $15, the market cooled and that’s when the sale of E-books flattened.

Nick Metrowsky is a trusted commenter Longmont, Colorado September 23, 2015
I have a house full of books. They are on the shelf any time I want them. I do not have to worry about running out of power. I do not have to deal with screen glare. I read the book the way the author and publisher meant it to be. Chapters, illustrations and the like. The book is portable, I can take it anywhere. If it is packed in luggage, or accidentally dropped, it will not break. And, if I want to lend the book out, I do not have to wonder if they have a Kindle, Nook or something else.
also, books can last virtually forever, if stored properly. To passed on to generations to come. My father always said a good book is the key to magic kingdoms.
Nothing is so good to curl up, on a cold evening with hot cocoa and a good book.
The e-book is just not that; it is cold. No different than looking at Wikipedia; non-dimensional. Imagine Reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” in e-book, compared to the printed version? It just does come alive in e-book form.
I work with technology everyday, and there are ways I need to escape it. So, a quiet room, a warm fire, and a good book.

Gary Horsman Montreal, Canada September 23, 2015
Of the four major consumer media formats (music, television, film, books), the book is the only format that requires no direct electronic intervention to consume. (You might argue live music fits that description, but much of music’s widespread success has been through the recording industry.)
In this way, the book is unique and has been around for centuries, unlike the others which came onto the scene a about century ago or later. It is this timeless distinction (and its quieter ability to conjure worlds in our minds) which will probably keep it relevant for centuries to come.

Julie W. New Jersey September 23, 2015
This is good news. While I like the convenience of e-books, nothing can replace the feel of a quirky, independent brick-and-mortar bookstore. At one point I was afraid that we might lose these places altogether. I applaud the store owners who have kept their businesses going and offer readers a gathering place. I’ll continue to read in both forms, but will always try to stop in and patronize the bookstores in my area whenever I get the chance.

rfj LI September 23, 2015
This is awesome news. I have never read an e-book and I never will, if I can help it. I want a book that I can hold in my hands, close on a bookmark, and place on a table, where I will pick it up again the next day, and then place in a bookcase when I’m finished with it, perhaps to pick it up again some years hence. I don’t want a ‘device’ – I want a book. I’m willing to pay for that experience.
I read a quote once where Jeff Bezos of Amazon said his goal was to shutter every bookstore on Earth. That one quote was enough to convince me never to buy a single thing through Amazon (and I never have).
I’m glad to hear that bricks and mortar and real books will last a while longer, hopefully a lot longer.

Bmfc1 Silver Spring, MD September 23, 2015
The greedy publishes keep raising the price of an e-book. It used to be $9.99 and now I’ve seen new e-books going for $14.99. That is an absurd price for what is simply the transfer of a file.

Hugh Sansom Brooklyn, NY September 23, 2015
How are e-books flawed? Shall we count the ways?
1. Can’t re-sell them, or even give them away.
2. Prices are often as high as for paper (destroying one lie originally offered by publishers – that lower costs would make e-books less expensive). In Apple’s case, e-books often cost more.
3. With Amazon, you don’t actually own the book at all (check the fine print). Remember publishers’ suggestion that we license books, paying a regular fee? (Watch for that to make a comeback.)
4. A really low price is often a warning of something never made explicit: Images in the paper book are either poorly reproduced or missing altogether from the e-book.
4b. If you’re a researcher, forget about equations in e-books. Awful. LaTeX and other digital typesetting tools for technical material have existed for 30 years, but neither Apple nor Amazon can make them work?
5. Has any publisher or vendor ever consulted a print designer about e-books? To say that they are badly designed with hideous typography is an understatement. One thousand years of typography and design are lost in e-books. Amazon can’t even figure out how to get line-spacing right, or indentation. And that leads to…
6. Reading a physical book is simply better… except when you carry 20 books in your luggage for vacation.
7. It could be different. Buy a book from Verso, for example, and you can also get the e-version for a few dollars added.
8. Finally, why the absurd inflation rate for all books? What’s wrong with publishing?

SmallPharm San Francisco, CA September 23, 2015
If you really value paper books and you like browsing shelves, get out there and support your local bookstore. There are a few left and they need you!

Ensconced In Velvet Down Ol’ Mejico Way September 23, 2015
I really like both physical books and my Kindle Voyage. The Kindle is great for travel and when I am living abroad. With it I can purchase much of what I want from almost anywhere on Earth. I can also use my California library accounts to check out loads of titles for free — again, practically from anywhere. I read physical books when I am back in California and have access to my own collection. I love the options, convenience, and utility that are available today.

Allan MacLeod Saskatoon September 23, 2015
As part of the decluttering generation, I increasingly use an ereader just for space reasons and compassion for my heirs. I still have lots of books, but choice ones. Nothing can replace the feel of a book. Calvino describes to joy of buying and opening and touching and smelling a new book in If on a Winter’s Night.
Everyone thought LPs were dead, but they too have made a comeback. And once you point out that an lp made from a digital master cannot sound better than a cd, the real reason for the resurgence comes out: the feel of an lp, the jacket, the tactile experience. Just like books.
Maybe it means that I don’t have to declutter by throwing books out. Maybe people will want to pick up an out-of-print book at a charity book sale. And maybe I will once again be able to haunt really good well-stocked bookstores. And know he pleasure of finding a beautiful book I can scarcely wait to open.

Jackie maryland September 23, 2015
I’m forever grateful for the existence of ebooks. I’ve always been a reader all my life, so when I developed severe arthritis in my hands, I was devastated. It hurt my hands too much to hold a book and turn the pages. With a ebook reader (Nook), its not so much a problem. I can read all I like and not suffer from pain in my hands. For myself, ebooks are the way to go, even though I still do miss reading real books.

Anne184 Cambridge, MA September 23, 2015
I love print because it takes me away from this screen. And the one in my pocket, the other in my living room, one at work. Life demands so much on-computer time these days that to sit outside and read a traditional book has become a favorite escape.

PJ Nickel Netherlands September 23, 2015
Some reasons why I like print books: I like to give away or loan books to my friends when I’m done with them, to share my excitement. That is impossible with an e-book. Also, some of my favorite words and books — poetry, childrens’ books with illustrations, and cookbooks, for example — just don’t look good in e-book form. Bookstores and libraries are places of exploration, not (just) shopping. My own book collection is like a set of experiences that have a physical place in my house where I can go to relive or remember them. And finally, I don’t like the idea that my e-reading experience is being recorded and used to generate a data set. I want to read unobserved.

Miami Joe Miami September 23, 2015
I am a scientist. All my scientific reading is on digital formats. These are for the most part beautifully produced products with high quality graphics and smooth integration. My experience with e-books is completely opposite. They are generally ugly. Graphics are poorly implemented and integrated. Moving through the documents is clumsy. Now I only buy e-books for convenience. Long live print-on-paper!

John WA September 23, 2015
There is a very, very obvious reason why the sales of e-books have slipped and it is not rocket science: Cost. What once cost $9.99 is often $14.99 and sometimes more.

Ricardo Brooklyn, NY September 23, 2015
Um, have you considered that the writer(s), editor(s), proofreader(s), designer(s), typesetter(s), and now even programmer(s) all need to be paid for their hard work in getting this “file” transferred to your e-reading device? What about the efforts of the marketing and advertising departments in making sure that people find out about a book? What about the costs of printing and storing the physical, printed books from which the e-book version originates? What about the costs of sending authors on book tours? Should all of that be done for free?

Sleater is a trusted commenter New York September 23, 2015
This isn’t surprising. E-books tire the eyes. Also, e-readers aren’t as robust as print books (cold weather, water, sand, etc. destroy them, unlike paper books). Lastly, once you own a paper book you can lend it to anyone, resell, etc. No one is tracking your reading, selling that info to some other corporation, and so on. With e-books, who knows who’s surveilling you (and some of the device makers and publishers have admitted they do so). Thanks, but, outside of occasional reading, presentations and free .pdfs, no thanks!

Ed Vienna, Austria September 23, 2015
I am addicted to reading and my greatest fear in life is being somewhere, anywhere, without something to read. I read books on my phone (while commuting, at the doctor’s) and I travel with my Kindle. I also walk the streets of town and through airports listening to audio books. But nothing comes close to having a book in your hand. This is something you have a relationship with–whether you are ten years old or seventy. And indeed, when you are seventy, you can still hold the very same book you had when you were ten, and give it to your grandchildren. I never pick up my Kindle unless I am on the road, and I’m even less enamoured of the books I’ve ordered on my iPad.

sarahlucia Denver, Co September 23, 2015
The publishers won their fight with Amazon and the result is that many e-books now cost $14 or $15–only a dollar or two less than hardbound books but vastly cheaper for the publishers to produce. I, for one, will no longer buy e-books at this price, although I previously bought 4-5 e-books books/week. I’ll just wait and buy new or used books which also have the advantage that I can lend them out to friends. I spoke with my son-in-law today and he and his family have planned to do the same after they saw the big price hike.

Stephen Tokyo September 23, 2015
I love my books, but I’ve found that for certain genres, e-books do just fine (especially when I’m traveling).
As Amazon continues to manipulate prices and availability, I’ve found recently that it’s actually cheaper to order the hard cover versions and have them shipped to me here in Japan than to download the Kindle editions. So I’ve moved back to print in many cases. I think a lot of other people are beginning to question the pricing model for e-books–at least as it’s being driven by Amazon–and that may be causing others like myself to rediscover the joys of something tangible and lasting.

Parker NY September 23, 2015
Whew.
I used to worry, but weekly visits to my local public library (where you can also reserve/preorder online at the fantastic NYPL site) and occasional ones to the glorious Strand Bookstore, convinced me that print is not going away anytime soon. Too many happy people, too much joy, too much beauty.

sfdphd is a trusted commenter San Francisco September 23, 2015
I read only books in print. I buy them both new and used. I read books from the library. I buy them from garage sales and flea markets. I even get free ones from the Little Free Library Boxes. I have books everywhere in my home. Nothing else gives the joy and the knowledge of books. IMHO.


NYT Picks

Alex D. September 24, 2015
I’d like to join my voice to the chorus of print book lovers here.No one other than Eric Schmidt , CEO of Google, has said: ‘I still think …

Eileen September 24, 2015
Being able to set my own text size is much easier on my eyes and less weight is easier on my wrists. I imagine this will only become true as…

Michael J Edwards September 24, 2015
If you read this article carefully, you will see that their reporting on sales of ebooks includes ONLY ebooks being sold by the traditional…

Justathot AZ September 23, 2015
So the Chicken Littles were wrong. It’s not this or that. It’s this AND that.
Who cares, as long as people read?

M. Tarrytown, NY September 23, 2015
Sadly, perhaps because the article is focused on buying books, no one in the comments I’ve skimmed has mentioned borrowing e-books from the library. The library does have to buy them, but taking them out of the library eliminates the cost factor and supports libraries. The downside? No instant gratification. You have to wait for new books. If you want to read something immediately, you have to buy it.
I originally switched to a Kindle because I couldn’t read the print in “real” books. That’s no longer the case, but I’ve just adjusted. I think more frequently now of going back to “real” books but something in me has adjusted to the Kindle PaperWhite screen. I still cannot read on a tablet or computer. Much too bright.

Jones Florida September 23, 2015
The first night I had an e-reader I read until 8:30 the following morning. I know I was excited by my new tool/”toy” but I couldn’t understand why I stayed awake SO long. The next night I was awake until very, very late. The third night I Googled screen light, discovered a pattern and scientific explanation for what could be happening, and turned down the screen light. Switching to a black background helped somewhat but I still stayed awake reading until very late.
Finally…I gave up reading on an e-reader except during daylight hours. No matter how the reader was configured I was awake very late. Today I have a tablet and no longer download e-books. I’m strictly a paper and hardcover reader. They’re softer when I fall asleep and hit myself in the face with my book.

James Williams Punta Gorda, FL September 23, 2015
I bought a Kindle about four years ago, and I bought many Kindle books (primarily novels) from Amazon. Average price about $1.99 to $3.00. I haven’t bought a single Kindle book for the past year; the prices are now $9.99 to $14.00. It is pure unadulterated greed on the part of Amazon, the publishers and the authors. Probably will never use the Kindle again.

amy feinberg nyc September 23, 2015
I want to read only ebooks but somebody’s not letting me. i download books from the library onto my iPhone. Only about 50% of the books I want are available. Is there collusion between perhaps Amazon and the publishers to force me to buy the books that aren’t available? Or are some publishers alone responsible for refusing to deal with the library so they can sell more paper books? The library should have all ebooks as it has all paper books.

HCat NYC September 23, 2015
I read both, digital books for commuting on the subway and print books at home. My true love is print, to me there is nothing better in the world then the smell of a book. Or the moment you walk in to a bookstore and look around the front tables. Or the minute you sit down on the train and the person next to you is reading a book that you’re dying to talk about.
I’m happy to hear that print is ‘bouncing back’ but I think the real issue is how do we get more people to read….anything?

EAL Fayetteville, NC September 23, 2015
I’ve started doing the reverse of looking at books in a store to decide which ones I want to buy online: I’ll skim through Amazon’s storefront, download some free samples to read, and if I like the book well enough, I’ll go buy it or get it from the library.
Reading doesn’t have to be an either-or situation. There are some types of books that lend themselves better to one format or the other, depending on the reader. If a book is something I want to study (religion or physics), I’ll buy it in paper form, because I can flip through it more easily as I take notes. If it’s a book I’ll want to carry around with me to read while I’m in a waiting room, like a novel, I’ll buy it in e-book form. If it’s just been published, and the price is higher than I want to pay, I’ll check it out of the library.
As other commenters have said, reading a book-book is a sensual experience. I love that, and wouldn’t give it up for anything. But I started wearing out my shoulder carrying books around in my purse, and my Kindle has been a godsend. I’m glad I can have it both ways.

L.J. Sellers Eugene, OR September 23, 2015
The decline of ebooks is nonsense. Sales growth has slowed overall, but it continues to rise. Except for the big publishers. Their ebook sales are down because they’re back to charging the same price as print. So, many consumers are buying indie published ebooks. These digital sales are completely ignored by the publishing industry, but collectively, they outpace the legacy publishers. Additionally, subscription services are eating into ebook sales, but people are still reading those digital files.

DS Georgia September 23, 2015
I read books almost exclusively in ebook format. For me, the advantages of quick purchase, portability, built in dictionary, storage (no more filling up the house with bookshelves!) tip the scales. I can easily fetch books I read years ago to look something up.
I feel the biggest drawback to ebooks is that the layout of text on the screen still isn’t as good as a printed book. The rendering software sometimes displays just a few words on a single line with huge spaces between them. Amazon has introduced better rendering software to improve this, but I’m not sure they’ll ever come close to the nice layouts found in printed books.
Still, the convenience of reading and storing ebooks has won me over.

Anne184 Cambridge, MA September 23, 2015
I love print because it takes me away from this screen. And the one in my pocket, the other in my living room, one at work. Life demands so much on-computer time these days that to sit outside and read a traditional book has become a favorite escape.

Hugh Sansom Brooklyn, NY September 23, 2015
How are e-books flawed? Shall we count the ways?
1. Can’t re-sell them, or even give them away.
2. Prices are often as high as for paper (destroying one lie originally offered by publishers – that lower costs would make e-books less expensive). In Apple’s case, e-books often cost more.
3. With Amazon, you don’t actually own the book at all (check the fine print). Remember publishers’ suggestion that we license books, paying a regular fee? (Watch for that to make a comeback.)
4. A really low price is often a warning of something never made explicit: Images in the paper book are either poorly reproduced or missing altogether from the e-book.
4b. If you’re a researcher, forget about equations in e-books. Awful. LaTeX and other digital typesetting tools for technical material have existed for 30 years, but neither Apple nor Amazon can make them work?
5. Has any publisher or vendor ever consulted a print designer about e-books? To say that they are badly designed with hideous typography is an understatement. One thousand years of typography and design are lost in e-books. Amazon can’t even figure out how to get line-spacing right, or indentation. And that leads to…
6. Reading a physical book is simply better… except when you carry 20 books in your luggage for vacation.
7. It could be different. Buy a book from Verso, for example, and you can also get the e-version for a few dollars added.
8. Finally, why the absurd inflation rate for all books? What’s wrong with publishing?

lcribas58 Washington DC September 23, 2015
I’m a book lover and only switched, partially, to ebooks because of my constant travel. My carry-on bag, is a lot lighter these days, and on long flights and weeks long stays overseas you need several books. But ebooks turn me off. They are overpriced, they are not practical to read and to handle, they don’t have that book smell, and it’s harder to relate to a book that, simply, does not really exist.
Sometimes I may not remember the name of an author, or the exact title of the book, because I don’t look at the cover every time I pick the book up to read. So I have all my books in print and some in ebook format. But I will always cherish my printed books. I will keep them forever. My ebooks though, may be deleted, and, except for a few that are hard of find in print, I will not miss them. They are not real books, just things that go away after they have been read.

Don P. New Hampshire September 23, 2015
For me the greatest pleasure is in reading a hardcover book or shopping for new books at a book store.
Sure it’s convenient to obtain e-books and I do regularly read them, but for me it’s just not the same as the comfort that comes with reading a hardcover book.
E-books are great when traveling or while on vacation, especially for readers like me who read two or three books at the same time.
E-books are especially helpful by allowing the reader to download a sample of the e-book and allow the reader to read a few chapters before committing to the purchase.
Also, I miss all of the local book stores, especially the independently owned bookstore where I could go and talk with the owner about other authors that I may want to try reading and the feeling of satisfaction when I’d find three or four new books to purchase and the anticipation to get home to start reading. It’s just not the same when you purchase and download an e-book.
So, I hope hardcover books and bookstores are here to stay.

PJ Nickel Netherlands September 23, 2015
Some reasons why I like print books: I like to give away or loan books to my friends when I’m done with them, to share my excitement. That is impossible with an e-book. Also, some of my favorite words and books — poetry, childrens’ books with illustrations, and cookbooks, for example — just don’t look good in e-book form. Bookstores and libraries are places of exploration, not (just) shopping. My own book collection is like a set of experiences that have a physical place in my house where I can go to relive or remember them. And finally, I don’t like the idea that my e-reading experience is being recorded and used to generate a data set. I want to read unobserved.

M.D.A. NYC September 23, 2015
The truth is I have room in my life for both. I like the immediate gratification of ordering a Kindle book and reading it moments later. I like the lack of clutter, having hundreds of books on a device, and not all over the house. (Although books are the nicest clutter, no?) But yes, I like turning the pages of a print book, and most importantly, I like being able to hand it over to my daughters or friends and say, “You’re going to LOVE this one,” or “Tell me what you think of this one.” Kindle may say they allow you to loan books to others, but in truth, the ones that are loanable are few and far between.

Ed Vienna, Austria September 23, 2015
I am addicted to reading and my greatest fear in life is being somewhere, anywhere, without something to read. I read books on my phone (while commuting, at the doctor’s) and I travel with my Kindle. I also walk the streets of town and through airports listening to audio books. But nothing comes close to having a book in your hand. This is something you have a relationship with–whether you are ten years old or seventy. And indeed, when you are seventy, you can still hold the very same book you had when you were ten, and give it to your grandchildren. I never pick up my Kindle unless I am on the road, and I’m even less enamoured of the books I’ve ordered on my iPad.

Jackie maryland September 23, 2015
I’m forever grateful for the existence of ebooks. I’ve always been a reader all my life, so when I developed severe arthritis in my hands, I was devastated. It hurt my hands too much to hold a book and turn the pages. With a ebook reader (Nook), its not so much a problem. I can read all I like and not suffer from pain in my hands. For myself, ebooks are the way to go, even though I still do miss reading real books.

rfj LI September 23, 2015
This is awesome news. I have never read an e-book and I never will, if I can help it. I want a book that I can hold in my hands, close on a bookmark, and place on a table, where I will pick it up again the next day, and then place in a bookcase when I’m finished with it, perhaps to pick it up again some years hence. I don’t want a ‘device’ – I want a book. I’m willing to pay for that experience.
I read a quote once where Jeff Bezos of Amazon said his goal was to shutter every bookstore on Earth. That one quote was enough to convince me never to buy a single thing through Amazon (and I never have).
I’m glad to hear that bricks and mortar and real books will last a while longer, hopefully a lot longer.

Richard Portland, OR September 23, 2015
The answer is probably much less complex than this article suggests. It comes down to the fact that much as everyone in the book business will hate to admit it, Jeff Bezos was right: $9.99 was the sweet price point for e-books. When publishers got greedy and forced Amazon to sell at $14 and $15, the market cooled and that’s when the sale of E-books flattened.

Gary Horsman Montreal, Canada September 23, 2015
Of the four major consumer media formats (music, television, film, books), the book is the only format that requires no direct electronic intervention to consume. (You might argue live music fits that description, but much of music’s widespread success has been through the recording industry.)
In this way, the book is unique and has been around for centuries, unlike the others which came onto the scene a about century ago or later. It is this timeless distinction (and its quieter ability to conjure worlds in our minds) which will probably keep it relevant for centuries to come.

cph Denver September 23, 2015
Everybody in our household bought Kindles five years ago, and we’ve all returned to print. For myself, I can’t “see” the words on a screen like I can a page, or turn back to pick up the character, plot, or detail mentioned earlier that I need to understand what I’m reading. I can’t highlight, study, or write in the margins in a way that’s retrievable later without print. Long live print! Long live independent bookstores!

Stephen Tokyo September 23, 2015
I love my books, but I’ve found that for certain genres, e-books do just fine (especially when I’m traveling).
As Amazon continues to manipulate prices and availability, I’ve found recently that it’s actually cheaper to order the hard cover versions and have them shipped to me here in Japan than to download the Kindle editions. So I’ve moved back to print in many cases. I think a lot of other people are beginning to question the pricing model for e-books–at least as it’s being driven by Amazon–and that may be causing others like myself to rediscover the joys of something tangible and lasting.

John Salt Lake City September 23, 2015
I own treasured books given to me by long-deceased relatives, and I have inherited historically meaningful books over a century old. Once you buy a physical book it is yours to keep or give away. When you “buy” (really rent) an e-book you will have access only as long as the arrangement fits Amazon’s business model.

Ensconced In Velvet Down Ol’ Mejico Way September 23, 2015
I really like both physical books and my Kindle Voyage. The Kindle is great for travel and when I am living abroad. With it I can purchase much of what I want from almost anywhere on Earth. I can also use my California library accounts to check out loads of titles for free — again, practically from anywhere. I read physical books when I am back in California and have access to my own collection. I love the options, convenience, and utility that are available today.

Allan MacLeod Saskatoon September 23, 2015
As part of the decluttering generation, I increasingly use an ereader just for space reasons and compassion for my heirs. I still have lots of books, but choice ones. Nothing can replace the feel of a book. Calvino describes to joy of buying and opening and touching and smelling a new book in If on a Winter’s Night.
Everyone thought LPs were dead, but they too have made a comeback. And once you point out that an lp made from a digital master cannot sound better than a cd, the real reason for the resurgence comes out: the feel of an lp, the jacket, the tactile experience. Just like books.
Maybe it means that I don’t have to declutter by throwing books out. Maybe people will want to pick up an out-of-print book at a charity book sale. And maybe I will once again be able to haunt really good well-stocked bookstores. And know he pleasure of finding a beautiful book I can scarcely wait to open.


http://www.thebookseller.com/blogs/e-book-sales-abate-big-five-321245
E-book sales abate for Big Five
by Tom Tivnan, January 29, 2016

For those who predicted the death of the physical book and digital dominating the market by the end of this decade, the print and digital sales figures (see below) from the Big Five for 2015 might force a reassessment.

Somewhat smugly, The Bookseller predicted 2015’s e-book decline in these very pages back in 2013-and endured ire (much of it in digital form, unsurprisingly) at the time. We were attempting to be objective about e-books, acknowledging that they were (and are) an exciting, vital part of the industry-but that they were also just another format, and one that was (and is) in its relative infancy.

But sales have dropped. Or, at the very least, we can without a shadow of a doubt say that e-book volume slid for the Big Five publishers for the first time since the digital age began, collectively down 2.4% to 47.9 million units last year. That 2.4% drop is probably shallower than many observers would have predicted.

Full-market digital data is, of course, at the moment unattainable so it requires calculations to extrapolate what this means for the industry as a whole. The Big Five have a 56% share of 2015’s print volume through Nielsen BookScan. Assuming a broadly similar share in digital-the five probably garner a greater piece of the digital pie compared to other traditional publishers, but self-publishing makes up a decent percentage of e-books- that gives us 85.5 million e-books sold in Britain in 2015. Therefore, a combined “e” and “p” total would equate to 276.2 million units sold in 2015. That is 2.9% up on our 2014 estimate of 268.5 million, with digital representing 30.9% of all volume sales (down from 32.7%).

But the real success last year in the TCM was in terms of value growth.

We do not have e-book value from publishers and e-book pricing was tricky in 2015, as most of the Big Five moved to the agency model at some point in the year. But with agency, we can assume a slight rise in digital book prices year on year. For the sake of calculations, we will use £4.35 as e-books’ total a.s.p.-around a 3% bump on 2014 and broadly consistent with print books’ price rise.

If so, digital books earned around £381.5m in 2015. That would mean an “e” and “p” total of £1.90bn, a 7.1% rise, of which 20.1% was earned through digital. If one considers then BookScan’s high-water mark was the £1.798bn earned in a largely pre-digital 2007, then 2015 was a stonking year… Maybe one of the best ever.

Tom Tivnan is The Bookseller’s features and insight editor.


https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/feb/03/ebook-sales-falling-for-the-first-time-finds-new-report
Ebook sales falling for the first time, finds new report
Alison Flood, Wednesday 3 February 2016 14.30 GMT

https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/9ed3aef58581c899ac08f60b5164f29c8ed2bf61/0_330_5760_3458/master/5760.jpg?w=620&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=8db5630269bbe0bda7fa331d3913c54a
Back into print … a browser at a branch of Waterstones. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

Research by the Bookseller shows that sales for the ‘big five’ UK publishers dropped in 2015

Ebook sales for the UK’s five biggest publishers fell in 2015, according to a new report in the Bookseller, collectively declining 2.4%, to 47.9m units. It is the first drop in numbers of books sold in this medium for the “big five” since the digital age began.

The Bookseller magazine says that each of the five biggest general trade publishers in the UK – Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Pan Macmillan and Simon & Schuster – saw their ebook sales fall in 2015. At Penguin Random House, the UK’s largest trade publisher, ebook totals slipped by 0.4% in 2015, down from 16.17m to 16.1m. At Hachette, they were down 1.1% to 14.5m, while at HarperCollins, when sales from Harlequin Mills & Boon are excluded (the company was acquired halfway through 2014), ebook sales were down 4.7%. The slip at Pan Macmillan was 7.7%, and at Simon & Schuster it was 0.3%.

Ebook sales between 2015-2012
Source: The Bookseller, figures provided by publishers
Publisher,2015,2014,2013,2012,% difference in 2015
Penguin Random House,”16,101,915″,”16,171,167″,”13,400,000″,”14,461,892″,-0.40%
Hachette,”14,494,584″,”14,658,478″,”13,654,881″,”8,569,851″,-1.10%
Harper Collins,”9,152,883″,”9,607,204″,”7,440,907″,”6,904,252″,-4.70%
Pan Macmillan,”5,537,000″,”6,000,000″,”5,437,000″,”4,583,000″,-7.70%
Simon and Schuster,”2,593,000″,”2,600,000″,”2,607,000″,”1,370,000″,-0.30%
Total,”47,879,382″,”49,036,849″,”42,539,788″,”35,888,995″,-2.40%

“For those who predicted the death of the physical book, and digital dominating the market by the end of this decade, the print and digital sales figures from the big five for 2015 might force a reassessment,” wrote the Bookseller’s features editor Tom Tivnan. “Sales have dropped. Or at the very least, we can without a shadow of a doubt say that ebook volume slid for the big five publishers for the first time since the digital age began.”

Publishers Association chief executive Stephen Lotinga commented: “Ebooks are co-existing with print books, as opposed to taking over … digital sales of fiction and non-fiction appear to be slowing as readers increasingly want to consume books in a variety of ways”. But he said that “for many publishers ‘digital’ remains an important element of their business and we expect this year to see growth in digital across educational and professional publishing”.

The Bookseller’s editor Philip Jones attributed the decline to “a natural slowing down of growth and adoption rates” in digital, along with a slowdown in sales of Kindles. In the autumn, Waterstones said it would stop selling Kindles in most of its stores because it was “getting virtually no sales”.

Waterstones chief executive, James Daunt, feels that “the advantages and disadvantages of digital reading are becoming better understood … This is resulting in a partial return to physical book reading as ebook reading finds its natural level. In particular, this is favouring good publishing: with good books, there is a clear benefit to owning the real thing. A bookshelf of real books makes its digital imitator seem pale indeed.”

Publishers’ shift to agency pricing for ebooks – whereby they, rather than retailers, control ebooks’ retail pricing – will also have slowed growth, said Jones. “They have increased prices for many of their ebooks, or at least taken them out of Amazon levels of discount. Publishers are more interested in managing a sales mix of print and ebooks than Amazon, and that could lead to a natural slowdown in growth of ebook sales for those publishers in agency pricing.”

He also pointed to the “vast numbers” of self-published ebooks that have come onto the market in recent years: according to experts surveyed by the magazine last year, self-published ebooks account for anything between £58m and £175m.

“They are clearly taking sales away, at very low price levels, from traditional publishers’ ebooks. There is no doubt that is happening – the question is how big a dent in the market those titles are making It is certain that [self-published titles] are taking market share from the bigger publishers, and that is no bad thing as the market develops, as a lot of self-published books are the most innovative out there.”

Data on the whole of the digital market is not currently available, so the Bookseller has estimated that if the big five hold a similar market share in digital as they do in print (56%), there were 85.5m ebooks sold in Britain in 2015. Author Earnings, which uses a software programme to crawl Amazon’s bestseller lists and collect data, paints a different picture of the UK market. In a November report, it claimed the big five account for 31% of all ebooks sold on Amazon.co.uk, while self-published authors have reached 26%.

Adding its own total to the number of print books sold in 2015, the Bookseller estimates that there were 276.2m print and digital books sold in 2015, 2.9% up on its 2014 estimate, with digital accounting for 30.9% of all volume sales, down from 32.7%.

But when value, rather than volume, is considered, a different picture emerges: on the estimate that ebooks sold for an average £4.35, the Bookseller calculates that digital books earned around £381.5m last year, giving a combined print and ebook total of £1.9bn, up 7.1% on the previous year. “2015 was a stonking year … maybe one of the best ever,” writes Tivnan.

Philip Jones said: “I think overall, the digital market has certainly gone up, if you include smaller publishers and self-published books and digital-only publishers But I don’t think that changes the overall picture of the ebook marketplace, which has slowed down from 2012 to 2014, and which will, I think, continue to slow as readers migrate from dedicated e-ink reading devices to tablets and mobile phones.”

http://www.thebookseller.com/blogs/e-book-sales-abate-big-five-321245
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/oct/07/waterstones-kindle-stop-selling-most-stores-books-ebooks
http://www.thebookseller.com/futurebook/how-big-self-publishing-results

November 2015 – the UK report: Author Earnings on Amazon.co.uk


http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/retailing/article/70696-as-e-book-sales-decline-digital-fatigue-grows.html
As E-book Sales Decline, Digital Fatigue Grows
By Jim Milliot | Jun 17, 2016

Limitations of e-reading devices and “digital fatigue” are cited as causes of decline in sales of the format

Though various sources have reported a decline in e-book sales for traditional publishers in 2015 compared to 2014, no one has come up with a clear reason for the drop. To gain some insight into the trend, the Codex Group devoted a recent survey of book buyers’s shopping preferences to looking more deeply into the question.

The book market has taken a different path from the music and home video markets, where research from industry associations shows that consumers continued to increase digital spending last year (with digital reaching record revenue share levels of 70% and 59%, respectively, for 2015).

Preliminary figures from the Association of American Publishers found that sales of e-books for trade publishers fell 14% in 2015 compared to 2014 and accounted for 20% of overall trade book revenue, down from 23% in 2014. Going beyond AAP’s member publisher sales performance, the Codex Group’s April 2016 survey of 4,992 book buyers found that e-book units purchased as a share of total books purchased fell from 35.9% in April 2015 to 32.4% in April 2016. The Codex survey includes e-books published by traditional publishers and self-publishers and sold across all channels and in all categories.

In light of the April study results, Codex president Peter Hildick-Smith believes that the book industry’s experience with digital sales differs from that of music and video because of two factors. First, electronic devices are optional for reading books (unlike for listening to music or watching video), and the current range of e-book reading devices-including smartphones, tablets, and dedicated e-readers-has not delivered the quality long-form reading experience needed to supplant print, even with e-books’ major price and convenience advantages. Second, Hildick-Smith said, a new consumer phenomenon, “digital fatigue,” is beginning to emerge.

Device Limitations

The reading devices that first ignited the e-book category-dedicated e-readers such as Nook and Kindle-still remain the most important factor affecting e-book reading and sales. Though only 34% of book buyer households own e-book readers, they are still the dominant factor in e-book consumption, having been used for an average of 55% of the total time spent reading the most recent e-book read by respondents.
Dedicated e-reader owners also purchased 59% of e-book units bought by respondents in the month. In contrast, tablets, owned by 66% of book-buying households, were used for only 28% of e-book reading time, while smartphones, with the highest penetration among book buyers (73%), accounted for only 12% of e-book reading time.

The challenge going forward, Hildick-Smith pointed out, is that dedicated e-reader ownership has been stagnant for the past three years, and the devices are increasingly being retired. Only 50% of dedicated e-reading devices were used by respondents to read e-books in the week prior to the survey, and less than one-third of the devices were used to purchase an e-book in the prior month. Tablets and smartphones are not picking up the slack, with only 52% of tablets and 26% of smartphones being used for e-book reading in the week prior to the survey.

The Codex survey also found that though book buyers stated they spent almost five hours of daily personal time on screens, 25% of book buyers, including 37% of those 18-24 years old, want to spend less time on their digital devices. Since consumers almost always have the option to read books in physical formats, they are indicating a preference to return to print.
In the April survey, 19% of 18-to-24-year-olds said they are reading fewer e-books than when they started reading that format, the highest percentage among all age groups. Overall, 14% of book buyers said they are now reading fewer e-books than when they started reading books in the format, and 59% percent of those who said they are reading fewer e-books cited a preference for print as the main reason for switching back to physical books. The share of print books purchased was also the highest among the heaviest screen users, the so-called digital natives, ages 18-24 (83%), and lowest (61%) among 55-to-64-year-olds.

Unless the e-reader device market is recharged with lower-price, higher-quality options, Hildick-Smith expects that consumers tiring of their digital-device experience will have further digital fatigue, leading to continued e-book sales erosion.

A version of this article appeared in the 06/20/2016 issue of Publishers Weekly under the headline: Survey Sees Further Erosion of E-book Sales


Here’s Why E-Book Sales From Major Publishers Are Plummeting
Here’s Why E-Book Sales From Major Publishers Are Plummeting
by Aaron Pressman, July 11, 2016, 11:30 AM EDT
@ampressman

https://fortunedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/ap_050617019794.jpg?w=840&h=485&crop=1

But growing sales of self-published e-books may offset the drop.

Book publishers are winning in their quixotic war against their own electronic books as sales dropped 11% last year, according to a new report from the industry’s leading trade group.

Electronic books tend to be more profitable for publishers because they cost less to create and distribute, and they aren’t subject to returns from bookstores. But with Amazon dominating the e-book market, publishers have seen reining in e-book sales as a way to curb the online giant’s influence over the market.

U.S. publishers took in $2.8 billion from sales of trade e-books in 2015, down 11% from the prior year, according to an annual report from Association of American Publishers released on Monday. Overall, publishers trade book revenue including print, electronic, and audiobooks rose almost 3% to $15.8 billion. The trade category includes fiction and nonfiction works aimed at a general audience, but excludes the educational and professional book categories.

As a result, e-books dropped to 17% of all book sales from 19% the previous year and 21% in 2013.

Consumers likely don’t see the same value in e-books from big publishers that they did in earlier years. A typical e-book best seller now costs $14 or $15 versus the $9.99 price point that Amazon AMZN -0.27% featured in the first few years after it introduced its Kindle e-reader. The increase shrunk the discount between hardcovers and e-books, which can’t be lent or resold like a print copy. On older books, some e-books carry higher prices than the same title in paperback.

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The decline in e-book sales also comes as Barnes & Noble BKS -1.90% , the biggest brick-and-mortar retailer, faced increasing struggles with its Nook line of digital books and e-readers. A different form of digital book-the downloadable audiobook-did much better in 2015, with publishers’ sales of $552 million, a 38% increase from the year before.

The question remains, however, whether the anti-e-book strategy will pay off for publishers over the long term. Younger people are reading more and are more likely to prefer the ebook format, according to surveys by Pew Research.

Yet a growing body of data indicates that lost sales of e-books from major publishers are being more than offset by growing sales of self-published ebooks, which are typically priced at only a few dollars. Major publishers’ dollar share of e-book sales on Amazon, for example, dropped below 40% in May from over 50% at the beginning of 2015, according to the Author Earnings web site.

Barnes & Noble’s Stores Provide Relief as Online Sales Plunge

Slightly fewer Americans are reading print books, new survey finds

No, e-book sales are not falling, despite what publishers say

May 2016 Author Earnings Report: the definitive million-title study of US author earnings


February 2016 Author Earnings Report: Amazon’s Ebook, Print, and Audio Sales

February 2016 Author Earnings Report: Amazon’s Ebook, Print, and Audio Sales

Two years ago, the first Author Earnings report revealed the growing market share of self-published ebooks. With data on hundreds of thousands of titles, it was suddenly possible to measure the relative sales and earnings power of ebooks according to publishing path. By sharing this data, we hoped to help authors understand the changing market in order to make sound decisions with their manuscripts. In the two years since, our quarterly snapshots have revealed emerging trends in the digital publishing world. Before we get into this month’s report, let’s look at those trends, with our new February 2016 data points included.

Ebook Market Share: 23 month trend

In two short years, the market share of paid unit sales between indie and Big 5 ebooks has more than inverted. The Big 5 now account for less than a quarter of ebook purchases on Amazon, while indies are closing in on 45%.

In the purple line above, we can see the decline in share of ebook dollars earned by Big 5 publishers. Despite the greater profitability of ebooks over print books, some of these publishers have touted their shrinking ebook sales as a positive development. Meanwhile, we know from our own data (more on this later) and from Amazon’s press releases, that overall US ebook sales have actually gone up in dollar terms. The blue indie line shows where most of that increase is being funneled. Today, a quarter of all consumer dollars spent on ebooks in the US is spent purchasing indie-published ebooks.

The most important graph for authors shows the rapidly diverging rate of ebook author income by publishing path. The Big 5 publishers are now providing less than a quarter of the dollars earned by creatives for their ebook sales. Indies are taking close to half. As detailed in previous reports, higher prices and other missteps are a likely contributor to this accelerating trend, but the reality may be that major publishers simply are finding it difficult to compete with indie authors on diversity, price, quality, and frequency of publication, as this divergence has been increasing for the last two years – well before the Big Five’s return to no-discount agency pricing. But as we can see, the transfer of market share in author earnings from Big Five to indies did steepen significantly after the Big Five’s 2015 reinstatement of agency ebook pricing.

Now for a deeper dive into this month’s report, starting with details about our new and improved sales-to-rank curves and methodology.

February 2016 Author Earnings Report

Our previous Author Earnings reports employed conversion formulas based on crowdsourced sales data. Dozens of authors, all of whom have access to their real-time sales numbers and overall best seller rankings, recorded their numbers in spreadsheets and shared the collective results. Over time, these rank-to-sales curves have been pressure checked and refined by other indies.

On the whole, they were pretty accurate. And since the same curves were used for all ebooks, regardless of publishing path, we have been extremely confident with our pie chart percentages. But we thought it was time to roll out a new and far more rigorous approach for 2016, which will also let us double-check our old methodology.

A brand-new rank-to-sales conversion curve…

For this report, Author Earnings threw out all of our previous assumptions. We built a brand new rank-to-sales conversion curve from the ground up. This time we based it on raw, Amazon-reported sales data on the precise daily sales figures for hundreds of individual books from many different authors, spanning a period of many months.
Our raw sales data included titles ranked in Amazon’s Overall Top 5 – titles whose KDP reports verified that they were each selling many thousands of copies a day – and it also included books ranked in the hundreds of thousands – whose KDP reports revealed were selling less than a single copy a day. We combined that mass of hard sales data with a complete daily record of Amazon Kindle sales rankings for each of those books, pulled directly from individual AuthorCentral graphs. We ended up with nearly a million distinct data points in total.

Why did we need so many data points? Because Amazon’s Overall Best Seller Rankings aren’t a simple calculation based on each book’s single-day sales – they also factor in time-decaying sales from previous days as well. To reverse-engineer Amazon’s ranking algorithms, the more raw sales and ranking data we used, the more accurate our results would get. So we fired up some powerful computers, fed them all that raw data, and let them crunch the numbers.

For our fellow geeks: We applied both old-school statistical curve-fitting approaches and more modern machine learning techniques, iterating our underlying numerical model until we zeroed in on the solution that yielded the best predictive accuracy. Taking advantage of a neat mathematical series-convergence trick (one whose applicability was no accident, because Amazon’s algorithms undoubtedly rely on it, too), we ended up with a brand new, simpler, more elegant, and far more accurate rank-to-sales conversion formula for Kindle ebooks.

For the non-geeks: Our data-science awesomesauce now tastes even better.

Here’s what the new rank-to-sales curve looks like:

In retrospect, it’s striking how well AE’s old, crowdsourced rank-to-sales curve (in black) matches our new data-derived one. Graphically, the old AE curve ping-pongs back and forth between the new computed upper bound (shown in red), defined by the higher number of daily sales required to first “hit” a rank when spiking up from a much lower sales baseline, and the new computed lower bound (shown in blue), defined by the more modest number of daily sales required to steadily “hold” the same rank through consistent day-to-day sales.

This new methodology revealed a few other interesting things about the current state of the publishing industry, too. As “Data Guy,” I’ll be presenting some of those findings in more detail onstage at the Digital Book World 2016 Conference, on March 9, 2016, in NYC. But for the purposes of this report, our key takeaways:

1) For relative market-share percentages (the pie charts for which we’ve become known), the old methodology proved to be absolutely reliable. The new rank-to-sales curve, generated from hundreds of thousands of points of raw Amazon-reported sales data, made almost zero difference. The way ebook sales and earnings divide up between self-published authors, small/medium publishers, Amazon publishing imprints, and Big Five publishers remained essentially unchanged: relative share shifted by less than 1% in every case.

2) For calculating absolute sales numbers, the old, crowdsourced AE rank-to-sales curve ran a little high – it overestimated overall Amazon Kindle sales by roughly 18%. The new methodology corrects that, letting us finally make authoritative, data-backed statements about how many total ebooks are being sold each day by each category of publisher, and overall by Amazon itself. And in the coming quarters, in addition to measuring how the pie gets divided up, our new methodology will also let us track whether the total size of the pie is shrinking or growing, and by how much.

So how accurate is our brand new rank-to-sales prediction model?

Let’s put it this way: The ranking-based sales predictions it yields for randomly selected 300-book groupings taken from a separate, held-back “validation dataset” always end up matching the actual Amazon-reported total daily sales for the group to within 6%… and most of the time to within 2%.

But the larger a set of books we are trying to measure total sales for, the smaller that variance becomes… making our model predict even more accurately at larger scales. For a 200,000-book dataset such as the one our AuthorEarnings reports are based upon, it’ll be more than accurate enough for our needs.

Armed with our brand new, data-derived rank-to-sales conversion methodology, we were finally ready to tackle our deepest, most comprehensive look yet at Amazon’s daily book sales. We fired up AE’s web-crawling spider bot across 250 high-powered 8-core servers and walked it down each of Amazon’s thousands of best seller lists and category sub-lists. In a little over an hour, we pulled almost a terabyte of real-time data from the product pages of over 500,000 of Amazon’s best-selling titles. Here’s what we found:

Amazon’s Kindle Ebook Sales

Our first graph reveals the total share of ebook bestseller “slots” held by titles from each publisher type. Remember, this is a real counting of titles on thousands of Amazon bestseller lists, all automated by our software spider. No math here, just a visualization of how many titles are ranked and how they were published:

The aggregate share of indie self-published titles on Amazon’s best seller lists, at 27%, hasn’t changed since September 2015. It is still more than double the representation of Big 5 titles. But what has changed, very significantly, is the degree to which Amazon’s overall Top 20 Best Sellers, and even the overall Top 10, have come to be dominated by self-published titles from indie authors – nearly half of which were not priced at $0.99 but rather “full-priced” sales at prices between $2.99 and $5.99.

On January 10, the date our spider ran:
4 of Amazon’s overall Top 10 Best Selling ebooks were self-published indie titles
10 of Amazon’s overall Top 20 Best Selling ebooks were self-published indie titles
56 of Amazon’s overall Top 100 Best Selling ebooks – more than half – were self-published indie titles
20 of Amazon’s overall Top 100 Best Selling ebooks were indie titles priced between $2.99 and $5.99

We’re not the only ones to observe this trend, which seems to have now become the new normal.

These top-selling indie titles encompassed a wide variety of genres. Romance and Paranormal were well represented, certainly, but Amazon’s Top 100 Best Sellers also included quite a few self-published indie Science Fiction books, indie Thrillers, indie Suspense novels, indie Urban Fiction, and even Cozy Mysteries by indies.

But best seller slots held by each type of publisher is a far less interesting metric than share of daily ebooks sold, which is where we first bring our brand new rank-to-sales curve to bear:

Whether we use our new, scientifically-derived curve or the old original crowdsourced one to compute unit sales, the trend we see is exactly the same. When it comes to the number of ebooks sold each day, the market share of indie self-published titles has grown substantially since our September 2015 report, while traditional publishing’s collective market share has shrunk. Indie books now account for more than 42% of all ebook purchases each day on Amazon.com.

Some of that indie sales growth has come in the form of paid Kindle Unlimited borrows. Monthly KU payouts have grown to over $13 million a month paid directly to indie authors (at least $8.25 million of it in the US). In 2015, these payouts totaled more than $140 million, again all going to indie authors. But KU payouts do not account for all of the growth. Not even half of it. Direct retail indie book purchases are also up substantially.

The day we pulled the data for this report revealed 20 of Amazon’s overall Top 125 Best Selling ebooks were self-published indie titles NOT ENROLLED in Kindle Unlimited.

Our data also showed, once again, that reporting on ebook sales from traditional outlets are missing the majority of the action:
Fewer than 45% of the ebook purchases each day on Amazon.com are of traditionally-published titles.
Only 29% of the ebook purchases each day on Amazon.com get officially “counted” in the monthly StatShot reports from the Association of American Publishers (AAP).
43% of the ebooks purchased each day on Amazon – nearly half of them – remain uncounted in any traditional industry statistics, such as those published by Bowker, Nielsen, et. al., because 43% of the ebooks purchased each day on Amazon do not have associated ISBNs.

So how many ebooks a day is Amazon.com actually selling?

As of mid-January 2016, Amazon’s US ebook sales were running at a rate of 1,064,000 paid downloads a day.

155,000 of these paid daily downloads – or 14% of them – took the form of Kindle Unlimited “full-KENPC” pages-read equivalents for self-published indie authors, while the remaining 909,000 were regular retail ebook purchases. The full breakdown:

Amazon’s daily ebook unit sales (January 2016):
TOTAL 1,064,000
Indie Self-Published ebook KU full-read equivalents 155,000
Indie Self-Published regular retail ebook sales 293,000
Small/Medium Publisher ebook sales 204,000
Amazon-Publishing Imprint ebook sales 115,000
Big Five Publisher ebook sales 244,000
Uncategorized Single-Author Publisher ebook sales 53,000

Next, let’s look at how Amazon’s daily ebook sales break down in consumer $ spending:

Despite the higher ebook prices most traditionally-published ebooks now bear, self-published indie titles accounted for nearly a quarter of all daily gross consumer $ spent on ebooks on Amazon. Across all publishing types, consumers spent roughly $5,755,000 a day on ebooks on Amazon.com in January -a run rate of over $2.1 billion a year, including over $1 billion in consumer spending on ebooks not included in industry sales figures from the AAP. That’s a lot of money, and a lot that isn’t being counted anywhere but here and at Amazon.

And now for the pie chart that interests us the most:

When we ignore the dollars that publishers keep, and measure only dollars that actually go to authors, we can see that ebook sales on Amazon.com are generating $1,756,000 a day in author earnings.

But less than 45% of those author-earnings dollars – from the largest bookstore in the world – is now going to traditionally-published authors. And less than a quarter is going to authors published with the Big 5. Is it any wonder that the traditional publishing media and historic author advocacy groups are reporting declining ebook sales and shrinking author incomes for their members?

We humbly submit that, for author earnings, these organizations are looking in all the wrong places.

$140 million a year in Kindle Unlimited payouts is going directly to authors, and yet that enormous sum of income is somehow uncounted by traditional author surveys. And as we are now able to measure, that sum is only the tip of the iceberg. There is also a vast swath of the market not being reported on at all, along with a whole host of authors not paying dues to author advocacy groups and simply going about the business of earning an income with their art.

The publishing industry is still changing rapidly, and how things will play out long-term is anybody’s guess. But we suspect that for the largest traditional publishers, taking their digital ball off the court and going home – as they chose to do in 2015 – won’t remain a viable strategy for much longer. It certainly won’t be a viable strategy for authors to sit idly by while detrimental pricing decisions destroy their incomes.

While we are looking at daily sales on Amazon, why stop at just ebooks?

Why, indeed? After all, Amazon also sells at least a quarter of all new trade print books purchased in the US each year – and roughly two thirds of all online trade print sales. Amazon’s share of the downloadable audio market is even larger – their subsidiary Audible.com is also the primary supplier for Apple’s iTunes audiobook store.

Using the exact same technique we used for ebooks, we were able to compute a rank-to-sales curve for Amazon’s print-book sales, too, using months of raw Amazon CreateSpace-reported daily sales figures for many dozens of print-on-demand paperbacks from multiple authors. Our data set included best-selling print titles ranked in Amazon’s overall Top 50, which CreateSpace sales reports revealed to be selling over a thousand copies a day, as well as titles with sales rankings down in the several millions and selling less than a copy a month.

But we didn’t stop there. Using ACX-reported daily sales for dozens of Audible audiobooks and their corresponding Amazon ranking histories, we did the same thing for downloadable audiobooks.

When we ran our AE spider for this report, in addition to grabbing data on 200,000 of the best-selling Kindle books, we also grabbed 250,000 of Amazon’s best-selling print books, and 25,000 of their best-selling audio books:
Format Best Selling Titles Captured
Kindle ebooks 204,197
Downloadable audio books (Audible) 25,737
Hardcovers 75,075
(Trade) Paperbacks 158,732
Mass Market Paperbacks 13,834
Board Books 1,823

So now let’s take a look at print.

Amazon’s Print Book Sales… and the Law of Unintended Consequences

For our brand new breakdown of Amazon’s daily print sales, we’ll use the same format we use for ebook sales, so the graphs below should look familiar.

It’s interesting to note here that the Big 5 holds less than a quarter of print bestseller slots, and their unit sales, dollars, and author royalties are less than half of Amazon’s print business. This is a greater percentage than any other publishing type, but it again stresses the need for balance and perspective when the top publishers’ numbers are taken to represent the whole of the industry; they don’t even represent half of online sales in the format they are supposed to dominate.

And self-published indie authors, who are already taking home 14% of online print author earnings, have captured a significant share of the author dollars from online print sales.

But there might also be an even more interesting story found in Amazon’s print sales…

The Law of Unintended Consequences

Sometimes a change in strategy achieves the intended result… and sometimes it backfires.

The Big Five’s return to agency ebook pricing may have been just such a case.

Their ebook pricing strategy was intended, at least in part, to slow the erosion of brick-and-mortar print book sales.*(3) By preventing Amazon from discounting the Big Five’s ebooks at Amazon’s own expense, the Big Five could force the consumer prices of their ebooks artificially high – higher than what many consumers are willing to pay for digital books.
The thinking among Big Five publishers was undoubtedly that this would encourage those consumers to buy fewer ebooks on Amazon, and instead buy more hardcovers and paperbacks in brick and mortar bookstores, thus preserving a legacy distribution advantage long held by the biggest traditional publishers… and one that was fading away fast as a higher and higher percentage of book purchases were being made online instead.

From November 2014 to September 2015, the Big Five publishers negotiated brand new two-year contracts with Amazon in which they fought aggressively for – and won – the right to prevent Amazon from discounting their ebooks. Prior to these contracts, Big Five ebooks were discounted steeply at Amazon’s own expense. Our data from 2014 and early 2015 revealed that Amazon was on average selling Big Five and other traditionally-published ebooks to consumers at breakeven prices and making zero or marginal gross profit from them.
That’s almost no profit on traditionally published ebooks, while Amazon was earning a healthy margin on the sale of indie and Amazon-imprint ebooks. In effect, prior to the Big Five’s return to agency, Amazon was more or less selling traditionally-published ebooks at cost. They were subsidizing traditional publisher ebook profits and traditionally-published ebook author earnings by nearly 30%.

By reinstituting agency ebook pricing and forcing their own consumer ebook prices high while preventing Amazon from discounting those ebooks, the Big Five publishers put a halt to that. They willingly did financial harm to their own bottom lines and in the process also seriously damaged the sales and earnings of their own authors, in an attempt to wrest market share and control away from their largest and most profitable retailer.

Did they succeed in that goal?

According to both our data and Amazon’s own public statements, despite the Big Five’s return to agency ebook pricing, Amazon’s overall US ebook sales have continued to grow throughout 2015 in both unit terms and dollar terms. On the other hand, the Big Five’s share of those ebook sales has plunged precipitously in both dollars terms, and even more precipitously in unit terms.

That particular outcome was easily predicted – and probably inevitable. Perhaps the Big Five viewed it as a strategic sacrifice.

But at the same time, Amazon’s online print sales – driven by steeply discounted hardcovers and paperbacks, which in many cases were priced even lower than the ebook editions – ALSO went up. Significantly. In fact, our data points toward Amazon seeing even greater growth in their 2015 print sales than in their 2015 ebook sales.

As of mid-January 2016, Amazon.com’s print sales were running at a rate of 969,000 print books a day.

With the largest bookstore chains reporting 2015 book sales as flat or down, and book sales also down significantly for warehouse and club outlets, an uptick in local independent bookstore sales is a small brick-and-mortar bright spot. But it’s extremely likely that most if not all of print’s reported 2015 “resurgence” took the form of increased online print sales… at Amazon.com.

We suspect that the Big Five’s high ebook agency pricing, and Amazon’s steeper online discounting of print books, may well have had the opposite of the intended effect. It may have encouraged traditional hardcover and paperback buyers – including those who had zero interest in buying digital editions – to take advantage of those steeper discounts and purchase more of their books online, while buying fewer in brick-and-mortar bookstores.

Some very savvy analysts who cover the industry from the traditional side, and whose insights *(4) we value greatly, have pointed out that this particular outcome may not necessarily have been unanticipated by the agency publishers. But they still may have deemed it the lesser evil, if in the process they could also slow the consumer shift from buying print to “e”.

But either way, if true, it means that more print-book buyers are now shopping at a storefront where indie print books share a significant portion of shelf space alongside books from traditional publishers, and where indie print books are now fast-approaching a double-digit percentage of print sales.

It’ll be interesting to see in coming quarters if indie print sales continue to gain ground as more and more consumers are funneled into a marketplace that provides more equitable access to all authors.

Color Us Surprised….

In 2015, adult coloring books were a surprising trend. Many credit them with saving the traditional publishing industry’s overall 2015 sales figures… a claim borne out by Nielsen Bookscan’s print-sales numbers.

Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that when we took our January snapshot, 11 out of Amazon’s Top 35 Best Selling print books were adult coloring books.

But what is somewhat surprising is this: 5 of those 11 – nearly half of them – were self-published coloring books by indie authors.

But perhaps it shouldn’t be… Back when we did our September 2015 report, one of the Top 5 print best sellers in the USA was a self-published children’s book.

As print book purchasing increasingly moves online, self-published indie authors are demonstrating that they can compete head-to-head with traditional publishers in print sales. And indie authors are taking home a far larger share of the proceeds one each print sale (36% of list price, on average), compared to the 8%-of-list paperback royalties and 15%-of-list hardcover royalties that they would typically earn if they went through a traditional publisher.

Amazon’s Audiobook Sales

Downloadable audiobooks are one of the industry’s fastest growing segments, for both indie-published authors and traditionally-published authors. On Amazon.com, downloadable audiobooks – distributed through Audible – make up the vast majority of audiobook purchases. Physical-media audiobook editions – MP3 CDs, Audio CDs, and the like – comprise a tiny fraction of the audiobook total, making up only 5% – 6% of Amazon.com audiobook sales.

As of January 2016, Amazon was selling roughly 119,000 audiobooks a day – about $2,100,000 worth – which were generating $204,000 a day in author earnings.

Here are the familiar pie charts showing how those numbers break down by publisher type:

A few things complicate the picture when it comes to how audiobook sales and revenues break down.
Many of the audiobooks in the red Small/Medium Publisher Wedge, especially those published through Brilliance, Blackstone, Tantor, and similar audio-specialized publishers, are audiobook editions of Big Five-published ebooks, Amazon-imprint-published ebooks, and even indie self-published ebooks whose authors sold audio publishing rights.
The green Amazon-published wedge represents audiobooks published through Audible Studios… but some of those also turned out to be audio editions of Big Five-published ebooks, indie self-published ebooks, etc.
A big chunk of the light-blue Uncategorized Single-Author Publisher wedge (more than half of it) consists of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter audiobooks, published through the publishing company she set up (Pottermore). While many would classify them as self-published, we figured it would be less contentious to simply leave them as Uncategorized Single-Author Publisher.

Just as for print sales, it will also be interesting to watch the audiobook market evolve over the coming quarters. We think audiobooks will be a huge growth area for self-published indie authors in 2016. We can’t wait to see what these audio-sales pie charts will look like, a year from now.

Conclusions

In 2016, the reach of indie self-published authors isn’t limited by any means to ebooks. Every indie author should seriously consider releasing print-on-demand paperback editions and – as soon as quality narration can be afforded or arranged – audiobook editions of their books. It’s also critical to note that 2015 marked a tipping point of sorts for online retail, with some reports claiming that fully half of online sales gains took place on Amazon.com alone.
Sales on Amazon.com overtook Walmart in-store sales for the first time. More and more, online is where shoppers are going. And independent authors have equal access to this storefront. In fact, with lower prices, greater creative freedoms, the ability to publish to market much faster, and the ability to appeal to a wider variety of readers, indie authors have huge advantages online.
As the market moves away from physical bookstores – which must necessarily limit their selection, and so limit the free expression of ideas as a consequence – we expect to see a greater flourishing of independent authors finding their voices and taking home an ever-growing slice of consumer dollars.

Download the raw Kindle data this report is based on (.xslx) https://docs.google.com/uc?id=0BxgCvnHrc78PWVp6SGphU2JGTU0

Download the raw Print data this report is based on (.xslx) https://docs.google.com/uc?id=0BxgCvnHrc78PcEtnUjhWMklnbkk

Download the raw Audio data this report is based on (.xslx) https://docs.google.com/uc?id=0BxgCvnHrc78PUXVQS214Z05tN2s

Appendix Notes

*(1) To reverse engineer Amazon’s ranking algorithm, we treated it as an engineering System Identification (SI) problem, and modeled Amazon’s ranking engine as a black-box dynamic system with a linear, time-decaying impulse response to instantaneous unit-sales inputs. We even built a two-hidden-layer neural network and trained it to predict current rank from historic sales, which informed how we structured the more classic closed-form curve-fits.
We computed lowest-MSE fits to many different power-law model variants and distributions, measuring which fit our data best. We iteratively fine-tuned our models until we had the most accurate predictor. In the end, we zeroed in on a nice, clean simple formulation that yielded the best log-MSE accuracy over the full range of Amazon rankings and daily sales.

*(2) When applying the same new technique to raw sales data from previous quarters, the data shows Amazon’s overall ebook sales continuing to grow consistently quarter after quarter, throughout 2014 and 2015. The data for the first 3 weeks of January 2016 reflects Amazon’s highest run rate of ebook sales yet – higher than during any previous quarter to date. Unsurprising, perhaps, considering what Amazon themselves told the Wall Street Journal a few months ago. But interesting to see it independently validated with hard data.

*(3) the “keeps retailers” piece of the Big Five’s “Higher price slows Ebks/casual purchaser/keeps retailers/stops authors leaving” ebook-pricing strategy, as described by Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy.

*(4) Another factor industry analysts rightfully raise, and which we acknowledge, is the relative dearth of 2015 mega-bestsellers on the traditional side: this past year there was no Fifty Shades, no Divergent, etc. to boost traditionally-published sales as a sector. A fair point, but also for 99.99% of authors choosing a publishing path, an irrelevant one… unless they are being offered eight-figure advances from the Big Five.


May 2016 Author Earnings Report: the definitive million-title study of US author earnings

May 2016 Author Earnings Report: the definitive million-title study of US author earnings

Data in the publishing biz is hard to come by. Without widespread sharing of data by retailers, publishers, agents, and authors, we are all left like the blind to describe different parts of the same but seemingly disjointed elephant. Two years ago, AuthorEarnings released its first report on a new part of this elephant: E-book sales on Amazon.com. Our report stirred controversy, as it described a formerly unseen world of publishing data.

Over the past two years, we have worked with industry insiders and data-savvy authors to refine our approach. This year, our up-to-date methodology and conclusions were presented in a Digital Book World 2016 keynote to an audience of prominent traditional publishers, agents, and retailers – many of whom deemed the AuthorEarnings keynote and hour-long Q&A with Publishers Lunch to be a highlight of the show. (The complete DBW slides can be found here).

Nowadays, even those who still fundamentally disagree with our conclusions generally acknowledge the accuracy of AuthorEarnings’ numbers. Their objections, these days, focus on what our reports *don’t* cover, rather than what they do. There is much more of the elephant to describe, and we relish that opportunity. Slowly but surely, the overall picture is being filled in. With each report, we uncover something new. This report is no different. In fact, it may be our most shocking.

Authors Unknown

Our methodology employs a software spider that crawls across Amazon’s bestseller lists. The 200,000+ titles on those lists make up roughly 60% of Amazon’s daily sales. This leaves an appreciable number of titles and sales unaccounted for. There’s more elephant here to uncover! We’ve long heard this might be the case, as independent authors familiar with our data have claimed to be making a livable wage without a single one of their books appearing on any Amazon bestseller list. These are the truly invisible among the already difficult-to-discern. We wanted to see if they could be found.

So for this report, we went deeper. Instead of just looking at Amazon’s bestseller lists, we had our spider follow links to also-bought recommendations and also through each authors’ full catalog. This resulted in a million-title dataset, our most comprehensive and definitive look yet at author earnings. We were able to tally up precisely how many indie authors, Big Five authors, small/medium press authors, and Amazon-imprint authors are currently making enough from Amazon.com sales to land in a number of “tax brackets”.

But first, with our shiny new May data included, a quick look at the prevailing trend-lines. Over the last 27 months, how has the distribution of ebook unit sales, gross consumer $ spending, and author earnings changed among publisher types?

Ebook Market Share: 27 month trend lines

The only noteworthy highlight here is that the Big Five’s year-long plummet in overall ebook unit sales appears to have finally leveled off, leaving them with roughly 23% of Amazon’s ebook unit sales. A factor in this leveling-off *may* be lower Big Five ebook prices (the average price of a Big Five ebook dropped from $10.31 in January 2016 to $8.67 in May 2016, which warranted a closer look.).
But on the other hand, the Big Five’s loss of market-share in gross consumer dollar terms – and, more importantly, the ongoing decline in Big Five authors’ ebook earnings – have both continued relatively unabated.

Also-boughts… and Author Pages, Too!

For this report, we didn’t stop at 200,000 listed category best-sellers. Instead, we also had the AE spider crawl through each of their also-boughts, and pull data on every single one of *those* titles, as well. And then we had it crawl the Amazon author pages for all of those books, too, and pull data on every single other title each author had for sale on Amazon.
We ended up with daily sales data on a million of Amazon’s Kindle ebooks – nearly a third of all titles listed in the US Kindle store. We captured practically all of the titles selling with any frequency whatsoever, the vast majority of the infrequently selling titles, and many, many of the non-selling. Our dataset includes:

Nearly every single Kindle book selling 1 or more copy per day. (98.5% of them)
90% of all Kindle titles selling at least 2-3 copies a week
81% of all Kindle titles selling 1 or more copy a week
64% of all Kindle titles selling 2 or more copies a month
32% of all Kindle titles listed in the Amazon US Kindle store.

With this report, Author Earnings is now capturing and breaking down a full 82% of daily Amazon Kindle ebook sales. Even better, we’ve been able to capture the majority of the previously unmeasured “dark matter” sales – whose composition we had before only speculated about. Well, now we know.

Only 18% of Amazon’s daily ebook sales remain unaccounted for in our data – and every last bit of that remainder is coming from titles selling less than a copy a day, the overwhelming majority of it from titles selling less than a copy a week, and most of *that* coming from titles selling less than a copy a month. Even more notably, all of the remainder comes from the very lowest-selling authors on Amazon, who have no other titles making any significant sales either.

How much of a boost do non-listed titles add to a best selling author’s bottom line?

The answer varies by publisher type. Indie authors and the Big Five are the disproportionate beneficiaries of these non-bestseller-listed additional sales. A straightforward way to depict their contribution is in terms of the incremental percent of author earnings they add to those authors’ bottom lines. We can see that view below:

What’s interesting here is that indie authors with one or more bestseller-listed titles are, on average, receiving a significantly higher increment of additional revenue – 30% more – from their other, non-bestseller-listed titles than Big Five authors who have listed best sellers, for whom their other titles add only 21% to their bottom line. For small or medium publishers who have listed best-sellers, the additional contribution from their non-bestselling titles is even less significant: only 13%.
And oddly, for Amazon-Imprint Published authors with listed best-sellers, their other non-listed titles only contribute an additional 5% to their bottom lines. Perhaps this simply reflects the small number of both authors and titles that Amazon Imprints publish. Or perhaps, greater Amazon marketing adeptness, which keeps a higher percentage of their titles visible on the best-seller lists to begin with.

What about Print and Audio sales?

While we were at it, we pulled accompanying Amazon sales data on 900,000 top-selling print titles and 67,000 top-selling audiobook titles, too – including every format of every single title by any author who had even one title of any format on any Amazon bestseller list.

The significance of that – of capturing each author’s entire sales catalog: all books they have for sale, in every format – cannot be overstated. It means that this is not just our deepest and most comprehensive cross-sectional look at author earnings ever. It is…

A Definitive Study of Amazon Author Earnings

This is the definitive study of what authors from all publishing paths and all levels of sales success are earning right now from Amazon.com, the largest bookstore in the world.

It captures a complete picture of Amazon author earnings – ebook, print, and audio sales combined – for every single author, traditionally published or indie, who is making any significant Amazon sales today whatsoever.

This picture does not include non-Amazon.com income, from:

Print sales through brick and mortar bookstores & other mass merchandisers
Ebook sales through Apple iBookStore, barnesandnoble.com, Kobo, and Google Play
Audiobook sales through iTunes
Print books sold online through non-Amazon.com retailers
Library sales
Publisher-direct sales
Author-direct sales
Non-US digital and online print sales through other Amazon stores (Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.ca, Amazon.au, etc.)
Other foreign sales

But despite the apparent length of the above list, the hard numerical reality of US bookselling today – the rarely mentioned elephant in the room – is this:

More than 50% of all traditionally published book sales of any format in the US now happen on Amazon.com.

That’s just the traditionally published books, though.

In addition, roughly 85% of all non-traditionally published book sales of any format in the US also happen on Amazon.com.

In other words, a comprehensive cross-sectional snapshot of Amazon.com’s sales, like the one we are describing here in our May report, is a definitive look at more than half of all daily US author earnings, period.

With that in mind, let’s take a look now at how many authors are currently earning how much, from the combined US Amazon sales of all of their books: hardcover editions, paperback editions, ebooks and audiobooks put together. And then let’s see how those author counts in each “tax bracket” vary by choice of primary publishing path, and by author tenure.

And for those concerned that we’re leaving out almost half of traditionally published author earnings from non-Amazon sources, hold that thought. We’ll factor those earnings in, too, below.

A New Census of Author Earnings by “Tax Bracket”

Our September 2015 7-quarter longitudinal study of author earnings was only based on income from Kindle ebook sales, and even then, from only the subset of titles appearing on some category bestseller list.

This time around, our census of author earnings includes author income from Amazon hardcover and paperback sales, too, as well as audiobook sales. And it includes revenue from every single title each author has for sale: best-selling and barely selling alike. Unlike our September 2015 census, this is a cross-sectional study rather than a longitudinal one – it’s based on a single-day snapshot of Amazon author earnings.
But having done the longer-term study back in September, we can now say with confidence that a million-title, 200,000-author cross-sectional snapshot such as this one will give us a statistically reliable proxy for the average distribution of author incomes throughout the quarter, i.e. for Q2 2016.

Let’s start with those authors currently earning at a run rate $10,000 a year or more from all of their Amazon.com sales combined:

The 4 leftmost bars include every author who debuted anytime in the last century and is currently accumulating income at a rate of $10,000 a year or more from their Amazon US sales alone. The good news here is that we can see almost 9,900 such authors, although a small fraction of that represents multiple appearances by the same authors under different pen names, and another small fraction ascribes revenue to a single author that in reality gets shared with one or more co-authors: as in James Patterson’s case, for instance.

Comparing this 9,900 number to the roughly 5,600 authors earning 10K+/year that we found in our September 2015 7-quarter longitudinal study is a bit of an apples-to-oranges proposition. This is a cross-sectional study, after all, rather than a longitudinal one, so we have to take any like-for-like comparison with a slight grain of salt. But even so, that September study only considered each author’s best-seller-listed Kindle titles. The inclusion here of each author’s non-best seller listed titles, too, and all of their Amazon print sales and audio sales as well, appears to have nearly doubled the count of authors currently earning in this $10K/year “tax bracket”.

(The very small number of Amazon-imprint-published authors appearing in this tax bracket simply reflects the short depth of the A-Pub roster: there are probably fewer than 3,000 authors in total who have been published by Amazon imprints to date. Which makes the fact that over 300 of them are currently earning at a $10K-or-better rate relatively impressive.)

While $10,000/year is hardly a living wage in the US, it’s a nontrivial supplementary income. Especially for doing something you love.

And don’t forget this is a tally of 9,900 authors who are making that much or more on Amazon. Almost half of those 9,900 authors also appear in the $25000-or-better bracket above, and some of them in the brackets beyond that. So, onward.

Let’s take a look at publishing’s much-decried mid-listers next, to see how they are actually faring on Amazon.com.

The Size of Publishing’s Midlist : Traditionally Published vs Indie

Once again, when we look at the leftmost set of bars, it’s encouraging to see a sizeable, healthy midlist represented there – more than 4,600 authors earning $25,000 or above from their sales on Amazon.com. 40% of these are indie authors deriving at least half of their income from self-published titles, while 35% are Big Five authors deriving the majority of their income from Big Five-published titles, and 22% are authors who derive most of their income from titles published by small- or medium-sized traditional publishers.

But this includes traditional publishing’s longest-tenured and most recognizable names, including thousands of authors who have been actively publishing for the last several decades. When we consider only those authors who debuted sometime in the past ten years – who appear in the second set of bars in each graph – a sharp dichotomy starts to become apparent.

The vast majority of traditional publishing’s midlist-or-better earners started their careers more than a decade ago. Their more-recently debuted peers are not doing anywhere near as well. Fewer than 700 Big Five authors and fewer than 500 small-or-medium publisher authors who debuted in the last 10 years are now earning $25,000 a year or more on Amazon – from all of their hardcover, paperback, audio and ebook editions combined. By contrast, over 1,600 indie authors are currently earning that much or more.

The gap becomes even more pronounced when we look at those authors who first debuted in the last five years, or during the “ebook era.” And when we look at just the most recent debuts from each publishing path, only 250 Big Five authors and 200 recent small or medium publisher authors who debuted in the last three years are earning a midlist-or-better income from their Amazon sales.

By contrast, there are over 1,000 indie authors who debuted in the last 3 years who are doing so.

We see the same dichotomy play out in the $50,000/year “tax bracket”, which tallies up authors earning what would be a living wage in most parts of the US:

On the one hand, it’s fantastic to be able to count over 2,500 authors who are currently earning at a living-wage run rate – $50,000/year or more – from just their Amazon sales. But once again, among the traditionally published contingent we see predominantly authors whose careers began decades ago, including all of traditional publishing’s longest tenured best sellers and most recognizable names.

Out of more than 10,000 Big Five author debuts in the last five years, fewer than 220 are currently earning $50K/year or more on Amazon. Despite all the countless small and medium publisher debuts over the past five years, the tally of those authors earning a living wage is even more discouraging: barely 100 non-Big Five traditionally published authors launched in the past 5 years now earn $50K/year or more from all of their books on Amazon.

But, wait! How about all those other non-Amazon sales? Don’t they make a huge difference here?

It turns out that including print sales from brick and mortar bookstores doesn’t change the relentless calculus of the traditionally published midlist significantly. Here’s an easy way to see that:

Remember that more than 50% of all traditionally published book sales happen on Amazon. To account for the remainder – traditionally published earnings from all of those brick-and-mortar bookstores and other non-Amazon online retailers – we can simply shift the purple Big Five bars and red Small-or-medium-press bars, which tally the traditionally published author count in each “tax bracket,” up into the next higher tax bracket instead – i.e. from $10K up to $25K, from $25K up to $50K, etc. Doing so will more than account for the almost-half of traditionally published book sales which don’t come from Amazon.

So here’s what those tax-bracket-shifted comparisons, which now require the indie authors to be earning double what their traditionally published counterparts make from Amazon sales, end up looking like for the $25K and $50K tax brackets:

Even applying a 2x to 2.5x handicap to indies and Amazon-published authors, to account for all those brick and mortar print sales and other non-Amazon sales they might be missing, doesn’t really alter the picture much.

When we look at authors who debuted anytime in the past decade, and apply that handicap, we still find more indies now earning at a $25K and $50K run rate on Amazon than either Big Five authors or Small/Medium Publisher authors.

When we look at just debut authors from the past five years, we find more indie authors now earning a $50K-or-better living wage than all of their Big Five and Small/Medium publisher peers put together… even after we throw in that overgenerous 2x multiple for traditionally published non-Amazon revenue.

But why is a two-fold traditionally published earnings multiplier overgenerous?

For a couple reasons. For one thing, many indie authors also have significant non-Amazon revenue from titles they leave “wide” in the iBookstore, Nook store, Kobo, GooglePlay, etc. This is particularly true of higher-earning indies.

But more importantly, that 2x multiplier is especially generous because we’re looking at the midlist here. Few indeed of these traditionally published debut midlisters would have received any publisher-purchased bookstore co-op placement: those paid-for front-table and aisle end-cap displays only go to a select handful each year, who then receive a disproportionately high share of all bookstore print sales.
By contrast, most traditionally published midlisters are lucky to see a few copies of their books placed spine-out on bookstore shelves, and even that for a couple months only, before those titles get cycled out to make room for the next batch of hopeful traditionally published debuts. They get cycled out because that bookstore shelf space is already full: decades worth of traditional publishing’s favorite authors and their latest releases have laid prior claim to it.
The brick and mortar bookstore model has always been one of finite shelf space and enforced scarcity; there are a shrinking number of seats on that bus now, and most of them are already taken.

On the other hand, digital shelf space is unlimited. And the brand new, living-wage-earning indie author midlist that now dominates that digital shelf space is thriving.

In the past year, we’ve seen a rash of media articles decrying the shrinking prospects and worsening incomes of authors. Most of those articles are based on self-selected surveys, which solicit data exclusively from society-dues-paying traditionally published authors. Those articles are only reporting half of the picture. Here’s what they aren’t saying:

More than 1,080 indie authors, most of them brand new debuts from the last five years, are currently earning at a $50K/year or higher run rate from just their Amazon sales.

It’s not the death of the midlist that these one-sided “author poverty” surveys are measuring, and that the publishing media is lamenting. Rather, it’s a changing of the professional-author guard.

Over 1,000 indie authors are already making a living wage from Amazon sales alone…

And even better, more than half of those thousand are earning six figures or more.

The $100,000+ Club: Authors Earning Six-Figures or More

1,340 authors are earning $100,000/year or more from Amazon sales. But half of them are indies and Amazon-imprint authors. The majority of the remainder? They come from traditional publishing’s longest-tenured “old guard.”

Fewer than 115 Big Five-published authors and 45 small- or medium-publisher authors who debuted in the past five years are currently earning $100K/year from Amazon sales. Among indie authors of the same tenure, more than 425 of them are now at a six-figure run rate.

The author earnings gap between publishing paths is so wide among these six-figure-earning authors that once again brick-and-mortar print sales and the like cannot significantly alter the picture.

Consider that these Amazon totals already include roughly 40% of all US print sales that the traditionally published authors are making anywhere, while many high-earning indie authors also have significant additional non-Amazon revenue from their “wide” titles. But even when we apply our overgenerous 2X multiple to the traditionally published authors’ earnings, this is what we see:

There are twice as many indie authors who debuted in the past 5 years now earning a six figure run rate than Big Five authors who were first published in the same time period and are able to do the same.
Recent small- or medium-publisher authors are even farther behind: there are four times as many indies earning six figures as small- or medium-press authors who also launched in the last five years.

The higher we set the author earnings bar, the starker that contrast between publishing paths becomes.

Here are the tallies of authors earning $250,000/year and $500,000/year on Amazon:

Once again, when we exclude traditional publishing’s longest-tenured household names, there are more recently debuted indies earning a quarter-million a year on Amazon, or even half a million a year, than Big Five and non-Big Five traditionally published authors combined.

And finally, let’s take a brief look at:

Authors Earning Seven Figures

We won’t belabor this one any further. But it is worth noting that the 28 Big Five authors in the leftmost purple bar include traditional publishing’s most recognizable and longest tenured mega-bestseller household names: James Patterson, Nora Roberts, George R. R. Martin, Diana Gabaldon, David Baldacci, Danielle Steel, Stephen King, Janet Evanovich, and the like.

As of May 5, 2016, only 3 Big Five authors who debuted in the past 5 years are currently making a seven figure run rate from their Amazon sales – print, audio, and ebook combined. On the other hand, 14 indies who debuted in the same time period are right now doing the same.

But what about those “invisible” authors earning $100,000+ per year…?

The ones we keep anecdotally hearing about (and hearing from), who don’t show up on any Amazon category best seller lists?

Well, we found them. They were hiding in plain sight, in our million-title May data set.

Turns out there were 43 of them lurking unseen in the dark spaces between Amazon’s bestseller lists, including one author invisibly earning more than $250,000 a year. Unsurprisingly, 30 of the 43 invisible six-figure earners – including the top earner – were self-published indie authors. Most were writing in the Romance Fiction genres, but there was also an indie author of editor’s-choice Cozy Mystery Fiction, and even more surprising, a traditional-award-winning indie writer of Literary Fiction. We happen to think that’s pretty cool.

When we lowered the author earnings bar to $50,000 a year, we found 142 invisible authors that were earning that much or more on Amazon.com, without any of their titles appearing on any category best-seller lists. 105 of those 142 were self-published indies.

We live in exciting times. Today it’s possible to be a full-time professional author, quietly earning $50,000+ a year – even six figures a year – without ever sending a query letter to anyone. On Amazon alone, the data shows over a thousand indie authors earning a full-time living right now with their self-published titles.

The only gatekeepers that matter now are readers.

Download the raw Kindle data this report is based on (.txt.zip) (zipped, tab-separated-column text file) https://docs.google.com/uc?id=0BxgCvnHrc78PcXZCMDZLRkNRSlk

Download the raw Print data this report is based on (.txt.zip) (zipped, tab-separated-column text file) https://docs.google.com/uc?id=0BxgCvnHrc78PUWxxclVWSG9BSGc

Download the raw Audio data this report is based on (.txt.zip) (zipped, tab-separated-column text file) https://docs.google.com/uc?id=0BxgCvnHrc78PZW1Ba0wwNWZmVzg

APPENDICES

APPENDIX I: The usual market-share pie charts, updated…

APPENDIX II: Geeking out on the invisible “dark matter” of Amazon’s ebook sales

By looking at 200,000 top-selling ebook titles scraped from the Amazon category bestseller lists, quarter after quarter, we’ve consistently been able to shed light on the majority of Amazon’s ebook sales – nearly 60% of the daily total, in fact. We’ve been able to paint a very clear and detailed picture of Amazon’s list-visible titles, and how *those* particular sales break down.

But just as our own universe is made up of both visible “light matter” and invisible “dark matter,” so too is the universe of Amazon’s ebook sales.

For the past year, our AE spider has been capturing the sales of all of Amazon’s list-visible titles: the entire “light matter” portion of the Amazon ebook sales universe. And from there, we’ve been able to draw meaningful inferences about the composition of the remaining 40% – from the nearly three million other very-low-selling titles that have thus far managed to dodge the attention of our best-seller-list-crawling AE spider, because they appear on no category best-seller lists at all.

In other words, the titles that make up the invisible “dark matter” of the Amazon ebook sales universe.

Some of that ebook-sales “dark matter” is comprised of lower-selling backlist titles belonging to the very same authors whose better-selling books already appear in our data sets. We could call that portion of it “shadow” dark matter, perhaps: an additional penumbra of uncounted author earnings that gets cast like a shadow from those authors’ bestseller-list-visible “light matter” sales.
But the rest of the dark matter is “pure” dark matter, coming from a different and entirely uncounted group of authors – authors who have thus far remained completely invisible in the AE data, because even their best-selling titles remained wholly below our radar. How much of each type is there? The percentage breakdown of dark matter sales has so far been anyone’s guess.

What we do know about the dark matter with fair precision is how many daily sales all of those invisible titles generate in aggregate: around 40% of Amazon’s daily total. And we know that very few dark-matter titles individually sell in significant numbers. How do we know they don’t? Because once all of the visible “light matter” titles and their individual sales rankings have been accounted for, there simply aren’t many decent-selling sales-rank slots left over for the “dark matter” to occupy. But beyond those two inarguable facts, there’s little else about the dark matter’s makeup that we have been able to say for sure.

And so, despite our best efforts, the true nature of that dark matter has remained a mystery. We’ve speculated that it is most likely distributed among different categories of publisher in about the same proportions as Amazon’s “light matter.” But absolute certainty about it has continued to elude us.

Until now.

So, what lies hidden in the invisible “dark matter” of ebook sales?

First, let’s look at how Amazon titles, authors, unit sales, daily revenue, and daily author earnings divide up between:

“Light matter” – titles visible on at least one category best-seller list
“Shadow dark matter” – non-list-visible titles from authors who do have other titles that are listed category best-sellers
AE-tracked “Pure dark matter” – titles from authors without a single title on any category best-seller list, but whom our spider first discovered in the also-boughts of other authors’ category bestsellers, and then went on to pull the rest of their titles
Non-AE-tracked “Pure dark matter” – titles from the lowest-selling authors without a single title on any category best-seller list, and whom our spider failed to find in any other title’s also-boughts, either

Note that, despite the large number of invisible titles and authors that lie in the “pure” dark matter, and which skew the first two pie-charts below, the vast majority of Amazon ebook unit sales, customer dollar spend, and dollar author earnings – around 75% of each – are going to the more “visible” authors, those with at least one title appearing on some category bestseller list. This can be seen clearly in the three pie charts that follow.

Causation or correlation? A bit of both, obviously. But the impact of author obscurity does appear to be very steep, while the career benefits of category bestseller-list visibility – which is part of discoverability – look high indeed.

How does each shade of Amazon sales “matter” divide up among various publisher types?

The list-visible “light matter” ebook sales are distributed basically the same way they were in January 2016. The pie chart does include a higher percentage of uncategorized single-author publishers, who are also mostly indies. But this simply reflects our recent laziness – the process of going through these single-author publisher names one by one and categorizing them is painfully tedious, and there are many tens of thousands of them in our million-title dataset.

So there’s nothing particularly new or striking revealed in the “light matter” – the fact that roughly half of Amazon’s daily ebook purchases are now going to indie authors has, in 2016, become rather unremarkable. Which is in itself rather remarkable. But we digress.

More interesting is the composition of Amazon’s “shadow dark matter” sales, below – the additional, non-bestseller-listed sales that contribute to the earnings of authors whose bestseller-list titles make up the “light matter”:

As described earlier in this report, indie authors and the Big Five are the disproportionate sales beneficiaries of this additional “shadow” dark matter.

And then there’s the “pure dark matter” – sales from entirely invisible authors who have no titles on any category best-seller list:

Once again, indies make up the bulk of these invisible sales and authors – an even higher proportion than in the other shades of Amazon sales matter. We even found a few dozen invisible authors here – mostly indies – who are earning six figures from titles that live entirely in this “pure” dark matter. But the majority of these 2,600,000 titles comes from the lowest-selling 750,000 authors on Amazon, and 900,000 of them belong to the lowest-selling 160,000 indies.

It might be discouraging to consider the 300,000 lowest-selling Big Five titles that we find here in the “pure dark matter”, belonging to 86,000 invisible Big Five authors. Or the 750,000 lowest-selling titles belonging to 240,000 authors published by small or medium publishers. While some of these authors are now retired or deceased, a full 60% of them were still actively publishing as recently as two years ago.
Each of these authors successfully fought their way through the traditional-publishing slush pile, and secured themselves an agent and a publishing deal – even a Big Five deal. Those achievements appear to have granted them little career advantage, in either sales or visibility. Today, these several hundred thousand traditionally published authors find themselves earning even less than the very lowest-selling indies are.

Whether those 160,000 lowest-selling indies represent good news or bad news depends on your perspective: whether you view the glass as half-empty or half-full. In the past, when traditional publishing was the only real choice authors had, their manuscripts would have instead languished in traditional publishing’s slush pile, unpublished and unread. Instead, they are now collectively selling 150,000 copies a day, earning each of their authors, on average, $250/year – or roughly $100/title. And getting read, too, if not yet by many, and hopefully finding a few fans along the way.

2016 Digital Book World Keynote Presentation

AuthorEarnings Methodology

A May 2016 look at Big Five ebook pricing

Individual author earnings tracked across 7 quarters, Feb. 2014 – Sept. 2015

https://www.authorsguild.org/industry-advocacy/the-wages-of-writing/

February 2016 Author Earnings Report: Amazon’s Ebook, Print, and Audio Sales

Note on methodology


2016 Digital Book World Keynote Presentation

2016 Digital Book World Keynote Presentation
March 11th, 2016 | Data Guy

Download the presentation (.pdf)
https://docs.google.com/uc?id=0BxgCvnHrc78PNFlLdWpNZS15VEk


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