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E-Books Are Only 6% of Printed Book Sales 437

Posted by timothy
from the can't-fool-me-project-gutenberg dept.
An anonymous reader writes "MIT's technology blog argues that e-book sales represent 'only six pecent of the total market for new books.' It cites a business analysis which calculates that by mid-July, Amazon had sold 15.6 million hardcover books versus 22 million e-books, but with sales of about 48 million more paperback books. Amazon recently announced they sell 180 e-books for every 100 hardcover books, but when paperbacks are counted, e-books represent just 29.3% of all Amazon's book sales. And while Amazon holds about 19% of the book market, they currently represent 90% of all e-book sales — suggesting that e-books represent a tiny fraction of all print books sold. 'Many tech pundit wants books to die,' argues MIT's Christopher Mims, citing the head of Microsoft's ClearType team, who says 'I'd be glad to ditch thousands of paper- and hard-backed books from my bookshelves. I'd rather have them all on an iPad.' But while Nicholas Negroponte predicts the death of the book within five years, Mims argues that 'it's just as likely that as the ranks of the early adopters get saturated, adoption of e-books will slow.'"
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E-Books Are Only 6% of Printed Book Sales

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  • Re:Wrong title (Score:2, Interesting)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday September 23, 2010 @07:08PM (#33681860) Homepage Journal

    And there is high demand for more.

    It's just plain wrong that in 2010, there isn't an eBook version of every text book. I would buy a kindle for my 11 year old son if I could gt all his texts on it. Kids these days carry around 20+ pound of school crap all day long. When I was in high school, I never even owned a back pack.

  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @07:16PM (#33681948) Homepage Journal

    We have to remember that it is possible that, in the current market, due to markup costs, eBooks may be selling for less than they cost per unit.

    The only metrics that matter to the consumer are price and utility.

    The only metrics that matter to the writer are profit and control.

    The only metrics that matter to the middleman (book publisher, distributor) are profit per unit.

    We can't compare apples to oranges. We can't use Gross Sales Price, since many books sell for less, due to markdowns and returns in the distribution channel. We need Net price after costs, including tech support and returns, and capital requirements.

    If we sell one eBook for $5 million but it gets copied electronically so that we make no other sales, and this electronic version reduces physical book sales by a larger amount (due to piracy), then we lose money.

  • Re:I agree, but (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EggyToast (858951) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @07:23PM (#33682010) Homepage
    This is a crazy idea, but maybe people like both? I prefer books on my Kindle but I'm not going to avoid a book I want to read because it's not available -- I'm going to get it from the library. Maybe that's not the solution that reluctant publishers want to hear, though...

    Still, I agree that I'm not sure what the point of this original post is. A new technology doesn't sell as well as an equivalent, older technology? I'd argue that books are a bit different from movies or music in that books actually physically contain the story -- there's no extra layer of technology involved in enjoying them. That's probably never going to go away, unless paper becomes precious (in which case we have a lot of other things to worry about!). For those with a little extra money who prefer e-ink, though, why not sell them an e-book version of a story? A publisher should see each sale as pretty much the same thing.
  • by KingFrog (1888802) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @07:27PM (#33682050)
    I agree, to an extend. The real thing the publishers fear is the loss of control. On Amazon's ebook store, there are many self-publishing authors there. Publishers get zero for their books. If this were to catch on, the major publishing houses would die. So, they do everything they can to marginalize the ebooks. Now, it's true that many self-published authors aren't worth reading...but there are several that are, and who I enjoy. But ultimately? The candle-makers guilds did not stop the lightbulb, and the buggy-whip makers did not stop the automobile. Both these industries still exist, but in very different, and much smaller, forms than they did before.
  • Re:price (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BLKMGK (34057) <morejunk4me&hotmail,com> on Thursday September 23, 2010 @07:31PM (#33682092) Homepage Journal

    When E-books cost MORE than some hardcovers of course they don't sell. Put them back under $9.99 and I'll stop torrenting and begin purchasing again! The publishers are trying to use E-Books to support their print overhead - and have said as much. MacMillan and others are thieves so far as I'm concerned. As soon as they began setting prices vs Amazon the cost of E-books went through the roof. that they try to make them sound like a bargain because they cost less than LIST hardcover even though they cannot be traded, shared, or sold is a sad sham. some authors are starting to go it on their own and skip the publishers altogether - I wish some of the authors *I* like would do that. You know it's sad when a published author makes MORE money going through Amazon direct and selling for a pittance than they do going through a publisher!

    Some reading:

    http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]
    http://hauntedcomputer.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]
    http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/01/amazon-macmillan-an-outsiders.html [antipope.org]
    http://www.teleread.com/drm/macmillan-ceo-tells-his-side-of-amazon-spat/ [teleread.com]
    http://blog.macmillanspeaks.com/ [macmillanspeaks.com] Make sure to read ALL of the entries in this one - there are some truly stunning doozies! I wonder what planet this moron comes from?

  • by cduffy (652) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Thursday September 23, 2010 @07:32PM (#33682108)

    It isn't reasonable that if I lose or damage my reader, my entire library is wiped out.

    I can't speak for all vendors, but Amazon doesn't do it that way -- the library remains on their server, available for redownload. Same for the audiobooks I listen to on my commute.

    Granted, that's at their mercy -- if they took that option away today all I'd have would be local backups of files tied to my physical device -- but it's not as bad as you make out. (Also, I don't buy most of my eBooks from Amazon; I buy my technical books mostly from Manning Publications, as unencrypted PDF).

  • Re:eBook pricing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BLKMGK (34057) <morejunk4me&hotmail,com> on Thursday September 23, 2010 @07:41PM (#33682178) Homepage Journal

    They WERE lower and then Apple cut a deal with the publishers to allow the PUBLISHERS, not the retailers, to set pricing. They then beat Amazon over the head with this deal and forced Amazon to capitulate. Overnight book prices for E-books in many cases were changed to be HIGHER than hardcover sale prices. The publishers tell you this is a deal though because it's still lower than hardcover LIST prices - who buys at list?! Retailers still set those prices! Want to know when you're getting boned by a publisher? Look for "This price was set by the publisher" on the sales entry.

    When this occurred I went from buying multiple books a month to torrenting them - I haven't bought anything other than a Sci-Fi subscription to a magazine in MONTHS as a result of this bullshit. When they bring back $9.99 pricing I'll start buying, until then - fuck 'em. I can't resell, trade, or give away an e-book like I can paper. I no longer want paper books in my home either - I have too many as it is! grrrr!

  • by Phurge (1112105) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @07:45PM (#33682218)
    3 years ago, ebooks were less than 1%. Now they're 6%. That's a phenomenal growth rate of 500%. The ebook market is exploding!! Buy some Amazon shares now while they're cheap!!
  • by DCFusor (1763438) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @08:04PM (#33682418) Homepage
    A while back, I wrote a book, Digital Audio Processing (Doug Coulter). Recently, Amazon has it as ebook form, perhaps without even informing my publisher, and certainly without telling me. It would stink without the code I copy-lefted on the CD that came with the paperback anyway. Though they sanitized the book of any way to contact me, my email address is all over that code which they didn't check. I've gotten emails from unique addresses in the ratio of about 20::1 over the sales my publisher claims. They are cheating, no question. Next time I will self publish and sell off my own forum or something, no point feeding those dishonest jerks any more. I now understand why Frank Zappa had such a hard-on about that whole business. They have reported zero e-book sales, but it's up there cheap. Pretty worthless without the nice code though, and I don't see how you get that off an e-book reader and into compilation, so it's a joke all around. At any rate, they make the RIAA look honest....just my $.02 worth, which is more than they've paid me after the advance. My opinion of those guys is unprintable, so I'll quit now.
  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by catbutt (469582) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @08:40PM (#33682660)
    Although I'm not big on reading novels, I much prefer reading on a computer monitor than on paper. The main reason is ability to rest my eyes by making the text really big and looking at it from far away.

    I strain to read text in most books, and I find it harder to get the lighting right.
  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 23, 2010 @09:41PM (#33683020)

    No, it's not just you! There was at least one person with similar problems. Searching wikipedia for the term "glasses" we get:

    In 1676, Francesco Redi, a professor of medicine at the University of Pisa, wrote that he possessed a 1289 manuscript whose author complains that he would be unable to read or write were it not for the recent invention of glasses.

    Perhaps you could try this excellent invention!

  • Re:price (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Omestes (471991) <omestes AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday September 23, 2010 @10:47PM (#33683454) Homepage Journal

    I went to Borders last night to browse books, even though I own a Nook (woohoo, we should form a club). I found a paper back I was looking for, that was $1 more than the ebook version. I had a small qualm, and bought the paperback. Why? If the book sucks I can trade it in at a used bookstore, but with the ebook I'm stuck with it, and can never even regain a fraction of my costs.

    I love my Nook, and I'm really happy with Barnes and Noble (their tech support is among the best I've ever dealt with, had a cracked bezel, they sent out a replacement with a mere five minutes of talking to some nice woman, with no hold time, and let me keep my Nook in the interim. Almost unheard of.), but I can't stand the fact that I don't actually own the books I buy.

    That and there is nothing like a real book, sitting on a real shelf.

    It also is a bit silly how expensive ebooks are. I find it odds spending more for an intangible thing than for a real, physical, object. Not that I do, if the book is cheaper in a physical copy, I will always buy the physical copy.

  • by fyngyrz (762201) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @10:56PM (#33683492) Homepage Journal

    The tl;dl version: the bulk of the costs in publishing are not the printing and distribution. It's the editing, proof reading, and review.

    That is utter nonsense. I own a literary agency, and I know exactly what the numbers are.

    First of all, most proof reading and editing is done by the literary agency before the book even reaches the publisher. Also there is work done for free by readers the author collects who act as initial filters. And the agency typically gets 10...20% of what the author gets, which in turn is only a few percent of what the book brings at retail. The publishers and the store make far more per copy than the author does. And reviews are free. Marketing -- if you can get the publisher to do any -- can be expensive. But generally, they expect the author to foot that bill these days. Your own web site, your own "signing tours", your own "buzz generation"... publishers do very little right now. And they're not taking new authors worth a damn, either; if you aren't already published somewhere (short stories, etc.), we can't even get a publisher to look at you these days. And I'd really hate to tell you how many good books you haven't read for just that reason.

  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 24, 2010 @12:39AM (#33684060)

    Although I'm not big on reading novels, I much prefer reading on a computer monitor than on paper. The main reason is ability to rest my eyes by making the text really big and looking at it from far away.

    I strain to read text in most books, and I find it harder to get the lighting right.

    I have a nook and an iPad, and I read more on the iPad than the nook. E-ink is amazing but the page turns are so slow, you can't view the web easily on an e reader, and I find the kindle and nook apps to be better than the device itself. Also the iPad is backlit, and I'm using it now to read slashdot, in the bed, with no lamp on, wife sound asleep, and post this reply.

    Sure for a pure reading experience an e-reader is nice. But a tablet does the same job and IMHO does it better.

  • Re:Books won't die. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ErikZ (55491) * on Friday September 24, 2010 @12:44AM (#33684084)

    My Kindle 2 will last 2 weeks with the wireless off.

    The new Kindles will last a month. If you're seriously going to go A MONTH without seeing an electrical outlet of any type, well...

    Get a solar charger.

    However, if you're planning a mission in space where you don't see any kind of electrical outlet, and the sun is too dim for solar...

    Tell whoever made your spaceship that you need an electrical plug. The mass savings are worth it.

  • Re:eBook pricing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by icebraining (1313345) on Friday September 24, 2010 @05:41AM (#33685004) Homepage

    At what point do you get that sense of entitlement that you're allowed to decide about what others' should or shouldn't do?

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