Ebooks vs. Print Books Revisited

While speakingRich w:Book to a friend and businessman today he surprised me when he said that a very small percentage of books sold are eBooks. I was surprised because I thought the number of eBooks sold as compared to print books was more than that. I may have this perception because I’m very involved with Ebooks. In my world, my books sell 90% better as eBooks than print books.

In checking the data, I found that Ebooks now make up about 30% of books sales, more than my friend realized, but still appreciably less than print books. True, the rise of Ebooks has been extremely fast, with Amazon fanning the flames. Apple and Barnes & Noble follow close behind. With sales at independent bookstores decreased by 50%, the stage is set for super stores like B&N to sell the most print books as well the most Ebooks. It is hard to find an independent book store either online or offline these days.

My friend’s statement surprised me in part because I look at book sales through an author’s eyes, an average author, not a name author pushed by a big publishing house. However, it is a fact that Amazon is currently selling more Ebooks than print books. It is fact that authors must market their own books, regardless of how they are published, and that it is far easier to market through on-line book sellers like Amazon than to get print books into stores and actually move them. Ebooks are the easiest form of all to sell.

This tendency shapes direction for authors. For example, I sell 80% more Ebooks through Amazon than all other on-line stores combined. There is little in those numbers to tempt me to sell my Ebooks anywhere other than Amazon. If you write to sell your books, you must follow trends.

Here’s another thought. I’ve found that when comparing royalties from my $12.50 and $17.00 paperbacks to my $2.99 Ebooks (I self-publish and sell my Ebooks through Amazon at the 70% royalty rate) I make less than a dollar more from the paperbacks. Such is the effect of overhead. So why work hard to sell my print books?

Consider that over 3 million books are published annually in the U.S. (that’s in 2010), that Amazon currently has 32.8 million books for sale, 1.2 million of which are Kindle and 22.9 million paperback, that Amazon lists 3,699,618 literature and fiction books for sale right now. To reach the top ten sellers at Amazon it has been calculated that your book must sell 300 copies per day. If you are managing that, you are already selling at the rate of 9000 books a month, which begs the question of why you need to reach the top ten. In other words, which came first, the chicken or the egg?

After crunching all this data, I continue to believe that my best chance for profit lies with selling Ebooks. I will continue to publish print books too, of course, but failing a lightening strike, my concentration will stay with the Ebooks.

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