Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Smoking... E-book?

by Sandra Parshall

If traditional publishing dies, a lot of crime fiction readers will be standing over its lifeless form with smoking e-books in hand. Digital novels made up half of all mystery/detective sales in the final quarter of 2012, beating back print formats to take the lead in the genre for the first time.

According to Bowker Market Research (as reported in Publishers Weekly), e-book sales for the entire year averaged out to 35% of mystery units sold, with a big increase in the fourth quarter. In the same quarter of 2011, e-books accounted for only 38% of the genre’s sales.

As digital sales rose, the numbers for most print formats declined. In the last quarter of 2011, hardcovers made up 27% of the mystery market; in the same period of 2012, hardcovers declined to 19%. Trade paperbacks dropped from 15% to 13%.

The only print format holding its own in the mystery market was mass market paperback, remaining steady at 16% from 2011 to 2012 -- although the category across all genres has suffered a drastic decline since e-books began their relentless climb to dominance. Publishers Weekly points out that the second highest print sales for a mystery/detective novel reported to BookScan in 2012 were for a mass market paperback: Lee’s Child’s The Affair. Four other mass market paperbacks, all by major authors in the genre, also made the top 10 list for the year. Two trade paperbacks came in eighth and ninth, and only two hardcovers made the list: Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich at number one and 11th Hour by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro at number four.

Other aspects of the Bowker study of mystery sales show that the profile of the most avid book-buyers remains the same: women account for 75% of sales, and 65% of all buyers are over the age of 55. Only 12% of buyers are between 30 and 44, and 16% are between 45 and 54. Readers with incomes between $50,000 and $74,999 bought 26% of the books. People at the top of the income scale, making more than $150,000 a year, bought the fewest books, accounting for only 9% of sales. (Too busy making money to find time for reading?)

Another interesting new survey, done by the Book Industry Study Group, shows that multi-function tablets have surpassed dedicated e-readers like the Kindle in popularity among e-book buyers. So it’s not surprising that Amazon’s share of the e-book market is decreasing.

A couple (or three) questions for readers: 

What percentage of the books you buy is digital? 
Are you buying and reading more since acquiring an e-book reader? 
Do you have a dedicated e-reader or a multi-function tablet? Or both?



Nancy J. Cohen said...

I have both a Kindle and an iPad. I'll read newsletters on my iPad in the Goodreader app that's great for pdf's. Most of my digital reading is done on the Kindle because it's more lightweight and easier to hold for longer periods of time. And I still have a huge collection of print books.

Ellis Vidler said...

I have a Kindle, no multifunction pad. It's easy to carry in my purse. I've bought many more books since getting it. For one thing, they're much less expensive and there's no storage problem. Like Nancy, I still have a huge collection of print books. I prefer eBooks except for reference books.

Sheila Connolly said...

While I have a Nook and have used it, ebooks are still a very small percentage of my reading (and mysteries are about 85% of my reading). I am lucky in that my publisher releases my books in print and eformat simultaneously (and at the same price--I haven't tracked relative sales), and I'm publishing two standalone ebooks this year. I say, anything that keeps people reading is a good thing, as long as writers receive a fair share of the income.

Sandra Parshall said...

Some people are so resistant to e-books that they continue to dismiss them as a fad and predict they will eventually disappear. That doesn't seem likely.. But I don't believe print books will disappear either. Can't we have both?

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

My reading is about half digital and half print. I buy more since I got the Kindle, since it's so easy to use that I've stopped going to the library, where I read for free. But I read less, because between the death of the midlist in traditional publishing and the lack of gatekeeping in e-publishing, I'm finding fewer books that I really love. I still buy my very favorite authors in hardcover: I just pre-ordered Diana Gabaldon's new Outlander book and Charlaine Harris's final Sookie Stackhouse book on Amazon, where they're most affordable. I also buy when I attend friends' launches. I love my iPad, but I don't read on it. In fact, since I got it, much of my reading time has been going to TV series and movies on Netflix and similar apps.

LD Masterson said...

I'm still a print book person. I have a Nook, received as a gift, but I only use it when I really want to read a book that is only published in e-form (usually because I know the author).

Steven M. Moore said...

My reading has increased with ebooks. Contrary to Elizabeth, I try many more NEW authors now, and for the same reason she's so easy to download their books from Amazon. I say "try," because, in both my "spare time reading" and formal reviewing, there is a 5-10% fatality rate--I don't want to finish them. (In my capacity as a reviewer, I do finish, and the review reflects my displeasure.)
In general, though, there are many good, new authors out there waiting for you to discover them and be entertained.
On a more personal level, I've given up on paper. All but one of my eleven books are available in ebook format (I need to work on that one and release it as an ebook). I was burned in the VHS/betamax bake-off. Hopefully, I'm choosing the right media this time.
I do agree with Sandra, though. Let's not criticize either format too much. They each have pros and contras. For example, contrary to popular belief, ebooks are probably worse for the environment. We save forests but release all kinds of toxic stuff when we throw away those readers and tablet computers.

Steven M. Moore said...

I suppose I should add this note: One reason to try NEW ebook authors is that traditional publishing generally charges almost as much for the ebook version as the hard bound version of a bestseller. I refuse to pay more than $10 for ANY BOOK. Traditionally published authors beware: I'm not the only one who thinks this way now! :D

Helen Ginger said...

My husband and I each have an iPad. He downloads lots of books and he reads everything on his iPad. He travels a lot, so he can load a ton of books on his iPad and never be stuck without something to read.

Sandra Parshall said...

Re: Steve's comment about the high price of ebook bestsellers: Now that retailers (like Amazon) once again have the right to set prices, the prices on digital versions of bestsellers are rapidly coming down. Here's a report from Digital Book World:

Carolyn J. Rose said...

I have a Kindle and use it about 5-10% of the time (mostly when I travel). I estimate the breakdown of "actual books" to be 40% from the library, 30% purchased at my local bookstore, 15% borrowed from friends, and the rest picked up at yard sales, Goodwill, etc.

S.W.Hubbard said...

I haven't bought a hardcover book in years. I buy hot new bestsellers to read on my Kindle when I am too impatient to wait for them at the library or if I need to have them for my bookgroup. My bookshelves are filled with the classics and I like being surrounded by these old friends, but I find as I am getting older I want less and less "stuff" in my house. So acquiring books on Kindle is great for me. As a mystery author, I love digital books because without the overhead of killing trees, a lot more of the revenue comes back to me. I have made more on my latest e-book than on nmy three traditionally published mass market paperbacks.

Pat Browning said...

I agree with Stephen Moore, $10 is too much to pay. I can't afford to buy some e-books I would really like to read, but unless the prices come down or I can get them through Interlibrary loan, it's likely I'll have to skip them.

I read mostly e-books on my computer with Amazon's free Kindle for PC software. I have found some excellent e-book originals, and have found books I like on Amazon's free list.

Sorry, fellow authors, but right now I have no book budget. None. Zip. Nada. To pay $2.99 for a book I really, really want to read is a major decision. I don't know about Amazon setting prices but my publisher sets mine. I believe that is usually the case.
Pat Browning

Steven M. Moore said...

I hear you loud and clear on ebook prices (or pbook prices, for that matter). I don't think I could afford college nowadays because courses ask for very expensive textbooks, even used.
I find a lot of free reading now in two different ways: (1) I'm a reviewer, and reviewers traditionally get ARCs or complementary ebooks. I don't feel bad about this because I'm helping the author (unless I have to say his or her book is crap--not likely, because I cherry-pick the books I want to review). (2) I have found some excellent free ebooks to download via Amazon's KDP Select give-away program. If I have time, I'll review those too, but I don't feel obligated to do so.
While traditionally published authors offer books for review (or their PR people do), their publishers don't allow them the give-aways.
BTW, if anyone wants to review any of my ebooks, drop me an email. I still have some PR funding available to send you a copy as a gift. Frankly, all my books need more reviews.
I've read some great books as a reviewer (from Carla Neggers and Carolyn Rose,for example, for mysteries; Edgardo David Holzman, for thrillers). And the price is right!