Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Still Crowing over an Ebook "Slowdown"

It’s interesting to see the varied interpretations of the “latest” Nielsen Books & Consumers survey – unavailable to the unwashed masses for less than $1,200, by the sounds of it.

The Huffington Post leads with the breathless fact that print books are still outselling ebooks by a 3 to 1 margin, at least in the first half of 2014.

Publishers Weekly, meanwhile, taking a look at the same study, leads with ebooks gaining in the young adult market while leveling off – but still growing – in other categories.

Having the study’s numbers at hand would be helpful, but as mentioned earlier Nielsen doesn’t release their information wholesale – only retail. That’s their business. But with that business they’ll have to cope with varied interpretations.

Here’s what they’re saying:

Ebooks accounted for 23% of unit sales in the first six months of 2014, led by adult fiction and young adult categories, both of which saw a 30% share of unit sales in that same period.

In the United Kingdom, at least, the value of the ebook market is increasing more sharply than volume. That means the average ebook reader is willing to spend more on additional ebook titles.
While print books still dominate unit sales, and while ebook sales are leveling off, overall book sales are declining.

That second item is both good and bad for fiction writers looking to get into the ebook market. Per Publisher’s Weekly:

With consumers now paying more for e-books, the actual purchasing decision is no longer just about price. Instead, it’s increasingly about the author or the subject—particularly important for nonfiction e-books, the category that has seen the most significant growth. But the survey shows that a slightly lower proportion of e-books were bought on impulse in the first half of 2014 compared to 2013, a phenomenon that may be linked to higher prices.

In other words, people are willing to spend more on ebooks. But since prices are going up, impulse shopping is declining. Writers, therefore, ought to be encouraged to do what their big brothers and sisters in the print world are encouraged to do (duh): Cultivate a following. Or at least continue to do things to get readers’ attention.

That third item? Scares the heck out of me.

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