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OPLIN 4cast #542: Ebooks vs print books

Posted in 4cast

A little more than three years ago, we posted a 4cast about speculation that ebook sales were ready to start into a decline. Current sales data from publishers and publisher associations seems to confirm that this decline is now real. Just like three years ago, however, there are those who don’t agree that ebooks are in decline and also not much agreement about the reasons for any possible decline. But of course, none of this should take precedence over the preferences of your own patrons; as the saying goes, “your mileage may vary.”

  • The bad news about e-books (Publishers Weekly | Jim Milliot)  “Whatever the causes for the decrease in e-book sales, the decline has resulted in something that many publishing experts thought would never happen—unit sales of hardcovers overtook unit sales of e-books. With hardcover units up 5% in 2016 over 2015, hardcover’s 188 million units sold topped that of e-books for the first time since Borders closed in 2012, [Nielsen Book’s Jonathan] Stolper said.”
  • Real books are back. E-book sales plunge nearly 20% (CNN Money | Ivana Kottasová)  “‘The print format is appealing to many and publishers are finding that some genres lend themselves more to print than others and are using them to drive sales of print books,’ said Phil Stokes, head of PwC’s entertainment and media division in the U.K. Stokes said that children’s book have always been more popular in print, for example, and that many people prefer recipe books in hardback format. ‘Coloring books were a big trend over the past few years… and giving a book as a gift is far less impressive if you are giving a digital version,’ he added.”
  • Despite what you heard, the e-book market never stopped growing (Observer | Brady Dale)  “In back-to-back presentations from the data site Author Earnings and publishing tech firm Overdrive, it became clear that ‘unit sales’ may not be the best way to measure the size of the book market. In more and more ways it’s becoming clear that there are additional ways for writers to earn money than by readers buying whole books or even buying books at all.”
  • The state of ebooks 2017 (EContent | Robert Springer)  “[Smashwords CEO Mark] Coker has many predictions for the trends that will impact the industry in 2017 and beyond. Print, despite its comeback over the past year or so due to the adult coloring book fad, will continue to lose ground to ebooks, he says. Publishers who continue to prioritize print over digital will do so at their peril. Meanwhile, indie authors will continue to take market share from traditional publishers. Indie ebooks now control ‘somewhere between 10% and 20% percent of the market,’ says Coker.”

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