Beware. This post will be rife with opinion.
I have read a few articles of late that continue to pound the point that ebook sales have been on the decline lately, specifically in relation to print book sales. Now for the purpose of this article, I am going on the assumption that print is at least statistically stagnant in sales and that ebooks are indeed on the downward trend.
For this writer, I suffer from the affliction known as booksale-erectile-dysfunction. Or more simply put: a penis joke inserted (pun fully intended) into the simple statement that my book sales can’t get up. Sales for me aren’t only down, they never got up in the first place. They’ve been like that lazy teenager who just refuses to get out of bed. My personal experience in this “falling skies” view of ebooks is non-existent.
So bear with me as I talk out of my ass.
The first reason I believe sales are down:
One might immediately say, “well aren’t they cheaper than print books?” For my books, yes they are. My most expensive ebook is $4.99. Most print only are that cheap when they are mass market paperbacks or are on heavy discount (usually to dump inventory). The fact is though, that many ebooks are $9.99 or higher. (I have gone into my thoughts long ago on ebook pricing and I might resurrect that post later on.) It’s not just the price of the ebook itself though.
Ebook readers are often expensive. As I write this post, the LEAST EXPENSIVE Kindle on Amazon is $79.99. With that, you also get ads flashed up on your screen. Without ads, you’ll drop $99.99.
“But wait, can’t you just use your phone or your tablet?”
Sure I can. But here is the stupid answer to that question: reading on those SUCK. I have an older Nook. Compared to my phone, computer, or tablet, I would much rather read on the e-reader. It’s not even a close call. The bright screens are not easy to contend with and burn out your eyes fast compared to e-ink. I know of only a select few people who dare read on their devices. More of you psychos are probably out there, but I really don’t want to hear your opinion. You should be focusing on me right now.
Not only are you paying for the books, you are dropping the money on the device too.
For me, even though I have the device, it is far easier to just buy a book from a discount resale shop or just check it out from the library.
So in the current climate, I’d argue it is still not quite cheaper unless you are a diehard reader and read exclusively on e-readers with a leaning towards indies. Otherwise, sticking with print is the more financially sound way.
There is a distinct difference between the feeling of a book in print vs an ebook. The story doesn’t change from one to the other. One would think that if the story is the same, it shouldn’t matter. Yet it does.
I’ve heard from a lot of people that say they do not like ebooks at all. Reading on a device for them is distracting at best. It is an experience that they don’t enjoy. Some, like a cousin of mine, has issues reading even a paperback vs a hardcover book. I am sure that most people do not take it to that extreme, but the fact is, there is a feeling that surrounds holding and reading a book that is not the same as holding a device to read a story.
And this actually ties into my third point:
Where do you get books? Stores. The Internet. Your phone (internet).
Where do you get ebooks? Internet. Whether it is phone, computer, or reading device, it’s all internet. That’s it.
And there’s an experience to that as well.
My interactions with books and ebooks is highly lopsided towards books. In amazon for instance, when I look to buy a book I can choose print or digital. It’s an option available at the “add to cart” button. Anywhere on the web short of Smashwords and other ebook only publishing venues there is an option for print or ebook, unless one or the other simply isn’t available. But I can go to at least 7 places within 5 miles of my house and also get print books. And only one of those places has an ebook shopping option while in store… provided you have the nook app or device.
Looking at books in a store is an experience. You pace up and down aisles and tables waiting for one to grab you. On the net, it’s a series of webpages. It is easy to get distracted.
In other words, shopping for books, although largely unchanged for decades, is fun. It is enticing for the book reader. You look at books differently in a store than when looking for a book online. Online I personally am much more purposeful. I look at the top 10 in the genre I want, but otherwise, I am there for a damn purpose. I am less willing to browse because I already have other things I want to go turn my attention to (most often Facebook or Tumblr, and don’t let me tell you otherwise).
Want higher ebooks sales? Make shopping for an ebook something more exciting than a series of webpages. But how do we do that?
And for my final point:
Print is easy to lend; easy to resell.
I don’t need to really go into this much, but I have resold a lot of books over the years. Once sold, I could use that money to buy more books. And then it gives the opportunity for someone to enjoy the book I just sold for much less money.
I have also lent a bunch. You know how I lent my ebooks? By lending out my wife’s unused ereader as well. Not a problem with print books though.
With these four reasons, I do not see much hope in the near future for ebooks to conquer. They’ll hold. Many like the advantages of ebooks (don’t ask. This isn’t a “what’s great about ebooks” post). For now though, print will remain on top.
Eventually I do see that the conversion will occur. I expect that for at least another decade print will remain ruler. In the meantime, sleazy independent writers like myself will start to undermine the traditional routes with new-fangled ways to market ebooks, bringing the price, shopping, and overall experience of them more in line, if not better than, print books.
If I even get my own sales up.