Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Location: Books & Such main office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Bowker reports the following book market trends from the second quarter of this year:
- Declines have occurred in the price paid per book, the number of books purchased per buyer, and in the overall dollars spent per buyer.
- Digital books took a larger slice of overall book sales than a year ago at this same time.
- Hardcovers’ share of the market fell to 33.3%, down from 35% in the comparable period in 2009.
- Amazon.com’s share of book sales, based on dollars spent, increased to 18% from 16% at the same time last year.
- eCommerce (not Amazon) also increased (from 8% to 10%).
So we see that the lower prices for e-books is having its affect in bringing in less money to publishers (and therefore to authors). Readers are shifting away from hardcovers, which form the base of publishers’ profits. These numbers were expected because the trend has been clear.
What surprised analysts is that the lower prices of e-books didn’t result in more copies sold. Books per buyer dipped from 2.7 in the second quarter of 2009 to 2.4 in the second quarter of 2010. The sluggish economy was seen as the most likely major factor in that drop.
In terms of categories of types of books, unfortunately, nonfiction sales are going down. One cheery bit of news from the report is that fiction buying is on the upswing, almost matching the sales the genre experienced in the second quarter of ’09, after faltering later in ’09. Religion book sales are holding steady.
I also read that a new Harris Poll reports that mysteries, thrillers, and crime novels are more popular than romance novels. And more women than men read mysteries, thrillers, and crime novels. Who knew????
It’s also clear that buyers are turning to the Internet to supply them with their books rather than to a bricks-and-mortar bookstore.
This isn’t the best news any of us could hope to hear, but considering how badly publishing stumbled in 2008-2009, it could have been worse. But concerns for the future remain. Publishers have to figure out how to generate more sales from the Internet and less from bookstores (sadly). And how not to depend on hardcover sales to provide the foundation for their profitability.
What can an individual writer do in the face of these trends? First of all, support bookstores. Seriously, bookstores keep publishers afloat. If we want to infuse a healthier glow into publishing’s cheeks, buying books is the best way to do so.
Second, know that if you write nonfiction, you have to 1) find your audience online; 2) write material that can’t be found for free online. That often translates to narrative nonfiction books or memoirs that provide a unique reading experience, or deeply researched topics that take a book to explore the results. If you write fiction, the trend is heartening. And “religious” books are holding their own. In today’s market, “steady” is the new “up.”
What are your responses to this report? Does it match with what you’ve observed? With your own buying habits? When was the last time you bought a book? What did you buy and why?