As the Kindle 3 continues its march towards total eReader domination, with the latest step being retail distribution via Staples, it is worth taking a moment to look at all the different consequences due to the rise of the Kindle, eReaders, and eBooks.
35% of 1 million copies of ‘Freedom’ sold were eBooks
Marion Manekar of BNet reveals two pretty huge numbers –
- Ken Follet’s latest bestseller sold 20,000 copies in eBook format during its first seven days on sale. This is despite the really obscene pricing of the Kindle edition. Imagine how much it would have sold if the Publisher hadn’t unnaturally restricted its ebook sales.
- There were 350,000 ebook copies of Jonthan Franzen’s Freedom sold (total sales were 1 million). Please note that this is despite the Kindle edition being $12.99 and the hardcover being $14. Here’s a quote from an article on eBooks at The Independent –
I sat yesterday with Jonathan Galassi, the man who published Jonathan Frantzen’s Freedom in America.
There are about a million copies in print, he’s sold a huge amount – and 35 per cent are e-books. That’s phenomenal. That’s a jump forward that’s happened in America in just a year.
But when there’s a terrific buzz about a book, as with Frantzen, that’s exactly when people want the book immediately… The bigger the book, now, the bigger the e-book sale will be.”
Again, it’s worth noting that these numbers are despite the fact that Publishers tried their best to handicap ebook sales by pricing Freedom at $12.99 (the hardcover is $14) and Fall of Giants at $19.99 (the hardcover is $19.39). These books are at #10 and #19 respectively in the Kindle Store Bestsellers List – at $10 they would have both been in the Top 5 and probably sold 50% more (for Freedom) and 100% more (for Fall of Giants).
Independent asks a good question –
Who’ll be the first to charge for a money-based, author-reader relationship that dispenses with agent, publisher, retailer, editor, production department and glamorous publicity director?
You have to imagine that at some point of time big name authors will start realizing that they could be making millions from ebook sales and could then use that money to fund their own printing. Or they could just wait till 2014 when book sales are 75% ebooks and forgo all the hassles of printing and distributing physical books.
These ebook sales figures are stunning both in terms of ‘percentage of books sold’ and ‘absolute number of ebooks sold’.
How long will Publishers keep leaving ebook revenue on the table?
Despite Publishers’ various attempts at killing ebooks we have ebook sales accounting for 35% of sales (for at least one bestseller). If the price were a more rational $9 or $10 ebook sales might have been 40% to 50%.
350,000 sales at $12.99 is $4.546 million. That’s $4.5 million just from ebook sales. At $10 it would have perhaps sold over 500,000 copies for a total take of over $5 million and much better sales rankings.
Ken Follet’s book sold 20,000 copies in 7 days. It sounds great until you realize that by pricing it at $19.99 the Publisher might have forsaken the opportunity to sell hundreds of thousands of ebook copies in the first 7 days.
20,000 sales at $19.99 is $399,800. The Publisher here is assuming he’s saving hardcover sales. But what amount of ebook sales are being sacrificed – What if it’s 100,000 ebook sales sacrificed by not pricing books at $9.99 each. That’s $800K left on the table to protect hardcover sales that may or may not have been protected.
Which brings us to the second part of our post which asks whether the whole concept of ‘protecting hardcover sales’ makes any sense.
In a big surprise eReader owners tend to buy mostly eBooks
Publishers still don’t get it – but they’re beginning to.
I posit a slightly more nuanced definition of what is happening:
Ebooks aren’t cannibalizing print books — consumers with ebook reading devices are, as a rule, no longer buying print books.
This is sheer brilliance.
Yes, we knew about this years ago. However, for a member of the elite circle of Publishers and Publishing experts to understand this is truly remarkable. Just as remarkable as it would be for a brilliant physicist to comprehend and accept that one of the fundamental laws of physics is broken.
Evan Schnittman finally gets it.
- If a Kindle owner doesn’t find the book she wants in ebook format, or she finds it priced at $19.99, it’s not that she gets out of bed, walks to the nearest bookstore, breaks in, grabs a copy, leaves $20 on the counter, fights off 2 cops, and comes back to bed to read the book.
- No, she just finds another ebook to read.
That’s hard to believe isn’t it. That a reader would choose not to worship at the altar of Publisher Profit and Convenience.
Evan S. thinks that Publishers are now losing customers if they don’t have an ebook version and that this marks the real ebook tipping point.
Actually, the real tipping point was last October, November. The grand Agency Model is failing because it came after the tipping point. However, as long as Publishers realize we’ve crossed the tipping point who cares if they use language and dates that make them happy and make sense in their warped view of the world.
The simple thing Publishers don’t understand about us Kindle owners
Here’s something that’s so amazingly obvious it’s crazy that a Publishing genius has to write it down for it to make sense to Publishers –
This is a critical understanding of ebook customers. They invest in a device and platform to read books and therefore become dependent on those channels of ebook distribution for their content.
They don’t go into stores and are not very likely to shop in online environments that feature ebooks and print books.
Ebookstores on ebook reading devices sell only ebooks. Print is not part of the experience.
Yes, print is no longer part of the experience.
It would also be nice if Mr. S. didn’t assume that we have ‘become dependent on those channels of ebook distribution’. We’re not idiots who ‘become dependent’ on something. We just prefer the convenience and the value that the Kindle and Nook platforms provide.
He keeps hammering his ‘eReader owners buy only ebooks’ point home –
Ebook reading device users don’t shop in bookstores and then decide what edition they want; ebook device readers buy what is available in ebookstores.
He ends with this –
So in the end, the book-selling world may lose 25% or so of its print customers to ebooks, but those customers will likely buy more product than they would have if they didn’t use an ereader.
In the end … may lose 25% or so?
At $12.99 Jonathan Franzen sold 35% ebooks. We went from 2.5% ebooks to 8.5% ebooks in 1 year. Yet we continue to play this game of pretending that when ebooks hit 25% people will magically stop shifting to ebooks.
If Publishers are lucky the shift will slow down at 50% and stop at 75% and the shift will happen gradually over the next 10 years. If Publishers are unlucky the shift from 8.5% ebooks to 75% ebooks will happen in the next 4 to 5 years.
Given that Publishers are facing Amazon and Google and that readers are sick and tired of ‘$19.99 for the ebook’ stunts it’s hard to imagine Publishers getting lucky.