Ebooks vs Print Sales

Like with Michael Orthofer’s site, the large majority of books being purchased through links on this site continue to be print, although electronic format has steadily risen. This despite Amazon’s new claim that it now sells more electronic books than print.

Like Michael, I can’t explain why my site stats don’t reflect this, though I think it has something to do with the few megabestsellers (like The Millennium Trilogy) that have taken off in electronic format. I’m guessing that those are driving the majority of Amazon’s ebook sales, as well as Amazon Singles and perhaps Amazon construing subscriptions to blogs and such as “books.” (I don’t know that they do this, but wouldn’t put it past them.)

Other than that, I would guess that people who really, rally like books still prefer print books to ebooks. I certainly read my share of electronic books these days, but they’ve never felt “real” to me in the sense that print books do. My go-to example is that if I read an ebook and really like it, I will immediately go out and buy a print version of it to have in my library. Probably people who see books as more of commodities and time-killers won’t have that same perception and will tend to be happy with the electronic version, particularly since the gratification is truly instant now and the price tends to be lower.

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I’m exactly the same. I end up buying hard copies too. I could tell after having read only a few books on my kindle that, though a nice toy, it would never be a replacement for books for me. I’m kind of hoping that the ebook numbers are going to crest and then start to reflect the “yeah, but” reactions a lot of book lovers are undoubtedly having. I think (and hope) it’s people who are mostly into reading the kindle, rather than books, that are driving up the sales, or people like myself – people who aren’t going to commit to it for the long term. Maybe I haven’t come to terms with the gravity of the situation, but I’m kind of expecting sales to come down a bit and book sales to go back up.

I’m the exact opposite. Maybe I just don’t care about “realness” of a book, but I am fine with reading ebooks on my Kindle and am eagerly trying to replace my print books. Any margin notes or ephemera can be documented on Zotero.

I’m with William Patrick Wend on this one – I’m gradually building my digital library and purchasing ebook versions of my favourite print books, while donating all my print books to local libraries, bookshops, schools and so on. I still don’t understand this idea that a book’s ‘realness’ is determined by it being printed out on paper, when the experience of reading a book happens entirely inside my head.

If you look at, say, the NYTBR combined lists for e-books and print, it jibes with the anecdotal evidence from the marketplace: the biggest books in e-books are categories of mass market genre fiction–romance, thrillers, etc.–that have always, as physical books, had a disposable quality to them. Think airport books, things that people enjoy but don’t feel the need to own and aren’t going to read again.

I’ll admit that this surprises me: I expected ebooks to be an elite product, at least so long as the readers were relatively expensive. But it certainly appears that people who read a lot of mass market paperbacks have done the math and realized that with the usual discount Amazon offers on Kindle books, they’ll quickly cover the cost of the reader.

That doesn’t mean this will always be the situation, of course, and it does seem that pretty much all categories of fiction, for example, are seeing significant and growing e-book sales. But right now the biggest action does appear, at least, to be in the old mass market areas.


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