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Digital books still increasing — 2 Comments

  1. Quote: “Traditional publishing is losing ebook sales because they are still pricing far too high.”

    My suspicion is that traditional publishers, particularly the major ones, don’t consider their ebook pricing “too high.” They consider it necessarily high, something quite different. They’re willing to make do with fewer sales and perhaps even smaller profits to protect themselves from Amazon.

    Compare the two markets.

    1. Amazon doesn’t quite dominate the print market like it does digital. Physical bookstores have enough advantages, such as the instant availability of bestsellers, that Amazon is being forced to enter that market with stores. True, Amazon can compete on price, perhaps undercutting traditional bookstores. But that means less profit and in many cases absorbing shipping costs. Publishers are keeping print books competitive by retaining high ebook prices. You have to admit that’s easier, cheaper, and simpler than cutting print prices or trying to come up with some way to give traditional bookstores discounts it does not give Amazon.

    2. Amazon dominates the ebook market far more than print. In many ways, it has no effective competition. Apple does not seem serious about selling ebooks. They’re simply another benefit for its iDevices. You can’t read an ebook from its iBookstore on anything but an Apple device. The on-and-off behavior of B&N makes it a poor competitor and other ebook retailers, such as Kobo are trapped in a niche, unable to get visibility with a broader public. The recent demise of All Romance ebooks, whatever the cause, illustrates that genre marketing may face problems too. And never forget that Amazon’s huge size means it can subsidize the sale of its ereaders and tablets in ways no one else can afford.

    All in all, I suspect that the major publishers are making the best of a bad situation by keeping their ebook prices high. The marketing buzz they can create means that most readers will feel more motivated to read their books, often from major authors, than little known authors who self-publish. The latter market, I suspect, is dominated by genre readers whose high consumption of romance, scifi or thrillers means they focus on cheap to be able to afford the volume of their reading. Their purchasing habits do not necessarily threaten the major publishers.

    In short, I suspect that the CEO of these giant publishers do understand what they’re doing—at least to the extent that anyone can know in today’s confused market. I do wish, however, that they’d experiment more, particularly with offering libraries per-checkout fees for their backlist rather than inflated sales prices linked to excessive restrictions.

  2. I think you have their thinking accurately expressed, Michael. But I don’t think they are looking at the consequences. I only read ebooks, for example. I’ve found that locating the type of books I read to be quite problematic. I’ve got a new post in Reality Calling on that topic as I write this. http://radiqx.com/2017/01/christian-book-marketing-pushed-out/

    I suspect that there are many niches like this which will be forced to find different ways to make their books known. But it is certain that the traditional publishers will have little or no input into this process.

    Alternatives to Amazon will appear. That’s inevitable. Who thought that Amazon would break the dominance of Walmart, for example?

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