Monday, April 15, 2013

Why E-book Sales Differ From Print, But Who Cares?

One would think most books that sell as an e-book would also see good sales in print and vice versa. But it turns out there is a huge difference in what sells well digitally vs. print.

A Publishers Weekly examination of January-March 2013 bestsellers shows the top selling print books, as tabulated by Nielsen Bookscan, and top-selling Amazon Kindle Books, reveals only four books made both Top 20 lists.

What could be the reason for this?

1.      E-books are very cheap so perhaps the older, more affluent reader tends to buy print and the younger, tech-friendly reader prefers cheaper digital.

2.      All of the e-books on the list are fiction. Perhaps the e-reader gives the casual reader of novels a certain convenience or comfort but for those reading non-fiction, print may still be the preferred medium.

3.      The study only reflects the top sellers and not all books, so perhaps the results don’t give a comprehensive picture of purchasing habits.

4.      Further, the study didn’t compare all e-books – only those sold on Amazon’s Kindle. In fact, several titles on the e-book list were from Amazon Digital Services and a third of the Kindle books are self-published. No self-published books made the print list. Digital, with its low-cost books and almost zero production/print costs, is flooded with more self-published authors.

5.      Nielsen Bookscan, at best, captures 75% of all print book sales but Amazon Kindle captures 100% of all its digital sales, so there are bound to be some discrepancies when comparing things.

None of this means anything, yet. The best path to publishing is to simultaneously release a book in as many formats and versions as possible – hardcover, paperback, audio, e-book, enhanced e-book/vook. You want to make your book as widely and easily available to people as possible. Once you limit yourself to a single format or vendor, you limit your success.

Maybe someone can do a further statistical analysis of the book market – and sell it as an e-book, paper book, and audiobook.


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This blog is copyrighted material by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2013 

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