It’s not often that I can say a newsletter has shocked me.
Publishers Marketplace has an e-newsletter I subscribed to last year at the advice of literary agent Stacia Decker. While it’s really aimed at publishers, it’s good for authors to know what’s going on in New York too.
Of course I was more interested in e-publishing, so I was surprised that the newsletter tended to report about eBooks with a slightly condescending tone. You could almost hear the moniker “upstarts” muttered in between the lines.
But as Barry Eisler publicly jumped into self-publishing and then into the arms of Amazon, as Amanda Hocking and John Locke hit the millions in sales, P.M. adapted quickly, holding conferences at BookExpo like eBooks for Everyone Else.
Yet, the tone of their updates on eBooks still occasionally has that disparaging taint, perhaps because it’s written for publishers. Thus–because P.M. has tried to clamber awkwardly onto the eBooks wagon–I was stunned last week when I read their update on book sales.
They preface it by reminding everyone that the numbers are only from publishers who voluntarily report to the Association of American Publishers, so this is by no means an accurate measure.
P.M. then goes on to trumpet how hardcover book sales recovered nicely in July 2011 compared to July 2010, going from $68 million to $91 million, certainly good news for publishers. But what really made me slap my forehead was the next paragraph. While appropriately reporting that eBook sales were $82 million, making them the second biggest category of sales after hardcover, P.M. states that this is “only double the total recorded last July.”
Only double? I had to read it over twice to understand what great news this is because “only double” sounds like a failure. In any other industry this would have been the lead statistic because it indicates a trend. Could you imagine a stock broker telling a client that his portfolio had earned in July “only double” what it had earned the previous July. The broker would be screaming from every advertising venue possible that he had doubled his client’s earnings rate.
When I first subscribed to Publishers Market place way back in 2010 ( oh yeah, way back) they were still reeling from the shock that e-books were getting close to breaking double-digits as a percentage of publisher’s sales. Now P.M. blithely reports that eBooks are 20% of publishers sales. Nothing to see here. Move on. It’s only double from last year.
Of course I still like Publisher’s Marketplace because I get to read a lot of publishing industry gossip that I might otherwise miss, and it’s good to be updated on lawsuits involving agency pricing of eBooks, etc. So I won’t be canceling my subcription because I don’t like their tone.
The salient fact is that eBook sales–even just those voluntarily reported to the AAP–are obviously still rising exponentially. They may not be the biggest chunk of the sales pie, but they’re close and they’re headed in that direction.
Of course, these numbers do not include sales by indie-pubbed authors like Joe Konrath, Amanda Hocking or John Locke because they’re not members of the AAP. I suspect when Amazon or Barnes and Noble release their sales figures we’ll get a better picture of eBook sales, but I can’t wait to read how Publishers Marketplace will describe the numbers. Will they say that eBooks are now “only” half of all sales?
What if eBooks become 80% of sales. Perhaps then Publishers Marketplace will drop the “only.”