Print is Not Dead

Each year Bowker releases an annual report on print book publishing in the United States. Bowker compiles this data from is publication, Books In Print ®, which lists all print books assigned an ISBN number.

Bowker recently released a preliminary finding for their 2010 year-end report. In this finding, Bowker projects that, despite the growth in ebooks, traditional U.S. print title output in 2010 increased 5% over 2009. This 5% increase comes after a 4% increase the previous year for 2009 over 2008.

Interestingly, of the top five book production categories, only two increased the number of books published in 2010 over 2009 and these were both in the science/technology categories.

The top book production categories were:

Rank Category 2010 2009
1. Fiction 47,392 48,738
2. Juveniles 32,638 33,028
3. Sociology/Economics 28,991 26,904
4. Science 21,414 15,608
5. Religion 19,793 20,527

This report from Bowker should bring you encouragement. Here are two comforting points I gleaned from Bowker’s findings:

  1. Print books are not dead; in fact, they are still alive and well.  Print books are still being published and production of print book titles is still growing.
  2. Religious books are still in the top five category for book production, indicating there is still a strong market for these books. People are interested in spiritual things.

You can view the full Bowker report here.


New eBook Award

Dan Poynter, self-publishing guru, has launched an ebook award program called Dan Poynter’s Global eBook Awards. This year will be the inaugural year of the award. The award is currently accepting entries for any ebook published before July 1, 2011.

This award hosts a Religion/Spirituality and an Inspirational category among its 70 categories in which ebooks can be nominated. The deadline to nominate an ebook for this award is June 30, 2011.

Watch this video giving 10 reasons to enter your ebook into this award.


Make New Friends, But Keep the Old

One traditional Girl Scout song says, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.” I believe this is an important song to remember when it comes to marketing books today.

According to a 2009 study by the Book Industry Study Group, some interesting trends are underway. Two of the study’s findings were:

  • 67% of readers say they read reviews online versus in traditional print media.
  • 54.8% rely on Internet or online ads to find books.

What do these statistics mean for you, the author or publisher trying to market a book?

It’s really quite simple. If at least one-half of your marketing efforts are not being done on the Internet, you are losing out on sales.

On the other hand, if all of your marketing efforts are being done on the Internet, you are also losing out on sales.

People tend to fall into one of two camps. They either hang on to the old way of doing things, or they quickly dump the old way and completely embrace the new way of doing things.

Either camp loses when it comes to changing times like the one that book selling industry is currently experiencing.

Are print catalogs and snail mailings still important? Yes!

Are advertising and marketing on the Internet also important? Yes!

Take a fresh look at your marketing plan. How are you doing? Are you keeping the old and embracing the new, balancing the two? If not, you may need to make some adjustments to your marketing efforts. You want both silver and gold when it comes to book sales.


Changing the Landscape

My last blog post (Rising eBook Sales = Declining Revenues) was on the book industry’s declining profits due to the lower price of ebooks.

After writing that post, I learned that major publishers are getting creative in finding ways to increase their revenue.

Three large general market publishers, Hachette Book Group, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster have announced that they will launch an online website to promote and sell their books. This new website,, will launch in mid-July and be geared toward “connecting readers with books and authors.” However, the site will sell books (both ebooks and print books) directly to the public. appears to be a strategy on the part of these publishers to sell more books directly to the reading public, cutting out the middle-man. Why? Because publishers are looking for ways to increase their revenue in a falling market.

With ebooks netting less revenue than print books, publishers are looking for ways to increase the amount of money they keep from each sale. What better way than to cut out the middle-man and sell directly to the public!

For each book (especially ebooks) that these publishers sell directly to the reading public, they retain more of the retail price by selling directly. When books are sold through retailers, less revenue ends up in the publisher’s pocket, because the retailer and the distributor have to take their cut.

I wonder what other new ideas the large publishers will come up with to increase revenue in these evolving times.


Rising eBook Sales = Declining Revenue

The recent book sales data from Neilson BookScan and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) shows some interesting data.

Print book sales dropped 4.4% from 2009 to 2010. A closer look at this data shows that print book sales dropped by over 15% during the first six weeks of 2011 compared to the same time period the prior year.

On the other hand, ebook sales continue to rise. eBook sales in February 2011 totaled $90.3 million, significantly ahead of the record $69.9 million reported the previous month in January 2011. eBooks made up about 22% of book sales in the first quarter (Jan-Mar) of this year.

The data gets more interesting. The revenue from the increase in ebook sales in January and February of this year did not make up for the lost revenue from the decline in print book sales for those two months.

In other words, the gain of $60.4 million in ebook sales did not equal the decline of $93.5 million from print book sales over the same time period.

Why is this? It’s simple. eBooks retail for less than print books. The difference in sales price is wide enough that publishers net less from ebook sales when comparing selling the same amount of print books versus ebooks.

As a small publisher, you might not experience the decline in revenue like many large publishers are. You might actually be selling more copies of your book by making it available in ebook format, actually making more money.

However, economies of scale make the difference for the large publishers. If a publisher can sell 5,000 hardback copies of a book at $26.00 a book and nets $10.00 a book, they have just made $50,000. If they, instead, sell 5,000 copies of that book in ebook format at $9.99 per book and net $6.00 per book, they have only made $30,000.

Overall book sales peaked in the United States in 2007 and have been on the decline since (even taking into account ebook sales). The increase in ebook sales is not making a difference in the overall book sales figures (see chart below).

Book sales from the US Census Bureau

Year 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
$Millions 15,662 16,051 16,870 17,184 16,983 16,889 16,877

What will this mean in the long-run for the book publishing business? A decreasing number of books sold coupled with the lower revenue per book sold will result in fewer people employed in making and selling books. In our current economic recession, this does not seem like good news.