What Do Books and Music Have in Common?

When was the last time you purchased a music CD in a physical store?

Over the past decade, the music industry has undergone a huge shift. Consider the following:

  • Sales of CDs have declined while sales of MP3 music downloads purchased via the Internet have increased. Digital music sales overtook physical format sales in 2015.
  • Music streaming has become big business. Music subscription services allowing individuals to listen to their choice of music for a low monthly fee saw a 60 percent growth in 2017.
  • Indie music talent is growing. Artists are ditching the big label name records and attempting to break through to fame via streaming platforms.

When was the last time you purchased a print book in a brick-and-mortar store?

The book publishing industry is following the same movement as the music industry. Think about these trends:

  • Sales of print books in physical bookstores has greatly declined. The vast majority of books are now purchased on the Internet.
  • Sales of ebooks have stalled out to around 25 percent of book purchases, yet book subscription services continue to thrive—think Kindle Unlimited, Scribd, and Bookmate.
  • Indie authors are growing. Many authors are ditching the big publishing companies and publishing their works independently, taking them directly to consumers.

The big announcement in the news that recently caught my attention was:

With the popularity of digital music surging, Best Buy is officially pulling the plug on music CDs, and another retail giant (Target) may soon join them. Although CDs remain a relatively popular format worldwide, sales in the U.S. dropped more than 18% last year, prompting Best Buy to drop the format entirely. The retailer will stop selling CDs and pull them from shelves on July 1. Although Best Buy used to be the top music seller in the U.S., nowadays its CD sales generate a relatively low $40 million per year.

Most mass merchandise stores have already shrunk their book and music sections. Now some big box stores are dropping their CD sales. Since book industry trends appear to be following music industry trends, how long until these stores also drop their book sales?

Yes, print book sales are still strong, but don’t let that fool you. We are now in a digital era. Moving forward, the trend for the book industry is that a higher percentage of revenue from books will come via audiobooks, ebooks and subscription services.

Subscription services are on the rise. Audiobook streaming services are beginning to pop up—think Audible and StoryTel. Serialized books via apps will also grow—think Radish and Tapas. As publishers and authors, embracing digital in the coming years will be required to stay relevant.

Related Posts:
Publishing is Big Business
The eBook Subscription Model is Still Alive
Christian Retail is Struggling

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Keeping Readers Engaged

2013 was the year of ebook subscription services. While a number of smaller startups had attempted this concept prior to 2013, none seemed to really take off.

Stack of books

Then last year, Scribd, the internet’s largest document sharing site, began an ebook subscription service. They offered consumers access to books and other written works on their iPhone, iPad, Android devise and web browsers for just $8.99 a month.

Following on the heels of Scribd, Oyster, a startup, launched their own ebook subscription service featuring over 100,000 books for a monthly fee of $9.95.

Over the past few months, these subscription services have just begun to analyze the data from their subscribers. Such data can shed light on reader’s preferences and reading habits, useful information for authors and publishers.

Here are a few of the early findings on subscription e-reading habits:

  • The longer a mystery novel is, the more likely readers are to jump to the end.
  • Readers are more likely to finish reading biographies than business titles.
  • Romance novels are speed read, faster than religious titles.
  • Readers are 25% more likely to finish books that are broken up into shorter chapters.

Just from this small finding, any author can glean two gems to help you get readers to read more of your book: break it up into shorter chapters and keep your mystery novels shorter rather than longer.

I am eager for more data like this to be released to help all of us (authors and publishers) structure our books to better meet the needs of our readers so that we can keep them engaged through the whole book.

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