The continuing plummet of eBook sales for publishers

This month, as I analyzed our sales, it was evident that eBooks have continued a fairly steep decline. I have been commenting on this for years and have been reading a lot of conflicting information. The chart to my left shows how much Amazon dominates the eBook marketplace worldwide. As an part-time economics professor, I know just enough to recognize a monopoly when I see one! Also evident is how dominant the US market is for eBooks. The rest of the world is not even close — the UK being a distant second.
The conflicting information I have been reading concerns some who say it is only the big publishers that are seeing a decline in eBook sales. The owner of SmashWords claims eBook sales are performing fine — IF YOU LOWER YOUR PRICE.
Meanwhile, the Amazon monopoly is a few years into the Kindle Unlimited subscription model. As this service has gained in popularity, outright sales of eBooks have continued to collapse while pages viewed in Kindles through this program have increased. However, it is evident from many sources that author incomes are DOWN SIGNIFICANTLY.
Diagnoses — Amazon took over and is now ruining the eBook marketplace by completely controlling everything. Publishers and independent authors can no longer influence how much they get paid through the service — you are at the mercy of the variable pennies paid per page. While Jeff Bezos continues to be the richest man in the world, authors and publishers are making less from eBooks.
What should we do about this? EBooks are less than 10% of our mix and they cost extra to create plus we pay higher royalties for them. It is also not profitable or sensible to try to increase our efforts on other platforms that have such a small percentage of the business. In other words, a platform that is 10% of the ebook marketplace that is a portion of our 10% of sales would only be a 1% impact. We’re looking to grow much faster than that. To paraphrase the soon-to-be Speaker of the House, “These are just crumbs!”
What shall we do?
A) Chase the crumbs — lose money and diversify among different eBook channels?
B) Drink the Kool-Aid — Go all-in with Amazon and sign everyone up for Kindle Unlimited. This means taking everything down everywhere else — yes, that is the contractual requirement!
C) Bag eBooks altogether? How many of you actually read this way anymore?
D) Protest and pull all eBooks from Amazon and only sell them on other platforms?
E) Start a class-action lawsuit charging Amazon with monopoly power. This is something the Federal Government would need to take up in an anti-trust suit.
I will be thinking about this in my spare time. I welcome your suggestions.

On bookstores and book orders

Alas, another brick and mortar book chain has succumbed to the Amazon behemoth. Here’s the article from Publishers Weekly:
Appleton, Wisc.-based Book World Inc. has announced that it is closing all bookstores in its Book World chain that operates 45 outlets across the Midwest. In a letter to its business partners and vendors as well as in a release sent to media, Book World said that liquidation sales will begin on November 2 at all 45 locations. The sales will continue until all inventory — books, magazines, greeting cards, gifts, and other sidelines – is gone. The company expects that all stores will be closed by January 15.
In the letter to Book World’s business partners, senior v-p Mark Dupont said that while the chain had been able to weather the advent of e-books, in the past 12 months sales started plummeting and still continue to drop. Dupont attributed the downturn to the national consumer shift towards e-commerce and away from large department stores. This, Dupont wrote, “has triggered the loss of vital mall anchor stores and a downward spiral in customer counts, reducing sales to a level that will no longer sustain our business.”
“We didn’t anticipate being in this situation,” Dupont told PW, disclosing that the decision to liquidate the company was made about 10 days ago. “I thought I’d be at Book World until the day I retired.”
Book World stores are located throughout the Midwest, outside of the region’s most populated metropolitan areas, most of them either in small town business districts or in shopping malls. There are 20 stores in Wisconsin, eight in Illinois, seven in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, five in Minnesota, three in Iowa, and one each in Missouri and in North Dakota. Dupont said a dozen employees in Book World’s corporate office will be laid off, as well as more than 300 booksellers across the 45 stores.
The first Book World store was founded in 1976 by William Streur in Rhinelander, Wisc.; Streur has always shied away from industry attention as he and his family built up the company over the years; the company declined to cooperate with a 2010 PW profile.
Du Pont, noting that Book World just opened a location in Jefferson City, Mo. said that some of the stores — especially those in downtown areas — are doing well, and expressed his hope that people interested in bookselling in communities about to lose their Book World outlet would open up their own bookstore, perhaps even in the same building. “Many of the stores are truly still healthy,” he wrote.
“We’re saddened to hear the news of a longstanding family business in our region closing and wish all of the employees best wishes with this transition,” wrote Carrie Obry, the executive director of the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association. While MIBA will be losing some members, Obry noted that “the real impact will be in the communities that have to do without a bookstore until someone opens a new one.”
Given the relatively small store count, we don’t expect this closing to have a major impact on publishers. However, it is indicative of the point we are at in this business. While the vast majority of books are still sold in print, the majority of books are sold online, through ecommerce.
At Sunbury Press, we continue to be very supportive of our local and regional booksellers, and urge our authors to select them for events over Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million whenever possible.
We will continue to monitor our risk of returns from the book trade, as we continue to navigate these choppy waters. Next year will be our 15th in business, and we hope to continue for many many more years.
We have had a number of questions recently about ordering books for events. Bookstores can order from us directly at a 40% discount, or can order from Ingram. We would prefer a direct order — or that you handle the books for your events. This month, we are once again in receipt of a large number of copies returned from book events where the stores over-ordered. These boomerang books are deducted from your royalties and build up in our inventory, when you could have just picked them up and used them at your next event.  If you are doing a series of author events, please work with the bookstores to prevent returns. They are expensive for all parties involved.
And, for those of you ordering books, don’t forget to use the A50 coupon code when checking out. We’ve had to fix a number of orders this past month. Please email orders@sunburypress.com if you have any questions.

The Rise and Fall of eBooks – What’s Next For 21st Century Publishing?

by Emma Crosby

2012-12-11_ebookThere’s no denying the power of a good book, whether it’s in traditional print or digital format, and new tales are constantly being woven that continue to make the move to the big and little screens. However, the initial boom of eBooks looks to be coming to an end, with eBook sales taking a severe hit in recent years. This has caused some large print retailers, such as Waterstones in the UK, to claim that the print form is set to make a comeback. Whether the digital marketplace really is dead for books could be more complicated than it seems, and there are a number of reasons that could account for the lull in popularity over the last few years. The fact is that the written word is becoming increasingly digital, whether it appears in the form of creative literary works or marketing material, with ever increasing access to mobile internet and portable digital devices, we are all far more likely to be reading from digital sources. It could be the latest book in the Game of Thrones series, or some content produced by web copywriting agencies, and it perhaps this ongoing reliance and preference for the digital format that makes the drop in eBook sales so puzzling.

 

eBook Facts and Trends

nookbutton3In order to put things in perspective, it’s perhaps important to remember that eBooks have been through a bad patch before. Since their initial appearance in the late 1990s, eBooks were initially slow to be accepted. While a few big name authors, such as Stephen King, were quick to embrace the new format, technology limitations at the time made reading an eBook a generally unpleasant experience, with many of the early devices developed exclusively for eBooks causing eye strain and headaches as a result of bright screens and poor letter visibility. However, as the technology became better, the demand increased. The release of the first Amazon Kindles met with great success, and spurned on a huge growth in eBook sales. Understandably, a number of publishers were quick to get involved as well, leading to eBooks being distributed by a number of major publishing houses and book retailers. Furthermore, the Apple iPad, and accompanying tablets that hit the market, helped to increase the popularity and convenience of eBooks even more.

 

Two Sides of the Coin

kindle-img.1While there is concern over the recent plummet in sales figures, it’s not necessarily all bad news. To begin with, many thought that the previous triple figure growth was not sustainable, and bound to come to an end sooner or later. Additionally, many in the sector see the slow down as a good sign, or at the very least a mixed blessing to some extent. The slow down in eBooks sales has for example, also slowed down the decline of print sales, which is good news for both traditional book shops and publishers heavily invested in print. Additionally, a large proportion of the growth last year is thought to be down to big blockbuster books, such as Fifty Shades of Grey, and The Hunger Games. There were no titles that claimed this level of popularity in the intervening time period. Secondly, while tablet sales have been going through the roof, research has shown that tablet users are much less likely to buy eBooks than those that purchase dedicated eBook readers, such as the Kindle. Analysts also point to the fact that everyone in the industry is likely to be much happier with a more stable, cross format marketplace in the future, and that eBook sales are likely to remain much lower than before for a few more years. That said, it certainly looks like the eBook isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and will simply be another possible choice for the reader. Finally, the fact that just over 30% of all eBook revenue was generated by indie and self publishing authors is a sign that the eBook will certainly continue to be a favourite platform for writers to showcase and sell their work. Overall then, while the sudden drop in sales may be a shock, it doesn’t necessarily translate into bad news for the eBook, or the book world in general. In fact, we are likely to see not only a return to print in the future, but a much more stable marketplace in general, while eBooks continue to be a great platform for up and coming writers.

Sunbury Press bookstore to open February 1 in Mechanicsburg

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. — Sunbury Press, the book publisher of trade paperbacks and eBooks located at 50 West Main Street, Mechanicsburg (www.sunburypress.com), is celebrating its tenth year in business in 2014. Sunbury’s books feature established and emerging authors in many fiction and nonfiction categories and are sold through leading booksellers worldwide.

Standing room only...

Standing room only…

“2013 was our best year ever,” said co-owner Lawrence Knorr. “Our sales topped all prior years and we exhibited at Book Expo America in New York City. We also held several great events at our Mechanicsburg office.”

Sunbury Press has grown rapidly over the years and now publishes, on average, 70 books a year, having over 200 titles and 120 authors under management.

“We are a traditional press, not a vanity press,” explained co-owner Tammi Knorr. “We receive over 1,000 manuscript proposals a year and select only the best for publication. We do not charge our authors to publish. Instead, we invest in the manuscript by editing, designing and formatting it into a high quality finished product at our expense. We then pay our authors royalties on the sales.”

Some of Sunbury Press’s best-selling titles include “Pit Bulls” by Anthony Julien, a compilation of historic photos of pit bulls with

Pit Bulls

Pit Bulls

their families, the “Keystone Tombstones” series by Joe Farrell and Joe Farley, documenting the lives and graves of famous people buried in Pennsylvania, Mike Campbell’s “Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last,” revealing the fate of the aviatrix, lost in the South Pacific,” and Ernie Marshall’s “That Night at Surigao,” recording the last engagement between battleships in World War 2. In addition to local, regional and world history, the company publishes historical fiction, action adventure, murder mysteries, horror, literary fiction, children’s, self-help, sports and etc.

The Knorrs have decided to up the ante in 2014, converting their office, which had been a showroom and event space, into a full-fledged Sunbury Press bookstore.

“We had a lot of success with our author events – especially on First Fridays,” said Lawrence. “We had people standing out on the sidewalk trying to hear our authors who were presenting inside. While the vast majority of our sales are online and through bookstores around the world, we have had a number of local people who just want to stop in to buy our books. Our books sold well at our events, so we’ve invested in shelves and fixtures and will be offering all of our titles all of the time at our 50 West Main Street location.”

The new Sunbury Press retail store opens February 1st. Store hours are Tuesday thru Friday 10-5 and Saturday from 9 to 2.

ktcw_pub“We will also be holding events on most First Fridays,” said Tammi. “Those Fridays, we’ll stay open until 10 pm.”

Sunbury Press will be offering special deals available only to walk-in customers, such as bargain books and buy-one-get-one free offers. There will also be a limited number of used books not published by Sunbury Press.

For more information, please see www.sunburypress.com, or on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Sunbury-Press-Books/143239….

Sunbury Press eBooks now available for the SONY Reader

Mechanicsburg, PA – Sunbury Press, Inc., the trade publisher, has contracted with SONY to distribute eBooks on the SONY Reader platform through the SONY Reader Store.

About the SONY Reader:
SONY logoThe Sony Reader is a line of e-book readers manufactured by Sony, who invented the electronic ink reader with its Librie. It uses an electronic paper display developed by E Ink Corporation, is viewable in direct sunlight, requires no power to maintain a static image, and is usable in portrait or landscape orientation.

Sony sells e-books for the Reader from the Sony eBook Library store in the US, UK, Japan, Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Spain and Canada. The Reader also can display Adobe PDFs, ePub format, RSS newsfeeds, JPEGs, and Sony’s proprietary BBeB (“BroadBand eBook”) format. Some Readers can play MP3 and unencrypted AAC audio files.

Compatibility with Adobe digital rights management (DRM) protected PDF and ePub files allows Sony Reader owners to borrow ebooks from lending libraries in many countries.
The DRM rules of the Reader allow any purchased e-book to be read on up to six devices, at least one of which must be a personal computer running Windows or Mac OS X. Although the owner cannot share purchased eBooks on others’ devices and accounts, the ability to register five Readers to a single account and share books accordingly is a possible workaround.

Please see the Sony Reader Store:
https://ebookstore.sony.com/

For more information about Sunbury Press, please see:
http://www.sunburypress.com/

Sunbury Press eBooks now available through FREADING at major libraries

Mechanicsburg, PA – Sunbury Press, Inc., the trade publisher, has contracted with Library Ideas, LLC for their FReading service to distribute eBooks to thousands of libraries worldwide.

freading logoAbout Library Ideas & FReading:
Library Ideas, LLC is a privately held company located in Fairfax, Virginia.  Library Ideas supplies digital products and websites to libraries of all kinds around the world.  Their signature products are Freading eBooks, Freegal Music and Rocket Languages for Libraries.

The Freading Ebook Service is a download Ebook service sold to Libraries for free use by its registered cardholders. Please check with your local library to see if they have contracted for the service. The service is only available to subscribing libraries and members, and you must enter the Freading Site via the Library URL.

The Freading service offers library patrons unlimited, simultaneous access to the available titles. There’s no access fee for libraries and libraries budget a given amount for access to the collection. Patrons can then download books for a two-week loan, with a two-week renewal if desired. The library is charged for each download as follows up to the limit of the budget:

o 0-6 months after print publication $2 per loan, $.50 per renewal.
o 7-24 months after print publication $1 per loan, no renewal charge.
o More than 25 months after print publication $.50 per loan, no renewal charge.

The fees are invisible to the patron. Libraries can also just pay as they go, receiving a regular monthly statement, to avoid patrons being denied access once a set budget limit has been reached.

Participating libraries include Orange County Public Library System (FL), the Free Library of Philadelphia, Maricopa County Library District, AZ, Los Gatos Public Library (CA), the Westport Public Library (CT), and many more.

Please see the new arrivals at:
http://freading.com/pages/new_arrivals

For more information about Sunbury Press, please see:
http://www.sunburypress.com/