New Data Out on E-Books

The Pew Survey on readers and electronic device reading is out and has some really great information in it.

Instead of me going over it here, go read The Shatzkin Files and his view of the data as well as the report itself. He seemed surprised by a few things, such as more people still read fiction on computers than devices, and that people with devices still read more print books than they do electronic books. (I am not surprised at all on those, but was surprised by a few other data points being as low as they were.)

For example, I was starting to believe people that my numbers on e-book readers were low, then this came out. According to the survey and Shatzkin’s reading of it, which matches mine. As of the December survey, 72% of American adults had read a printed book in the past year, 17% had read an ebook, and 11% had listened to an audio. Now that is up to 21% have read an e-book, either on a device or a computer or a phone.

That surprised me because I had started to buy into the theory that more were reading e-books last year than actually had and that this last holiday season had exploded that into large numbers. Nice to have some data. (Of course, then Shatzkin makes a crazy prediction about this doubling again and again which I do not agree with, but a minor look-into-the-future difference of looking at the same data. I still believe this number will level in a few years around 30 to 35%. It is at 21% now. That’s still fantastic growth over 17% last year.)

Shatzkin’s point #8 from the survey also surprised me as well. He says,  “A startling stat: more device owners are reading a printed book on any given day than an electronic one. Only 49% of Kindle and Nook owners are reading an ebook on any given day, but 59% (of Kindle and Nook device owners) are reading a printed book.”

Why this surprised me is because, again, I’ve been listening too much to the tight circle of indie publishers and not paying enough attention to real readers. And I clearly haven’t been listening to myself over the last year as I kept repeating that printed books are here to stay and indie publishers need to move also toward POD publishing after they learn the electronic side. (Note, back to my post about my charts two posts below this one.)

So this data was a nice confirmation about what I felt and knew, yet had started to think twice about. (grin)

Worth reading both the Pew Survey and Shatzkin’s post about it.

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43 Responses to New Data Out on E-Books

  1. Very interesting data. A bit of speculation powered by anecdote: Most readers I know seem terrified of not having a book to read and keep large to-read piles. If you’ve just gotten an ereader within the last 6 months to a year, you may still own a large number of print books that haven’t been read. So you may split time between new ebooks and already owned print books. Especially true if reading a favorite again.

    I prefer reading digital but I still read a fair amount of print books because I already owned them and hadn’t gotten to them yet, or because they’re ancient paperbacks that haven’t been in print in 50 years.

    Like I said, anecdotal speculation, but it seems a reasonable explanation to account for some of the data.

    • dwsmith says:

      David, my anecdotal evidence around this house is just exactly the opposite. I don’t go to the post office any more without a package with a book in it, and 95% of the time they are for Kris, who has a Kindle, an iPad, and a new laptop she uses all the time around the house. And she always reads on them as well as reading paper books. I doubt Kris has read an older book we had here in the house in five years. I know I haven’t, even though I sell them and have handled thousands of older books in the estate I just dealt with. So my anecdotal experience balances yours. (grin)

  2. Am I gonna get in trouble if I say this stuff didn’t really surprise me? ;)

    My hunch is that a large proportion of the device owners are what we’d call “avid readers”; folks who read a lot more books per year than the average person. Which accounts for the apparent disparity between percent of device owners and ebook market share.

    Second, avid readers tend to read a bunch of books at any given time. I’m in the middle of two ebooks, one nonfiction print book, an etextbook, and a few print textbooks. On any given day I will probably answer yes to both print and ebook.

    Shatzkin also points at data showing that device owners tend to read more ebooks and less print as time goes on. Anecdotally, I match that data.

    I’m in the middle of the two of you on print predictions. My feeling is ebook market share will not stabilize; it will continue to grow until almost no books are printed anymore. But I don’t see an ongoing doubling. I think that ebook sales may continue to double a few more years, but growth of the percentage of the book market they represent will slow.

    The crux of the shift to ebook is probably B&N. Market analysts have been predicting the company would go under any time now for the last three years, but so far they have defied such predictions, largely due to very profitable college bookstores making up for years of losses in their big box stores. The longer they hang on, the longer the print market will remain strong. When they close those big bookstores, though, the effect on the print market will be cataclysmic, and ebooks will likely surge.

    Next year’s ereader prices will matter, too. With companies wholesaling eink readers for as low as $35 now, it’s a matter of time before we see $19.99 ereaders, or even free ereaders with purchase of $X in ebooks. So I could be wrong, Mike could be right. But I don’t see any evidence to suggest things will stabilize. This is as much a replacement media as mp3 is for music. It’s a question of when, not if.

    • dwsmith says:

      Kevin, since I was handed over ten different new books at the last workshop by indie publishers, and I do mean “handed” like in paper, and by the end of the year WMG Publishing will have over one hundred titles in paper and growing, if not more, I find your prediction of no paper books sort of just flat silly. Sorry. But we have gone down this road before and we do not think at all alike. Even though the data in the new report shows the power of paper, you refuse to move off your belief. So in a few years I’ll remind you of this prediction when paper is still way over 60% of all books sold.

      It took a major Christmas season to get the number from 17% to 21%. I have zero doubt that most people in five years will know how to get an electronic book. And most will have read a book electronically every-so-often. But to take the total percentage from 21% to even 30% is going to take fantastic movement and major changes because the early adaptors are all on board. At this time next year, with another huge Christmas season and reduction of device costs, we might hit 28%. Maybe. But that’s going to be a huge movement. Huge.

      So end of this prediction discussion once again. How about we talk about the facts of the Pew Report?

  3. Ian Martin says:

    Statistics, damn statistics. Unfortunately they almost always err on the conservative side and it wouldn’t surprise me if the numbers are low. As for momentum, I’ve commented elsewhere about critical mass in ebooks which I believe was achieved late last year. From here it’s anybody’s guess. No disrespect, Dean but I think conventional wisdom and experience are no better than flipping a coin at this stage. It’s a brave new world and quite possible that this year will be very different and more dynamic from the last. Having said that, yourself and the other pioneers in this environment are better placed than anyone, to prosper and good luck and well deserved to boot.

    • dwsmith says:

      Ian, yup, you got it right that Kris and I and others who are working hard to be in a good position no matter what happens in this transition. But my bet, meaning how we are treating our business, is that this stays in a balance state between electronic and paper versions of books, thus we are doing both to reach 100% of the reading public with our work.

      And trust me, I would much rather have my 30 plus years of experience in publishing as an editor, a publisher, and a writer over a coin flip. And I study the history of publishing, where it is startling how much you can learn about the future. Knowledge and experience will beat a coin flip most times. Sorry.

  4. Interesting data! I agree with the comment that ereader owners tend to be avid readers. I read plenty in both print and digital. My Kindle is mostly for contemporary indies and public domain classics, both fiction and nonfiction. I write a lot of historical nonfiction and I’ve found my Kindle invaluable for downloading public domain books from the 19th century that would have cost me hundreds or thousands of dollars to buy.
    I also still read a lot of print because I have a large print library and I buy many nonfiction works that don’t have electronic editions.
    I went indie with my novel and just came out with a print edition via Createspace. With so many people still reading print it made sense. Plus my book is a Civil War novel and many CW buffs are older and thus more likely to prefer print.
    One thing that surprised me with the electronic edition to my novel was how many people downloaded it to their iPhone. Who the hell reads a 95,000 word novel on their phone? Not that I’m complaining, mind you, but I just don’t get it.

  5. Doesn’t surprise me at all that people with ereaders are still reading a lot of print. In my case, for example, I use my ereader for stuff that I can get DRM-free, and anything else I buy in paper. Also, while I have an ereader, my wife doesn’t like reading off a screen, so anything we’re both going to want to read, like the latest Terry Pratchett novel, gets bought in paper. I suspect there are a large number of households like that, with two readers but only one who owns an ereader.

  6. Alex says:

    I think that it could be that readers have to get used to reading e-books before they completely step away from paper books. We have been conditioned from an early age to read on paper and so it’s only natural that we don’t immediately stop doing so despite having the means to.

    • dwsmith says:

      Have some of you even bothered to talk to real readers, not just other indie publishers or early adaptors with electronic readers?? Well, I have. A bunch of them, actually. Not enough to make any data real, but I did see an interesting trend. People buy or are given e-readers such as Kindle. They use it at times, when they think about it or when it is convenient or they want a book late at night. Otherwise, they make no changes in their reading habits. They still go to local bookstores, they still order paper books on Amazon, they still go to a library for a paper book, they still subscribe to paper magazines and paper book clubs. And they sometimes use their Kindle or Nook.

      It’s just another delivery system for them and makes no real difference. And they don’t think about it in any real fashion. That’s just normal human nature.

      And that’s what the Pew Report is confirming with real data.

  7. Wyndes says:

    I’m trying to remember when I first got a Kindle — at least four years ago, I think. But it’s only in the past six months or so that I’ve really started finally moving away from print. I used to only buy ebooks when they were less expensive than print and often I’d buy a used paperback if it was the cheapest option. Lately, though, the hassle of reading paper has started to become too annoying for me and I almost entirely read on my iPad. I think I’d still have to say that I read some print, though, but not in a way that earns any publishers any money. (Used books and old books, mostly.)

  8. irwin says:

    Dean, I’m with you on the ~30% eBooks over the next 3-5 years, and I think the key stat that will back this is simply that eReaders are getting people to read more in general, and some of this extra reading will no doubt be in paper.

    So while we might see large increases in the total numbers of ebooks sold, its percentage of total books sold won’t increase as dramatically as people might expect.

    My anecdotal evidence backs this up, because I’ve heard a lot of people with new eReaders say, “Wow, I haven’t read a novel since college, and I’ve read 2 this month!” And I know that some of these people are supplementing their ebooks with paper books of new authors they like and old authors they remember liking and want to re-read.

    But in 15-20 years (and that far out is coin-flip territory for anyone, regardless of experience–like Warren Buffet says, if someone tells you that they’re pretty sure they know what an industry is going to look like in 15 years, then you better hope they aren’t managing your retirement money), my (uneducated) guess is that we’ll see something like where the music industry has settled: a 50-50 split.

    Kids are now using less and less paper, and soon even English majors in top colleges will be reading their assigned novels on tablets. Libraries are going to become more electronic also as the lending-royalty issues get resolved.

    Still, I don’t see paper books becoming less than 50% of the market in our lifetimes, if ever, and so you’re right: Ignore paper at your own peril.

  9. Ty Johnston says:

    Dean, you’ve pretty much described my own reading habits. I’ve had a Kindle for a year and a half, but I still purchase paper books all the time. I’ve got a stack of about 60 paper books in my to-be-read pile, and a couple of hundred e-books waiting for me on the Kindle. I read both for all kinds of different reasons.

    If I’m at home and suddenly want to purchase a book, I usually snap onto the Kindle and buy the book. If I’m out and about and want a book, I’ll drop in a book store, even though I’ll often have my Kindle with me.

    My gut tells me paper books are going to be around for a very long time. Forever? In some form, yeah. But I don’t think e-books are going to completely dominate the market for at least another decade or two. Why? Because I run into far too many people who are just adamant against e-books, saying they could never give up paper books.

    Yeah, my evidence is personal, not statistical, but I don’t think it’s worth dismissing altogether.

  10. Kathleen says:

    Another factor that may apply here is the number of readers like me who get most of their books from libraries. I got a Nook for Christmas and use it regularly, but I’ve found the supply of ebooks I can get through the library somewhat limited and the Overdrive software clumsy and annoying to use. So I still make regular trips to the library for paper books; I probably average one or two ebooks and two or three paper books a week. Just one more piece of anecdotal evidence.

    And thank you, Dean, for this blog. As a freelance editor and nonfiction writer, I’ve learned a great deal from your posts and also the many thoughtful comments.

  11. One reason owners of e-readers still read paper books is that we have LOTS of paper books around. Lots and lots and lots.

    I suspect anyone who actually acquires an e-reader is an avid acquirer of books, as well as an avid reader. So some of us have TBR piles which are decades old. (Hey, the library used book sale has “fill a bag for a buck” day.)

    I also suspect that the self-reporting on the number of people who have read an ebook is low. The problem is with the definition of “ebook.” Many don’t even think of things they download from a website (other than a “bookstore”) as a “book.” Even if they paid a lot of money for it.

    And if you read online (for instance, on a website or blog) is it still considered a “book”? or is it just a story?

  12. That pretty much sums up my experiences and observations. People still buy print books, especially if they are going to a local con and know they’ll be able to get it autographed. (I belong to the “con” crowd up here in Canuckistan, so I see this regularly). I can’t tell you how many have gotten both the ebook and the print, so that the print can get autographed and put up on the shelf…and the ebook read. Heck, I’ve done that!

    To the getting use to ebooks comments:

    Pfffffffffffft :p

    I’ve been reading ebooks hardcore for 4 years. I was reading pdfs on my computer for a couple years before that, when no one was reading ebooks. I *love* ebooks. I love my ereaders. Plural. I still purchase print. And I mean a lot of print.

    I annually spend $800 or so on ebooks and about $300 in magazines (mostly history..and comic books, don’t judge). I generally take 30 books out of the library at a time. Every 3 months, I do a big bookstore run and buy ~$100-200 in print books (though mostly non-fiction). I read a lot. I horde books a lot. I’m going to end my life in this world like Dean and Kris’ good friend, where I’ll have stacks and stacks of books and magazines.

    I am adjusted to ebooks. I have no problem reading an ebook. I love reading ebooks. *I STILL BUY PRINT*

    I’m with Dean. I’m a power reader. I’m an outlier and earlier adopter. I would be crushed if print ended anytime soon.

  13. C.E. Petit says:

    Actually, there’s a blindingly obvious point hidden in the data that BigMediaPublishing has been trying desperately to ignore for the past three decades (aided and abetted, unfortunately, by both the “community” of book reviewers and the returns-system-distorted distribution mechanism for books):

    People are more interested in the content of textual works than in the package in which that content is delivered.

    That’s the Occam’s Razor-shaven face behind the data concerning device preferences and prevalence. If once looks fairly carefully at it, it’s fairly easy to discern that a significant portion of the market buys a copy of work X in a package that is convenient and economical for the individual purchaser’s immediate needs at the time of purchase — and not due to any substantive preference for one packaging system or another. One obvious data point here is the prevalence of reading of electronic texts on nondedicated devices, even for those who own dedicated devices.

    If one followed this conclusion to its logical end, it would devastate the customary timing of publication — particularly, but not only, of bestsellers — in trade commercial publishing (not to mention in academic publishing and in textbook publishing). Remember that for textual works — unlike in any other consumer-oriented product, including other products of the entertainment industry — the dominant determinant of consumer cost (within a particular industry’s products) of a particular copy is the packaging in which a given work is made available. For example, compare the cost basis and list prices of trade casebound (hardback) and trade paperback editions of the same work, and then for good measure throw in the cost basis and list price for mass-market paperback and e-reader editions of that same work.

    Some might argue that the casebound edition is easier to read… but that neglects that many commercial casebound books are merely trade paperbacks with cardboard covers and a dust jacket slapped on. (That’s one of the reasons that the cost basis is so close.) An excellent example of this is/was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (the fourth book), the casebound first edition of which was notorious for cracking open like an old telephone book.* There is literally no discernable difference in the page trim size, the binding, paper opacity, typesetting, or indeed much of anything else between the casebound first edition and the trade-paperback first edition. There’s also very little difference in cost basis (about $0.72 for that estimated print run at that time; I’ve done enough print-job cost estimation to know how to bid this out without getting caught, and in fact did it for that very book). I invite you to compare the list prices…** and the less even contemplated — let alone said — about PDFs or EPUBs made from the printing runs and their indistinguishability, the better.

    So, I think the Pew Report has a few easter eggs in it. Unfortunately, they’re the sort of easter eggs that Kane discovered, or at least that’s what BigMediaPublishing believes. Remember: In space, nobody knows what epub reader you’re using…

    * This should not have surprised anyone, because it was printed by the company that prints the telephone book. Really: RR Donnelly & Sons was a captive division of the old Ma Bell until Judge Harold Green (may he rest in peace) broke up the old bat in the 1970s… and even since then, the various old Bell operating units have continued to use Donnelly to print the phone book. The less said about the irony of this practice in the light of the telephone books that were the subject of the most-significant copyright case in the last quarter of a century, the less you’ll accuse me of being a copyright nerd (which I am, but it’s not a very polite thing to say).

    ** Which leads to the single objection that many have made: Paper quality. HPGF‘s initial trade paperback edition was printed on paper much closer in quality to that of a mass-market paperback than that for a hoity-toity literary trade paperback like, say, James Hynes’s The Lecturer’s Tale (a rough contemporary). This is a conscious, penny-pinching choice, though. At the print runs customary for commercially successful works, we’re talking about a cost differential between (using one particular vendor’s description of the paper grades) Smooth Newsprint 68/85 and Modern Ivory 24 of, at that time, $0.036 per copy. There’s no technical reason that the Hynes could not have shared the Newsprint 68/85 paper (there are bindery reasons that the converse would have been a problem, but that’s almost unique to HPFG).

  14. Loyd Jenkins says:

    I have been following the publishing questions for a few years now. I keep up with your blog, Dean, as well as a few others, including one that says Traditional Publishing will be gone in ten years. I have always liked your belief that writers should sell in every available market.

    I have started looking at indie publishing as being comparable to the arts and crafts business. You sell where your wares sell. You listen to your customers. You sell in stores and fairs, more than one venue. Your limit is how much you work and how much you want to do.

    It seems that indie publishing has turned into something similar. The benefit to the writer is that we can make a living easier while doing what we love. But that throws the responsibility on the writer’s shoulders. That is frightening for many people.

  15. Dean, thanks for the information from the Pew Survey and Shatzkin. I am aiming for the balance between ebook and paper. I have a new trade paperback coming out at the end of the month with ebook to follow a bit later. With the short stories I’ve put up so far, I’ve been considering a print compilation too. I like ebooks but I certainly haven’t changed my reading habits in regards to paper. I’m finishing up a hardback fantasy by Tad Williams, reading a older hardback by Damon Knight, then I have a whole shelf of print books waiting for me. All of that is not including ebooks.

  16. OK, back to the data. ;)

    As the Pew data pointed out, it’s 29% of *readers* age 18+ who have read an ebook in the last 12 months. The Pew data also shows that ebook readers are reading 62.5% more books than non-ebook readers, on average. If things were simple and every ebook reader were reading nothing but ebooks, we’d know that ebooks were about 47% of the book market. (29% of readers * 1.625).

    But it’s NOT that simple. In my experience, pretty much all readers read some print, even if they are avid ebook readers. The Pew survey fails to break down book purchases by ebook and print for those surveyed – it would have been very useful information!

    We’re still clearly in early adoption of ereaders, which is the *slowest* period of growth in most product life cycles. That’s why Mike is predicting strong growth – he thinks we will move out of early adoption any time now, and into mainstream use.

    I don’t think that will happen until ereader prices come down some. $79 is still a lot of money for someone who reads a book or two a year to invest.

    I’m not shocked that most people reading ebooks also read print. As Mike has pointed out before, there’s ample data suggesting that the progression from print to ebook is gradual in ereader owners. I still read some print books almost 16 months after getting an ereader. I read many more ebooks than print, but I DO have at least one of each going at any given time.

    There’s plenty in that survey to suggest that print will still remain an important format for at least a few years yet.

  17. Tori Minard says:

    Even if reading e-books surpasses the reading of print books (and I am NOT saying it will–I have no idea), print books will remain a big chunk of the market. It’s not like they’re going to disappear overnight. So it makes sense to do POD. Even if print becomes a little slice of the pie, it’s easy to do, so why ignore it? It seems an obvious way to expand your business to me, and a lot easier and cheaper than audio, translations, or some of the other stuff that seems pretty out of reach to a beginner like me. I’m working on getting all my material into POD.

  18. Mark says:

    Here’s where the numbers start to fall apart: indie writers just don’t have access to print markets for the most part. We can’t get into Barnes and Noble and even indie bookstores are a tough sell. So print sales for us are limited to selling via something like Createspace and maybe placing some copies in local stores.

    Indies are seeing the vast majority of their sales coming from ebook and I can’t imagine that really changing anytime soon.

    Dean, if WMG has 100 books in print, how are the print sales doing? If they mirrored the industry as a whole your print books would be outselling your ebooks (or at least equaling sales, as I’ve seen some comments that fiction sales are close to 50% ebook now) — is that the case?

    • dwsmith says:

      Mark, at the moment WMG Publishing only has eleven books in print. I said by the end of the year we will be around one hundred in print. As for the strange eleven we have up, they are doing great. Stunning, in fact. Two nonfiction, four short collections, two novellas, three full novels. Three different author names. On one series we have book #1 and book #8. Yes, I know, silly. But all experiments that we were trying. The income from those eleven has startled me, actually. And some of the print books are now selling into warehouses through the extended distribution, so the orders are 75 copies or 150 copies at a time. Great fun.

      And wow are you wrong about getting into B&N and indie bookstores. You just have to know how to do it. No great secret, but it does take some learning, learning that most indie publishers don’t want to learn or haven’t thought to learn because they believe flat statements like the one you just made. Actually, this fall we’ll be doing a POD workshop that will include how to go to all those places with your books, and also we will be starting up an indie books distribution company later this summer as well to help the small presses who only have one or two titles.

      So you may not be able to imagine an indie press having anything but a vast majority of sales from electronic any time soon, but go back and look at the chart I had a few posts down. You are imagining the second chart. I imagine the first chart, where over 3/4 of WMG Publishing income comes from varied sources. In fact, right now, we’re functioning about 40% from other sources and that’s growing quickly. So sorry, you are just wrong on that. At least for WMG Publishing.

  19. Mark says:

    @Ty: “My gut tells me paper books are going to be around for a very long time. Forever? In some form, yeah. But I don’t think e-books are going to completely dominate the market for at least another decade or two. Why? Because I run into far too many people who are just adamant against e-books, saying they could never give up paper books.”

    What do you define as dominating the market? It’s possible that by this time next year over 50% of fiction sales will come from ebooks.

    This is from Shatzkin: “One Big Six executive told me that ebook sales in their shop had reached the mid-30s as a percentage of units sold. That broke down to about 50% of fiction units and 25% of non-fiction.

    “Another publisher, substantial but not Big Six, has seen much more explosive growth continuing in ebooks and, for that publisher, unit sales for fiction have already gone to well beyond 50% digital.”

    Non-fiction and children’s books don’t work as well on most e-readers. I suspect it’s those books and the blockbuster fiction hardbacks that are the backbone of print sales.

  20. Ian Martin says:

    I’ll consider myself politely slapped on the wrist and no hard feelings. I hope you’re right and 2012 is relatively stable. The thing that bothers me most, though is the Amazon push-back we’re all seeing right now and how much this will muddy the waters and prevent ebook progress. But I suppose we’re all just going to have to wait and see.
    As an aside, this year could be particularly interesting with the Amazon Espanol program. Bloggers I’ve had contact with in Brazil tell me the market down there for Spanish language ebooks is huge. I wonder could this, if true, feed back into the Hispanic market in the US?
    Interesting times ahead.
    All the best

  21. It’s also worth noting that an awful lot of books aren’t even available as e-books yet, so if I want to read them I have to read the print version.

    And I’ll be reading print for a long time because I’m another one who loaded up on cheap books when the library was clearing them out a couple of years ago.

  22. Cyn Bagley says:

    I just started POD about two weeks ago. I have eight books up now. I finished a first book of my series and did a POD. I was startled that I already sold one.


  23. Ramon Terrell says:

    I definitely want to take that POD course, Dean. As of now, I’m waiting on the proof for my fourth book. I haven’t sold a copy in print yet, but it’s still early. At this phase, since I’ve only published four books, I’m just trying to write and get my inventory up before I worry about that. By your fall workshop, hopefully I will have made my six books for the year goal, and can start working on marketing, as I will have published nine books by then.

    As for the reading formats, I’m an example of both. I have a couple authors that I have everything they’ve written in print, so I’m not about to go ebook now, when I have over thirty of their books in print. So I read both print and ebooks on a regular basis. :)

  24. archangel says:

    thanks DSW, you are always generous of heart to include others’ articles as well as your own. Give a broad and deep platform here at your page. Just my two cents worth as a massive reader… ten-fifteen books a week most often, reading on all at once… have ancient stone age kindle (seriously, it has a crank in the side) and ipad, cpu and p/p print on paper.

    I prefer print on paper for my non-fiction research bec like to write all over the pages and find my notes easily. Just me, pen, book, dog, hardcore Joe (kava not konrath…lol) But, ipad (bec has two-up pages) for quick, need it now, cant wait 2-3 days for the data, and for reading fiction, how to repair the freakin leaking faucet, etc.

    I have readers (meaning actual humans who read, not plastic devices) for my books also, and I have to support what you are saying, that the paper has value, that all has value, depending. Reminds me honestly, of pens. Fountain, gel, roller, brush, felt tip, keyboard, virtual pen. All writing instruments, and tho I know some fountain pen fascists, many of us use what we like, as we like, when we like. Some elegant silver chased, and some bitten down yellow plastic Bic and all between.

    I think you are right, the point is to have it, use it all to the best of one’s ability/foresight/hindsight. The exact form may be less proprietary than some might at first think. Just my .02.

    Most seemed accurate about tv taking over radio, but who could have seen the huge and sustained upsurge in political radio once everyone declared the radio medium dead, dead, dead. It wasnt dead, just waiting for people with new ideas-

    similar as you are doing with your own pub co DSW, to bring new wine to the old wineskins as the ancients put it. Continuan, you’re doing good, and I will like to listen and to learn from your sharing ways and means with those of us who are fledging for the first time into this new world, all nervewracked and unsure, but willing to leap. It reminds me very much honestly DSW of when we who were the children of immigrants and refugees, also launched out into an untested world our parents could not navigate… there were many who said, go this way, no that way, no this other way, and only some of them were right. Those last souls were so appreciated, as are you.

    I have a whole little family here from teens to elders who are reading here and learning from you; we hope to bring different kinds of works; hubby, disabled vet who is woodworker; teen who works with kids with special needs, daughter who is fitness competitor, grandparent who thinks she could be novelist.

    See what you started you muddy angel you??



  25. Mark says:

    Dean said: “So you may not be able to imagine an indie press having anything but a vast majority of sales from electronic any time soon, but go back and look at the chart I had a few posts down. You are imagining the second chart. I imagine the first chart, where over 3/4 of WMG Publishing income comes from varied sources. In fact, right now, we’re functioning about 40% from other sources and that’s growing quickly.”

    I am surprised. I don’t think many indies are having that kind of success with non-ebook sales. Forty percent is impressive.

    So out of that 40% how much of that is WMG shipping orders to bookstores? I’m curious about your sales as a publisher to bookstores.

    • dwsmith says:

      Mark, at this point, very little, honestly. We don’t plan to ramp up the distribution to bookstores until this summer after our paper book inventory gets much higher and we have a few series all in print. Then we will be starting up the indie publishing distribution company and pushing that. So right now we make maybe 2% from a few regular bookstores every month. Now, that said, through the extended distribution, we are making far, far more to warehouse and bookstore group sales. The largest sale we had through the extended distribution was 150 copies. Clearly to a warehouse, either a distributor or B&N or another smaller chain store. No way of knowing. So that aspect is pretty high, even with only eleven titles in paper.

      And that has taken time to grow. At first we only sold a few copies per month. It’s just been since this fall that those numbers through the extended started to climb.

      A large part also of the 40% is audio. A little is traditional. We have two books running movie options for a grand each that were up on WMG Publishing and found that way which I put under the “traditional” side of things. And so on. We have a lot of cash streams.

      • dwsmith says:

        By the way, in case you haven’t caught it yet, WMG Publishing now has a full-time publisher making a nice living wage and Kris and I are still making money above that. Yup, no money in indie publishing. (grin)

  26. What makes me hesitant about placing a significant investment in self publishing for print is this: yes, many still read print, myself included, but buying habits are another story. I buy used and clearance titles and that’s it. Way too easy to wait for the price to drop than to fork out $15 or $30 for paperbacks and hardbacks, respectively. I haven’t bought a print title in a way that makes a publisher any money in three years. And at my local Booksamillion, the clearance title section continues to grow larger and larger (currently about 30% of entire store). I do all my print shopping at used bookstores and use the big chains for coffee and Internet. If you’re a little guy forced to charge $14.99 for a POD title, well, I just don’t see customers putting forth that kind of effort for you. Still worth looking at, I think, but I doubt you can make any serious money in print when POD is you’re only option.

    • dwsmith says:

      Well, Aric, that’s your opinion. Luckily, that has not proven to be the case. If I believed that, I would be much poorer right now.

      And there are no real extra costs in POD. Just $25.00. That’s it.

  27. Rick says:

    At the risk of being burned at the stake of the ereader worshipers, I prefer print books. Maybe it’s my age, but there’s something about the look, feel, heft, even smell of “real” books. I do own a first generation Nook, and use it mostly for indie fiction, with some nonfiction thrown in. But it’s not color optimized. I’ve found too that if I’m reading nonfiction with lots of tables, photos, and figures, I’d much rather have a dead tree book.

    My reading habits vary widely, from all types fiction and nonfiction. I buy books, use the library for both print and ebooks, borrow of receive books as gifts from friends, and from time to time re-read books from my personal library.

    I also listen to books on CD every now and them. An ereader is just another delivery device.

    • dwsmith says:

      Ahh, Rick, I’m with you, so if they burn you, they burn me as well. (grin) I’ve read a few books on my computer as a favor to someone (more like punishment to me), but none on my iPad and have no desire to. I love books and buy hardback first editions of my favorite authors as they come out.

      But that said, I am glad so many people love to read books on their devices. Helps me as a writer a ton. (grin)

  28. I agree it’s worth keeping on the radar. I just don’t think an indie, who’s never written for series like Star Trek, who’s never had a successful print career (or any), and who has two books to their credit, is going to have the same success you’ve had with print. Let’s not forget that. That said, I see how, if you are established, print is still a great option, even when you’re not making any money on it from guys like me. Case in point: I bought Red Leaves by Thomas H. Cook for $3 quality paperback recently. I’m sure he didn’t see a dime from that sale. But, I loved that book so much, I sought him out on the Kindle and didn’t mind paying $7.99 for Evidence of Blood. That’s a sale he would have never had, had it not been for print. But at the same time, I found him in the old system; I didn’t find him via POD. Now, of course, not all readers will behave like me. But like I said, that clearance section at Booksamillion is huge, and it’s getting bigger all the time.

    • dwsmith says:

      Aric, you want to try to explain what the difference between a book created in the old system and a POD book is? (grin) No difference, they get into the same distribution systems, get to the same bookstores, everything. In fact, I hate to pop any belief system, but a large share of New York books are now either being done POD or their companies are moving to it.

      All POD means is a form of distribution. The books are all printed on web presses basically the same. Print on Demand just means it was printed after an order instead of before and warehoused. Nothing more.

      Why this works for all authors, just not authors with my track record, is because none of us have to warehouse books anymore. We just put it out there in an electronic file and if someone wants a paper edition, they buy it, if we need books for a bookstore or for gifts, we buy them, and so on. Just the same only without the huge expenses of New York overhead and trucking and labor contracts and warehousing and so on and so on. Order comes first.

  29. Jodi says:

    I have heard that the growth of people reading ebooks was slowing, and also I read this on the Pew page: “41% of readers of e-books consume their books on an e-book reader like original Kindles or Nooks.”

    For those that have a color-screen device to read ebooks, can you actually read them in the sun? Or is it hard to read? If it is hard, I wonder if this trend to color devices instead of the, in my opinion, wonderful e-Ink technology might be hurting the growth of ebook readers. After all, I loved being able to go outside and read. I also enjoy a long battery life, and I’m not sure how color compares to that e-Ink on that.


  30. Mark says:

    I think what Aric was getting at was that POD doesn’t really push a book into bookstores. He found a writer via a paper book, discounted, and then bought a second book from the same writer in Kindle format.

    In a sense an indie book in POD is just like an indie ebook. The reader will have to discover either format in some place other than a bookstore. I think of POD as ebooks for non-ebook readers.

    What I’m interested in is how an indie gets a POD book into bookstores? It seems like it’s a tough sale since there are no returns on POD books.

    • dwsmith says:

      Mark, if your publishing company appears to be a regular publishing company and not just an author pushing their own work, then bookstores will accept you just fine. Grouping together is one thing we will be doing, since we are pushing to bookstores this summer. So we will have a distribution company for our books and other indie presses. Selective indie presses.

      Right now, without really trying, we have some of our tiny number of books in five ID stores. Everything else that gets into stores is through the extended distribution on CreateSpace. And we did nothing to push any of it. Nothing. For the first six or more months, the paper books sold a few copies per month each, then last fall it just started growing. No idea why. It just did. Again, so much of this business is just getting the books to the readers and then let it go and move on. Remember, none of us here believe in any real promotion like most indie writers believe in. We just let the books be out there.

      The key is to act like a publisher and I wrote a series of articles about that which are free at the top of the page under the tab.

  31. Mark says:

    @Dean: “So right now we make maybe 2% from a few regular bookstores every month. Now, that said, through the extended distribution, we are making far, far more to warehouse and bookstore group sales. The largest sale we had through the extended distribution was 150 copies. Clearly to a warehouse, either a distributor or B&N or another smaller chain store. No way of knowing.”

    I would love to read about how you do this. And one of the things I would be interested in is how a single indie writer can do this with a handful of titles. It may be that several indies may have to band together?

  32. Mark says:

    @Rick: “At the risk of being burned at the stake of the ereader worshipers, I prefer print books. Maybe it’s my age, but there’s something about the look, feel, heft, even smell of “real” books.”

    I am just like you, except I’m not now. I felt the same way. I have collected thousands of books and each one was a comfort for me sitting on my shelves.

    But I got a Nook Touch this Christmas, and I love it. It’s easier to hold in my hand and read than a paper book. It lets me carry a small library of books with me.

    And I realized that my paper books just sat there on my shelves. Most I would never look at again. I like seeing them but I never take them off the shelf, or if I do it’s maybe once every 3-5 years, and then only for a few minutes.

    We have a small number of books we cherish, but most of the rest really are throwaways. There’s little need to hold onto them.

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