For years I’ve been an avid book buyer. Now with a novel on the market, I’m suddenly on the other side (though I continue to be an avid book buyer). So, if I was intrigued by the world of publishing, books and sales before, now I’m almost obsessed.
It’s a complex and rapidly evolving world. Luckily there are some well-informed people out there keeping tabs on what’s going on.
5 Valuable Charts That Show How Publishing Is Changing, a blog post published on JaneFriedman.com, offers some fascinating information about how people buy books. I’ll attach my favourite chart here (if you click on the image you can see it on Jane’s site where it is easier to read):
Here’s Jane’s takeaway from this graph:
“By the end of 2012, nearly half of US book sales (print + ebook) were happening online (eCommerce), which is primarily driven by Amazon. Notice how the large chain bookstore retail share drops from 31.5% to 18.7%, driven in part by the bankruptcy of Borders. While many people focus on the percentage of ebook sales (currently averaging about 30%), I’d argue it’s more important to keep tabs on where the majority of sales are happening, regardless of format. This directly affects the value proposition of traditional publishers (at least for now) and how books get discovered and/or purchased—increasingly online through tech giants such as Amazon, Google, Apple, etc.”
This bar graph more or less describes my spending habits when it comes to books. Living in Toronto, I loved Book City. Then my favourite location shut down and I began to buy primarily at Indigo/Chapters (there was one right inside the building I lived in for about 8 years; I lived in the Manulife Centre building). It was convenient. Now, no longer living in Toronto, I usually buy from Amazon. Amazon is even more convenient. They are frightening in their ability to pinpoint the books I want (I’m an impulse book shopper) and as well I often want somewhat obscure titles. (Amazon gets them to me quickly.) But I am not unaware of how they squeeze publishers and therefore authors. And yet my publisher wants to see strong sales on Amazon. It can all be very confusing.
Is Amazon good or evil? Or is it merely a product of capitalism and changing technology? And what is its impact on books (and authors)? A fantastic New Yorker article by George Packer examines these complex questions and is a must-read for anyone at all curious about the world of book publishing.