Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Thursday: Refurbed Kindle and Nooks; Random House Revenue Down; Book Sales...


Mark Coker has provided substantive information to the DOJ arguing that agency pricing does not lead to increased prices in books.

It’s also fallacy to believe that somehow the wholesale pricing model is the savior and enabler of low prices. Under the wholesale model, the publisher has always set the price at which they’ll sell the book to the bookstore, typically a 50% discount to the suggested list price. The $30 front list hardcover you purchase earns the publisher $15, or less. If the publisher decides they need to earn $18.00 on each copy sold, they’ll set the suggested list price to $36.00. If you agree that under normal circumstances, most retailers will not consistently sell all their books at below cost, then it’s reasonable to conclude that even under wholesale, publishers already control the minimum price all customers, on average, will pay.

It’s a good read and I don’t agree with everything Coker writes because the DOJ is looking at anti competitive behavior, not just agency pricing (if you recall the WSJ interview) and thus much of what Coker writes is inapplicable in that sense. Still, always good to read an opposing point of view.


The Bookseller reports that the volume of ebook purchases is not making up the decline in revenue generated by print book sales.  I’m not sure whether these numbers are limited to the UK but it is consistent with other ebook sales numbers I’ve heard. Apparently publishing thought that ebooks might increase the number of book buyers?  I’m not sure why they thought that.  Rather it is keeping the number of book buyers from fleeing to other sources of digital entertainment.  Low priced self published books are also affecting the lowered ebook revenue.


2012 brings big change to the numbers reported by the Association of American Publishers. In the past, the numbers reported by AAP were derived from 70-90 publishers but this year, the organization is reporting sales numbers from from 1149 publishers in January 2012.  Yay for better data.  The only loser in January 2012, out of both print and digital, was Mass Market Paperbacks which continue its downward slide.

Adult books

  • Hardcover: $69.8M in January 2012; $57.4M in January 2011; +21.6% increase
  • Trade Paperbacks: $105.1M in Jan 2012; $99.1M in Jan 2011; +6.1% increase
  • Mass Market Paperbacks: $30.4M in Jan 2012; $39.3M in Jan 2011; -22.5% decrease
  • eBooks: $99.5M in Jan 2012; $66.6M in Jan 2011; +49.4% increase
  • Downloaded Audiobooks $8.4M in Jan 2012; $6.5M in Jan 2011; +29.4% increase

Children’s/Young Adult

  • Hardcover: $57.4M in Jan 2012; $34.0M in Jan 2011; +68.9% increase
  • Paperbacks: $38.0M in Jan 2012; $23.5M in Jan 2011; +61.9% increase
  • eBooks: (new AAP category) $22.6M in Jan 2012; $3.9M in Jan 2011; +475.1% increase

Total Trade

  • Total Overall: $503.5M in Jan 2012; $396.0M in Jan 2011; +27.1% increase
  • Total Adult Trade: $323.0M in Jan 2012; $277.4M in Jan 2011; +16.4% increase
  • Total Children/YA: $128.2M in Jan 2012; $71.0M in Jan 2011; +80.5% increase

Random House, a division of Bertelsmann AG, saw reduced revenues but part of the decline is attributable to currency exchanges.

At year-end, Random House had 5,343 employees (December 31, 2010: 5,264). The increasing availability of lower-priced e-reading devices and tablets contributed to the surging demand for Random House e-books, enabling the company to record triple-digit-percentage digital revenue growth and counterbalancing decreased sales of print books, especially in the English-speaking territories.  … Their year’s top title was “Inheritance,” the fourth and final volume in the eponymous series by Christopher Paolini. For its first eight weeks, the novel sold more than three million hardcover, e-book, and audiobook editions. In the United States, the world’s largest book market, Random House placed 228 titles on the “New York Times” bestseller lists, including 32 at #1. George R. R. Martin’s five-volume fantasy series “A Song of Ice and Fire” sold over eight million copies in North America in 2011.

During the reporting period, Random House acquired the US digital media agency Smashing Ideas and established new English, German, and Spanish print and e-book imprints.


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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

33 Comments

  1. Chicklet
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 10:12:17

    Rather it is keeping the number of book buyers from fleeing to other sources of digital entertainment. Low priced self published books are also affecting the lowered ebook revenue.

    And also (unpirated) free stuff like fanfic. I confess, I haven’t read a book or an ebook in about a week, because I’ve been glutting myself on Avengers fanfic in anticipation of the movie. Quite a few of those pieces of fanfic have been novel-length, so I’m reading a lot, but I’m not giving money to publishers or retailers. (A major fic archive allows for easy downloading of fic to ereaders, so my Nook has a quite a bit of fic on it now.)

  2. Lynnd
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 10:40:05

    I wonder if the decline in mass market sales also has something to do with the fact that more print books are trade paperbacks. I was in the bookstore recently buying birthday gifts for family and noticed that many of the mystery and general fiction authors that I was looking for are now being released in trade paperback format rather than mass market (it appeared to me that most of the mass markets in these areas were books which had previously been released in hardcover). The only area of the store where I found most original releases of mass market titles was in the romance section.

  3. Kerry
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 10:41:08

    My book buying is down (or consistently absent) across the board.

    Hardcover: Will not buy. Ever.
    Trade: Will not buy unless it will be the only print version and I’ve read a generous enough sample to judge I won’t be throwing that $16 in the garbage in 30 pages or less, which amounts to seldom.
    MMP: My preference, as I feel they’re good value-for-dollar and will even impulse buy because spending $8 on garbage isn’t going to bankrupt me. I’ve even grown accustomed over the years to waiting a year for hardcover releases to convert. However, when there’s a hardback release, followed a year later by a trade release, followed a year after that by the MMP release, I’ve usually completely lost interest. (Oh, Kvothe. Call me to remind me you exist in 2013…)

    The harder publishers try to squeeze more money out of me, the less I end up giving them. They’re not just competing with other entertainment options for my attention; they’re competing with my shelves and shelves and shelves of books I already know I like and can read for free right now. Throwing more obstacles (more money! more time!) between me and a product I would have otherwise purchased isn’t helping their bottom line any.

  4. becca
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 11:06:04

    The harder publishers try to squeeze more money out of me, the less I end up giving them.

    QFT.

    I bitterly resent trade paperbacks. It’s a more awkward size for a greater price. Plus, they won’t fit well on my bookshelves.

    Avon’s book pricing of $4.99 for kindle versions is just about my sweet spot, and I’ll impulse buy those. More than that, and it’s either the library for me, or I’ll pass the book up entirely unless it’s one of the very few authors I collect (like Lois Bujold).

  5. LG
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 11:26:08

    @becca: I would much prefer it if there were only MMPs and hardcovers, no trade paperbacks. Trade paperbacks don’t have the hardcover benefits of greater durability and nicer appearance, and yet they have the drawback of being priced higher than MMPs. The primary way I buy trade paperbacks is used or from a bargain bin. On the rare occasion I’ve bought new trade paperbacks, they were books by authors I already know I like and didn’t want to have to wait to read. I also bought them online at the best price I could find.

  6. Lynnd
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 11:33:05

    @Kerry: This!

  7. MaryK
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 11:35:42

    I’m buying less because I have such a huge TBR pile it doesn’t make sense to keep adding to it. :( When (if!) my reading mojo comes back, I’ll start buying more.

    I ordered one of the refurb Fire’s as a gift for my Dad. Hopefully, he won’t see the ad and buy it for himself!

  8. Isobel Carr
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 11:54:28

    Publishers and booksellers made the argument for years that that there was no relation between the drop in print and the rise in e. Why they would think this was bizarre to me. As a reader, it was obvious and evident that people were simply switching formats and that the main format affected was the cheapest one (MM shifting to eBook), mainly because most people I know don’t want to pay trade or hardback prices for eBooks (the whole point of paying more for the book was because you liked or wanted that larger or sturdier book).

  9. Brian
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 12:09:29

    @Isobel Carr:

    (the whole point of paying more for the book was because you liked or wanted that larger or sturdier book)

    For me it’s always been because I want to read a book from a particular author NOW instead of waiting a year for the MMPB.

  10. Kim
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 12:11:07

    I agree with everyone who said that they’ll stick with mmp over trade and hardcovers just based on price. However, statistics don’t lie. Mass market paperback sales are down compared to trade & hc, so does anyone have an opinion as to why people are buying the more expensive formats?

  11. becca
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 12:38:25

    Maybe it’s because we’re not given a choice? if we want a given book that’s only available in trade, that’s how we have to buy it.

    I’d love it if books were available in both trade and mmpb, so we could compare which format people really prefer.\

    Me, I only buy hardback if it’s one of the few (Nora Roberts, Lois Bujold) authors I collect – everybody else I get in eformat if I can.

  12. Brian
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 12:40:02

    @Kim: I think they’re down because as Isobel mentioned a lot of those MM sales are shifting to ebook sales. Also more books seem to be coming out in Trade and staying there (not coming out in MM a year later, sometimes taking years to come out as a lower priced MM edition which then costs only a buck or two less than a discounted Trade).

  13. Kim
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 12:57:33

    @Brian: If more trade books are not reissued in the future as MM, then I would be more inclined to purchase that format – unless ebooks were priced lower. It’s interesting that more people aren’t turning to their public libraries when a book is issued in trade. Readers must still like owning a book no matter the expense.

  14. Isobel Carr
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 12:58:50

    @Brian: You are clearly the target audience for the HB priced eBook then. ;)

  15. DS
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 12:58:55

    I have a wishlist of books that I check occasionally to see if they have made it to e or mass market (or hit the bargain bin). The first of Marie Brennan’s Onyx Court novels hit my wish list in 2009. Neither the first one in 2008, which I found because it was a freebie from Amazon that I downloaded, nor the ones that followed are currently or have even been in mass market. The books are historical fantasies.

    The Kindle editions are now $9.99 or $14.99 and the hard copy editions except for the one released in 2011 are $6 in the bargain bin– limited quantities so I suspect hurts or remaindered.

    I ended up buying them used where I would have normally bought them mmpb or kindle at $6.99/$7.99.

    So I suspect the demise of the mmpb has to do with publishers more than readers. They just aren’t available.

  16. Isobel Carr
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 13:03:36

    I know I stopped buying Mary Balogh books when she was shifted to HB and then the eBook price didn’t drop even after the MM came out. It may have dropped eventually, but I wasn’t going to keep checking. And she was an autobuy for me.

  17. Patrice
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 13:41:43

    @ Kerry – exactly!

    My book budget is still there, reduced but I’ll still buy books where other indulgences have gone by the wayside. I have never purchased a Trade PB new and I never will. I’ll get them at the library or a UBS. I’ll borrow hardbacks at the library, but will purchase a few select authors HB new, usually only if they are ones we want to keep. I do purchase some “mainstream” authors in ebook, but I am never going to pay more than the cost of a MM for an ebook. And if that ebook is MM price, I will only buy one of the authors I absolutely love. Otherwise I’ll borrow from library or get it secondhand.

    I do agree with the comments that one factor influncing low sales numbers for MMPB is that there are not as many now, and not as wide a variety of genres, as there had been when HB or MM were the only formats printed. The publishers may have caused their own sales deline in MM by trying to force customers to “like it or leave it” with Trade and other wierd sized paperbacks.

  18. Brian
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 13:42:04

    @Isobel Carr: Maybe, but only for a very select few authors and I’m sure the pubs lose more sales from me due to finding an interesting book and it being HC priced. I’ll tell myself I’ll pick it up when it hits mass market, but often forget about it all together.

  19. Brian
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 13:44:48

    A lot more of my book money is going to pubs like Samhain, Poisoned Pen, etc. now too with a few self pub’s thrown in.

    BTW: The Fire refurb deal is now sold out.

  20. LG
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 14:07:35

    @Kim: Maybe because the mass market paperback version doesn’t exist or isn’t available? I’ve had that problem with a few authors – my choice is trade paperback only, or maybe trade paperback or hardcover. People can’t buy what’s not being offered.

    Plus, just judging by my own book-buying habits, it’s possible there’s a shift in what peoople are buying. In print, I almost exclusively buy authors I already know I like (which means I am grudgingly willing to pay trade paperback prices if I want to own the book rather than borrow from the library). The only exception is Harlequin, because their paperbacks are cheap, although I only buy them at Walmart’s discount prices. In e-format, I buy books from smaller publishers, at prices that are comparable to MMPB prices. I’m way more likely to buy e-books by new-to-me authors than I am to buy new print books by new-to-me authors, for a lot of reasons (price, space limitations, limited opportunities to browse, e-format claiming a chunk of my book-buying money).

  21. library addict
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 14:36:47

    There are still a few authors I buy in hardcover, but that’s down considerably from the number I used to buy. And I still buy books in certain series in mmpb. But I also buy many of the same books in digital (for the series books I started buying in print, I want the whole series that way even if it’s silly of me).

    I dislike trade sized pb a lot (and do not even get me started on those taller than normal mmpb).

    What Coker seems to missing is that if a hardcover book is $25 and I get it for 30% off, the publisher makes money, the store I bought him makes money, and I feel like I got a bargain—even if that’s only psychological. When I buy an agency priced ebook at $6.99 I resent having to pay what I think of as “full” price. Even if the publishers only allowed the agency priced books to be subject to loyalty programs like ARe’s buy 10-get-one-free or the old Micropay deals at Fictionwise and allowed even small sales, it would be more in tune to what buyers are used to with print books and make me more inclined to buy.

    As it stands now, I don’t try many new authors who publish with the Agency 6 because I only buy new-to-me authors in digital and I refuse to spend $7.99 or more on an untried author. So unless I can get it from the library, I don’t read it.

  22. Susan
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 15:02:54

    I buy a LOT of books and for fiction I’ve switched almost entirely from paper (mainly MM, with a few trade and HB mixed in) to ebooks. Probably 95% of my purchases are ebooks now. Most of the paper books I buy are duplicates of ebooks that I’ve decided I must have in physical form.

    I still buy most of my non-fiction in paper (all formats).

    Everyone in my family owns a Kindle now, and I think this trend runs pretty true for all of them, as well.

  23. Isobel Carr
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 15:13:50

    I test new to me authors with the free samples on Amazon. If I finish the sample and want more, I have no problem paying full MM for an eBook. I don’t even bother to test new authors who are trade or HB though, cause I’m not paying those priced for eBooks and I don’t buy paper anymore (ok, I do, but only non-fiction research books).

  24. Annmarie Taylor
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 16:48:04

    I have to admit I am buying 90 in ebook. Partially because of convenience, and because I can no longer hold a book for very long due to bad wrists. I don’t see that much of a price difference between the two. Also the ebooks are much easier to find and get immediate gratification. :)

  25. rebyj
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 17:11:29

    I buy used more now, and I’m not alone. Our local used book store was always packed. It was hard to find a parking spot and it had a HUGE parking lot. It has since moved into a 2 story much larger building and still stays packed.
    HQN’s at 95 cents – $1.50 and usually I can find the current month’s books there.
    Their newer release hard covers are still kind of high at half price the cover price but paperbacks are cheaper and the selection is incredible.
    I have pretty much totally stopped buying big pub ebooks. My price point is 4.99 and I buy a lot of independent and small press ebooks.
    It’s all about the money!

  26. Evangeline Holland
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 20:53:11

    It’s likely that those who purchase HC and TPB are readers who don’t devour 10+ books a month (hence why romance imprints release 6+ titles a month at $6-8 a pop and only proven mega-sellers move up to HC). If you only have six or seven favorite authors and you buy their HC releases every year, you aren’t spending much money (and this doesn’t matter to publishers because HC profits are good). There’s also the continued cache of HC, from the days when MMPB was the province of cheap pulp novels, and the likelihood of your books remaining in circulation at the library long after the MMPB’s have fallen apart and need to be replaced.

    What interests me more about those figures cited is the continued juggernaut that is YA fiction. I predict a shift towards writing YA at the expense of adult fic (which, IMO, will only grow more and more safe to make up for the declining revenue).

  27. JenniferH
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 21:38:41

    I am in Australia, where books are generally more expensive that in the US – and I where once I would buy MMPB of any book I wanted to read, now I will usually check my public library for any new releases, and maybe suggest that they buy if it is not already in their catalogue. The next port of call is an ebook. I don’t think I have purchased a paper book in any format recently other than as a gift.

  28. LG
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 23:26:47

    @Evangeline Holland: “What interests me more about those figures cited is the continued juggernaut that is YA fiction. I predict a shift towards writing YA at the expense of adult fic ”

    Haven’t we already seen that? I thought that was why so many authors known first for their fiction for adults have started trying their hand at YA fiction. The time those authors spend writing YA fiction is time not spent writing their fiction for adults.

  29. SAO
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 23:57:50

    I think the publishers don’t really know their readers. The average American, reportedly, buys a book a month. They probably buy hardcover, because it looks more impressive and the few bucks don’t matter on a once a year purchase. Or it’s a gift and a HC seems more valuable. There are the people who read tons of books a year, they always have a book in their purse, they care about cost and size, but probably have a Kindle. I’d bet there are plenty of people in between.

    You note the people who read a book a year probably take a week to read Nora’s latest and may reread it some other time. The voracious reader can suck it down in a few hours and want something else tomorrow.

    When you look at competing entertainment options, a book is a far bigger value for the slow, occasional readers than for the readers who read it in 2 hours and see no need to read it again.

    Sensible publishers would experiment with all sorts of new pricing policies. The old HC, Trade, MM was a way of segmenting the customers into different price bands. E has made that harder. But, there are other opportunities to segment with E. For example, you can have clubs, where you get to read all you want for a fixed price per month — a way of lowering prices for price-conscious voracious readers while keeping the lower volume readers buying a book at a time. You could allow one read through for half price, with an option to buy a permanent copy for the other half.

    These ideas, of course, require renegotiating contracts with authors. But any publisher thinking strategically or planning ahead wouldn’t be intimidated by that.

  30. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Alas, poor linkity, we knew it well
    Mar 30, 2012 @ 02:12:50

    [...] Book and publishing news from Dear Author. [...]

  31. Rebecca
    Mar 30, 2012 @ 21:26:27

    I prefer both trade and HC to MM. I think MM is harder to hold open and I’m picky about the condition of my books, I hate visible spine creases, and it’s much more painful to avoid those with MM. But, I doubt many people care as much as I do about how the book looks after it’s read!

  32. Sandra
    Mar 31, 2012 @ 10:05:06

    @Susan: Most of the paper books I buy are duplicates of ebooks that I’ve decided I must have in physical form.

    Now I’m just the opposite. I bought a nook about 9 months ago. I’ve been replacing/augmenting my print copies with e- for books I reread often. There was a short overlap when I bought a mix of e- and MMPB (mostly keepers), but now I’m exclusively e- except for OOP that’s not been re-released . Because my nook goes everywhere with me, I always have access to what I want to read when I want to read, and don’t have to wait until I get home.

    @rebyj: Our local used book store was always packed. It was hard to find a parking spot and it had a HUGE parking lot. It has since moved into a 2 story much larger building and still stays packed. Is this in Nashville, by any chance? My sister has been raving about their fabulous UBS, and has included it as one of the highlights of my trip when I head up there next month for my niece’s wedding. Sounds like it’s a good thing I’m driving and not flying. I couldn’t afford the baggage fees.

  33. Sandra
    Mar 31, 2012 @ 10:06:02

    @Sandra: Sorry, I seem to have a stray code problem. Can you fix?

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