Wednesday News: Three posts about the future of books and one honoring an American artist and activist
Print is alive and well—at least for books – The first three posts today are all related to book sales and earnings. This report from Deloitte, part of their TMT (technology, media, telecommunications) predictions for 2015, and it’s global in scope. Markets perform differently, of course, and consumers trend in different ways, from market to market. Still, it’s interesting to see a broad snapshot like this, especially since millennials, about whom much is being analyzed right now, are apparently quite taken with paper books, even as they eschew physical media in other forms.
A decade on from the launch of the eReader, print still dominates book sales even in markets with high digital device penetration – and print will likely generate the majority of books sales for the foreseeable future. Sales of eBooks have hit a plateau, or seen decelerating growth, in major markets including the US, UK and Canada. This has occurred only over the last year, but as of late December 2014, US print book sales were up two percent year over year. It should be noted, however, that the longer-term trend for print books has not been as good. Although eBooks do not make up the majority of the book market, they have taken significant share: in the period 2008-2013 total US book sales were up eight percent to $15 billion and eBook sales were $3 billion. If eBooks are removed from the total, book sales would be down eight percent over that time frame. –Deloitte
The UK e-book market in 2014 – A very interesting look at the UK book market, which is, as many have predicted, slowing in terms of digital book growth. Without considering the market for digital textbooks, one interesting finding is that the rise in sales around Christmas is no longer discernible, which Jones attributes to a drop in the gifting of e-reading devices for the holidays.
This context is important to understand when trying to figure out the growth rates of a market that is still in its infancy, and prone to tantrums. Last year I wrote that—in the UK at least—the rate of growth in the e-book market was exaggerated in 2012 because of the Fifty Shades trilogy, which also then further skewed the perceived slowdown in sales growth in 2013—for example in 2012 the companies that would become Penguin Random House reported e-book sales volume growth of 169%, but one year later their e-book sales business fell by 20%. By contrast, Hachette followed a more understandable pattern, recording growth of 82% in 2012, 58% in 2013 and 7% in 2014.
If we remove the Penguin Random House numbers from the calculations altogether, the market growth over the past three years has been as follows: 95% in 2012, 40% in 2013, and 13% in 2014.
If that looks familiar it should, in the US, e-book sales registered treble digit growth rates until 2012 when that market came off the boil and (in volume terms) recorded growth of around 50%, which then relented further in 2013, when the rate dropped to 10%. By this calculation, we are still about a year behind the Americans, meaning that all eyes should be turned to the States when it releases its 2014 full-year numbers to see what the e-book market has in store for us in 2015. –Futurebook – The Bookseller
One Indie Author’s Debut Year Income – This is a really interesting post from Romance author Jessie Gage, who has compared a year’s worth of earnings on a book that was published in both traditional and indie formats. The comparison demonstrated higher percentages of both sales and earnings, which she qualifies and explains below.
It’s not a perfect comparison, of course, because expenses for self-published books like cover art and editing are paid for directly by the author and not the publisher, but it’s still an informative analysis based on Gage’s personal experience. And interesting in the context of the larger market trends that are currently being identified and analyzed.
It’s that difference in percentages I want to call attention to more than the higher indie sales. As a traditionally published author, I received a smaller “slice of the pie” because more people had to get paid. It’s a simple fact of the industry that the fewer hands that touch your book, the larger the slice you get to keep.
In the case of Wishing, I was able to price it lower as an indie book and make about twice the royalty per unit moved. If you look at the charts again, you’ll notice the DIFFERENCE between the blue bars and red bars is much bigger for the earnings chart compared to the units sold chart (with the exception of my BookBub month, September). This demonstrates that “slice of pie” effect. I got to keep more of the pie, and readers paid less for the product. –Jessie Gage
RIP AISHAH RAHMAN: PLAYWRIGHT, AUTHOR, PROFESSOR, RENAISSANCE WOMAN – I know this is a stark change of topic, and I apologize for that, but I meant to post Rahman’s obituary on Monday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and then forgot where I saw the post. But it’s clearly still relevant, and if you’re not familiar with Aishah Rahman, a contemporary of Amiri Baraka, who died a couple of years ago, you should watch this fantastic video interview of Rahman by her daughter, Yoruba Richen, a documentary filmmaker who traveled with her mother on MLK Day in 2009 to see Obama’s inauguration the next day. Rahman, who also participated in the March on Washington in 1963, talks about the relationship between race, women, and politics in America, as well as her own experiences of civic and political engagement. And in addition to all of her artistic accomplishments, Rahman was, in 2009, completing her first novel (she was teaching at Brown at the time). A great commentary on the relationship between civil rights and art (and vice versa).
Rahman wrote several plays including “Unfinished Women Cry In No Man’s Land While a Bird Dies in Gilded Cage, ” “The Mojo And The Sayso,” “Only in America,” “Chiaroscuro” as well as three plays with music, “Lady Day A Musical Tragedy,” “The Tale of Madame Zora” and “Has Anybody Seen Marie Laveau?” two collections of one act plays Transcendental Blues and Mingus Takes 3. Ms. Rahman’ plays are published in Plays by Aishah Rahman and are widely anthologized in several collections including Nine Plays Moon Marked and Touched by Sun and Plays by African Americans. Her plays were produced across the United States at theaters including the Public Theatre, Ensemble Theatre, BAM and universities. Rahman published a Chewed Water: A Memoir, the story of growing up in Harlem in the 1940’s and 50s, in 2001. Her countless awards and prizes included a recognition by the Rockefeller Foundation of the Arts for dedication to playwriting in the American Theater and received The Doris Abramson Playwriting Award as well as a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. –Feministing