We at Savas Beatie saw the move into digital fairly early as far as smaller independent publishers are concerned.X
(Funny, a reader on another blog questioned my use of the word "independent"--more on that in another post).
I sat by and watched many smaller publisher rend their garments and throw salt over their left shoulder as if the end was near and demons had sprouted amongst us. Many sat on their hands, as if doing nothing would put the toothpaste back into the tube. The genie is out of the bottle, I told several in the business, and if you sit and watch long enough, that wave you can see in the distance with binoculars is one day going to drown you. Sadly, many did not listen. Even some of the big boys waited longer than was prudent.
We jumped feet first in the e-world back in late 2009, and I am pleased to say that today ebooks make up a healthy share of our overall gross income. Nearly every title we have in print is also available as an e-book in all formats. Many of our authors are quite pleased with this result, too.
I am also pleased to inform readers that in our history niche, e-sales generally speaking are not cannibalizing print sales and in some instances are increasing print sales. (More on that in another post).
The explosive growth in e-book sales, however, is rapidly slowing. Why?
According to The Association of American Publishers, in the first quarter of 2013, American trade market e-book sales expanded by about five percent (5%) when compared to the same period last year (2012). Note that the sales increased, but the volcanic growth we have witnessed over the last three years has dramatically slowed down.
Expressed as a percentage of the overall market of total book sales, e-books represent roughly twenty-five percent (25 %). That’s one in four books now sold, folks. In many respects that is eyebrow-raising impressive, but it is in no way a threat to the existence of print--yet. The genre that is most impacted is fiction, which is much more suitable (in my view and the view of others) to e-readers. Nonfiction can be read on e-readers, of course, but it is more work to incorporate the maps, images, charts, notes, and harder to fully grasp the full impact of the scholarship on a Kindle or an iPad than it is to understand a Stephen King plot. Still, we have plenty of readers who take the Kindle or iPad into the field, where they can take immediate photos, put comments into the ebook, and so forth, and leave their hardcovers in the car or hotel or at home. I get that. It makes good sense. (Hence part of the reason e-books help some of our print titles.)
One blogger postulated that the decline in the growth of e-book sales is the result of the tablet. I think his thesis has merit. "Is the possible link between the decline in dedicated e-readers (as multitasking tablets take over) and the softening of e-book sales because tablets less conducive to book buying and reading than e-readers were?"
With dedicated readers, he continued, "pretty much the only thing you can do is buy and read books." With tablets you can do many other things just like a normal PC. He puts it another way: "On an e-reader, the e-reading app is always running. On a tablet, it isn’t."