Monday, February 7, 2011

A Day at Digital Book World, Part 1 of 2 Parts

By Rosemary Harris

The day I spent at Digital Book World (day three of the conference) was approximately 7 1/2 hours of opinions, polls, surveys, charts, predictions and conflicting information. The one thing everyone agreed on was that the existing business model for book publishing was being seriously challenged, both in terms of print versus e-book sales and the sales of print books online. The differences arose in how those challenges would be met, and how fast and who would still be standing when they were.

The day started with a quote worth remembering all day long:

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." --Albert Einstein

Some conventional wisdom at the show:


Kindle currently has close to 30% of the e-reader market share, followed by B&N at 15% and Sony at 14%. Other formats make up the balance. B&N's Nook was rated highest in consumer satisfaction.

Use of MFDs (multi-functional) devices, i.e., iPads, phones, tablets and other devices was growing. Experts believe that MFD growth will continue and fewer people will be reading books on their home computers.


27% say they buy from indies, statistics say the number is closer to 10%.

The core e-buyer is the same as the core print buyer -- female, suburban, over 40 years old. The power e-buyers (as it sounds) were suburban women, 30-44. Convenience, price and pass-along ability are important to these buyers.

E-buyers are proving to be hybrid - most are not eliminating print purchases.

E-buyers would buy from independent bookstores if pricing were competitive.

Online reviewers are important to e-buyers.

Seeing the book in a brick-and-mortar store first is important.

All surveyed said they read more now that they own an e-reader device.

46% of e-reader/MFD owners say they are inspired to read more print.


50% of all downloads were free books. Anecdata (anecdotal data) says "free" can be a gateway to future purchases. Free is not a business plan, but it can be a marketing plan. Hachette Book Group rep suggested free for a limited time. S&S recommended "open book" - web view only - for freebies.

Word of mouth still spurs print buyers. 47% of purchases at B&N brick-and-mortar stores are impulse buys, versus 26% at Amazon.

Most panelists claimed e-books drove print sales, although it was admitted that the surges in e-book sales (units) did not currently offset the revenue loss to publishers in lost print book sales.


The agents and publishers polled did not submit comparable information regarding e-book royalties. More than 1/3 of the agents said they were getting 50% royalties for their authors; the publishers claimed it was 25%.

It was suggested that legacy (which I took to mean pre-existing) contracts, special deals with smaller publishers, ambiguous backlists (questions as to whether or not, or how long publishers would have e-rights, etc.) were most likely responsible for the discrepancy.

Yes, you can get a higher royalty from an e-publisher if there is no print edition of a book. Print pubs can't offer the same deals because of overhead.

--To be continued...

Rosemary Harris is the Anthony and Agatha Award-nominated author of the Dirty Business mystery series. The most recent title in the series, Slug Fest (available April 2011), is set at a Northeast flower show where more than just the plants are dying.


Donnell said...

Thanks for the feedback, Rosemary.

Diane Vallere said...

Great information! Thanks!

SJ Rozan said...

Anecdata! Now there's a word!

Sounds like your experience was similar to mine. Lots of interesting info, some useful, some highly suspect, some yet to be tested. Some hot air, too.

Con said...

Thanks to you, too, Ro. You and S. J. demonstrate how important it is for writers to have the own take on what's happening in the publishing/book selling world.