This isn’t an informed rant by a publishing expert. It’s a rant by a book lover and book buyer that I started on my Facebook page and transplanted here because I wanted to flesh it out some.
Time magazine reported on January 9 that sales of physical books in the United Kingdom were up over last Christmas, and sales of ereaders and ebooks seem to be on such a decline that it’s almost like a reversal away from the format.
I tried to look for information on the North American or the Canada-only market but couldn’t find anything that wasn’t over a year old. But if we assume the trend is the same over here, I think I know why.
Speaking from my own experience, I, too, have stopped purchasing ebooks as much, but it’s not because I’m not a fan of the format. Money’s tight and getting tighter, so I put a lot of research into my purchases before I make them. Over the seven years I’ve owned an ereader, prices have shot up from $5 to around $15 for a new release. When you take into account discounts from places like Amazon.ca and Indigo.ca, it’s often cheaper to buy the physical book. Add on top the fact you can’t outright own the ebooks you purchase and you’ve got plenty of reasons not to bother with ebooks at all.
There are costs, of course, that a book price must account for: the writing, editing, and design of the work. But with no printing cost and no shipping cost, there’s no reason an ebook should ever cost more than the material thing.
Publishers treat ebooks like the car industry treats the electric automobile: they’re too afraid of how it threatens the old business model to embrace all the good things it can do for their business. Ebooks are lower on production costs and allow for unmatched portability, especially in the smartphone era.
You want more customers? Make it easier for people to get your product.
Some ways publishers should use ebooks?
1) When you sell a physical book, offer a code to download the ebook version for free. Chizine Publications used to be great for this, and now they’ve partnered with BitLit, a program which lets you take a picture of your bookshelf and receive an ebook version of each title, if available.
2) Make affordable ebook bundles to build a greater readership (especially for series titles), like three ebooks for $10 (ebooks are the new mass-market paperbacks, after all);
3) Keep solo ebook prices low enough to encourage more impulse buying. I’m more likely to not think twice about a purchase that costs $5 than one that costs $15. Smart consumers can do A LOT of price comparisons thanks to their smartphones, so take steps to win the price war and you’ll win more customers, too.
It’s a long-term game, publishers. Start playing it already, and you’ll find yourselves with even more of my money.