Thursday, December 30, 2010

Borders misses payment

Borders 'delaying' paying vendors at yahoo finance

Borders delays paying vendors at WSJ subscription required.

I'm sure there are dozens more links by now...
From the WSJ (fair use): "In an ominous turn of events for the book business, Borders Group Inc. said Thursday it is delaying payments to some publishers, a sign that its financial troubles are worsening."

My take:
With their dire need to raise cash... I do not give them good odds. My two favorite local bookstores are Borders. But for every pbook (mostly kids books with a few gifts) we buy at Borders, we've bought: two at Costco, three at discount stores, and four to five on Amazon.

Does anyone know what share of the pbook market Borders now holds? All the reference I could find were 'obviously out of date.'

For the market share Borders holds (held?) determines the impact of this serious financial action that is generally a sign of bankruptcy. I believe Borders customers will go to alternate sources pretty much in line with their book market share (plus or minus clever marketing). In other words, if ebooks are say 15% of the book market, than expect 15% of Borders customers dollars to transfer immediately to ebook vendors.

Note: I expect Borders ebook store to keep operating post bankruptcy.

This is actually really sad for me as I used to happily spend 4+ hours in the local Borders. Then again that store killed off my favorite Crown books which killed off my favorite Indie bookstore... So 'sad' is relative. Perhaps 'sad at seeing the final stage of the transition.'


ps 12/31/2010
Forbes Video "Losing money for years and getting worse."

Everyone is speculating *if* publishers will continue to ship books to Borders. They're news timing is perfect (the announcement is likely to get lost in tonight's merry making).

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

5.3 million K3's sold in 2010 (to date)

Please read my previous post on how I came to an estimate of 14 to 15 million ereaders sold in 2010.

I used to follow this guy in digitimes (it helped my investing):

1.6 million Kindles per month

5.3 million K3's (per the link). That is in line with the estimate of a total of 8 million Kindles in 2010. (Or only 2.7 million K2, DX, 'new DX' in 2010... plausible.)

Digitimes (including Kuo, the quoted journalist) is pretty good at 'counting chips' and thus estimating units produced/sold. Since 'chips in' = 'chips out', it produces good production volume estimates. (In particular if they have excellent intelligence on one or two key chips in a device. Intelligence this journalist always seemed to have...)

So my confidence in 14 to 15 million e-readers sold is strengthening. I remain impressed with the large quantity of ePub readers sold (Sony and Kobo) as well as Color Nooks.

Let us put it in perspective... I guessed about 10 million ereaders in 2010. My error in estimate matches ereaders sold in 2009 and half of 2008!

Let's rephrase that. I'm a pro e-book blogger and I underestimated market growth by almost the market as of December 27th 2009. :) I can live with that error.

Did anyone estimate that ereaders would sell this well? Seriously, I'm not aware of any link that was this optimistic.

Got Popcorn?

ps: 9:17pm on 12/29/2010:
Another link for 8 million Kinles . I like these links as maybe the 'I watch TV journalists' will finally get it that there is a crowd that wants to read and will buy devices for reading. Yes... I realize there are more dollars in TV, movies, and video games. Yawn.

My estimates for ereader sales in 2010:
Kindle: 8 million
Nook: 4 million
Sony: 2 million
Kobo: 1/2 million

Error bars make the estimate 14 to 15 million for the year.

Note: Q12011 estimated Kindle sales are 4.5 million per some 'optimistic' links:
Same Kuo link, different information

Since the Chinese new year occurs in early February... We in effect have a 2nd holiday season coming. I can see $139 K3s for birthdays, Chinese new year, etc. I also see 'Ipod touch' being another gateway to ebooks. Android/Iphone will be a HUGE gateway, and of course tablets.

I'm sticking with prior predictions of 50% of the book dollars in ebooks by January 2013 (I hate changing predictions mid-stream), but I wonder... Is the book market changing much faster than I thought? Innovation happens slow than fast.

We won't know until we pass it. I do not think so (yet). But I'd love to be proven wrong. But I think my original post in this blog is still on the mark. We'll see the tipping point in 2012. Now I'm leaning towards Early 2012 (almost Christmas 2011...) :) Ugh... I wish November data was already available (with Indie and small publisher sales too.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

ereader sales 2010

There are no hard numbers on ereader sales from any vendor.

I'll start with the smaller, but known e-readers:
several hundred thousand Kobo's activated daily starting 12/24/2010.

Then some positive rumors on Sony:
Rumors that Sonly sold 2 million ereaders in 2010

Which gives credence to the 8 million Kindles sold this year. It also puts Nook sales at 3 to 4 million for 2010. Time for B&N to upgrade the servers. ;) I personally didn't think the Nook color would do as well as it did. Kudos to those who anticipated the market. :)

Assuming "hundreds of thousands activated each day" for Kobo probably translates to 500,000 for Christmas... 12/28 Update: They've claimed a million activations. We're looking at 14 to 15 million e-readers sold in 2010. Most of the sales would have been for the holiday season. So we shouldn't have seen any uptick in sales before mid-November. Chanukah was December 2nd through 9th, so there should have been a nice 'spike' right after that.

I've very curious what the 12/24/2010 through today (12/27/2010) Amazon ebook sales.
I hope some of the authors noted sales by day and blog that information. Any links are appreciated.

The ebook revolution set its tap root this year. The growth from now through 2013 should be excellent. Good luck to all the authors. Only now do we have enough 'e-readers in the wild' to launch the market. Kudos to the pathfinders.

Got Popcorn?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ebook Trends

Merry Christmas,

I'm curious if it will be this year or in the future that Christmas becomes the #1 book sales day of 2010.

Ebook growth is a great thing for readers; mostly due to the variety of new material to read. Instead of a laundry list of backlist or new titles making its way onto the Kindle, I recommend you Google your favorite genre. Be prepared to be knocked backwards with the flood of offerings if you Google "Romance Backlist."

I'm still sad at how much variety was kept out by the 'old guard' of Sci-fi & Fantasy. :( (My favorite genre.) Look how many of the top 12 are indie! Two thirds and +/- 1 that has been true since October (when I first started looking). Obviously I wasn't the only reader craving more variety.

Random House book Sales up 250% In my estimation, Random house has benefited by avoiding the beginning of the year e-book 'tiff.'

But indie authors had only a tiny market presence before e-books. Before ebook readers, the "Tyranny of shelf" space provided power to the publishers, if you will 'guilds' that controlled access. Now that 'journeymen' can get there works out, there will be a greater diversity. No longer are the publishers required for 'validation.'

Kindle sales exceed analyst predictions by 60% . That is extensive growth in ereaders. Every year ereader growth exceeds the predictions. Sadly, the news will continue to be filled with articles on their imminent demise. Unlikely... While I expect most ereading to be on other devices in 2011, I think ebook readers are a niche that is here to stay. Unless someone invents a tablet that works in the sun and is far easier on the eyes than an LCD.

Book publishing and selling is undergoing a tremendous change. I still think the major changes will happen in 2012 and 2013. We are witnessing the groundwork being laid. It is a 'push me' and 'pull me' situation. At first, readers bought e-readers for convenience. Now it is variety 'pulling' readers to ereaders. No longer do books have a 4 to 12 week shelf life.

My point is that the market has changed for reasons those in the industry didn't care about:
1. Shelf life no longer rules marketing (Now self life will only be limited by evolutions in language.)
2. Variety. Readers demand this. Those that do not want variety watch TV. ;)

In his snarky way, JA Konrath is letting people know there is a change.

And another link:
link text/image

Merry Christmas. No longer is it a question of when the change in ereaders will come. It is here. Ereaders are established. It is only a question of when ereading is half the book dollars. I'll stick with my prediction of January 2013; even though the trend is for earlier. ;)

Got Popcorn?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Observations while shopping

I did a bit of shopping in the last week (yea... who hasn't) and I had a few observations:

1. Barnes and Noble: Packed front of the store. The coffee shop was happening. Plenty of moms and daughters in the toy section actually buying toys (no boys...). There was quite the line up to talk to the in-store tech support on the Nook. (Judging from the overheard questions, this should be taken as nook success in selling to less tech literate than an issue with the nook.) The CD/DVD section was a ghost town; not one customer. Book sales were ok, but *far* less than prior years.

2. Best Buy. They were not pushing the Kindle. In fact, the sales people were avoiding talking it with customers. Apple sales were brisk (including an Ipad to yours truly for the misses) and for laptops. In my opinion, the mini 'store within a store' for Apple was working at Best Buy. TVs were moving. But the media section (CD/DVD) was barren of customers. Video game consoles were sitting in large untouched piles. Seriously, I must have watched $8k of Apple products moved, $3k to $4k of laptops, Similar sales of TVs, and not seen one video game sale or CD/DVD sale.

3. Target: Mad house. I have no idea if there were Kindles as with two kids in tow, we had to attend to business.

4. Costco and Sams Club: Interesting... due to 'negotiations with Apple,' all Apple products were pulled from Costco! Photos, TVs, and Kids toys were moving. But books were 'reduced in floor space' from November in both chain stores. A dramatic reduction in book shelf space.

What does this have to do with e-books? From what I can see, only a few hot items are selling. Retailers are definitely cutting back book shelf space which is not going to help p-books. In fact, shelf space is gravitating towards higher margin items.

I cannot state definitively how these anecdotal observations will impact p-book sales, but it is a headwind trend. More electronic devices to read ebooks is the positive trend. The negative trend is less retail attention to books. This all points to a transition year in 2011 for books. r.


Friday, December 10, 2010

October e-book sales

First, JA Konrathe makes a great point. Only 14 publishers are being counted in ebook sales. E-book dependence in romance is biased towards smaller (uncounted by AAP) publishers and indie authors.

So what fraction is the uncounted? Hundreds! That article indicates ~400 publishers have e-books out, plus indie authors, but only 14 publishers count.

Considering the large '2nd wave' of new ebook adoption I'm seeing, there must be a significant rise in e-book sales. A whole new crowd at work just bought Kindles! I know a dozen people buying loved ones a Kindle for Christmas. So there is a 'missing link.' Well, that is uncounted e-book sales. :)

Now to the charts:

On of my favorite ways to plot e-book sales (from the 14 publishers who report) is by year. This style of plot show the year to year growth in e-book sales. October didn't stick out as much as I thought it would after the Kindle 3 launch.

But that is only from the 14 reporting publishers. What if the typically high e-book prices of the reporting 14 have driven customers to the alternatives? It is possible that 15% to 50% more sales are occurring than are being reported by now.... Even without the uncounted sales, the market is growing quickly. :)

Mass market paperback (MMPB) sales were weak. Beyond weak... We finally see a clear drop in sales that points out the weakness of the category. Most likely next year e-book sales will exceed MMPB. Not too much of a surprise as all the indications are that Romance and SF&F are the two genres whose readership is embracing ebooks. And yes, both have dozens of sub-genres (the variety is part of what makes books great!).

Adult Hardcover, the profit center of the publishers, was exceptionally weak too. Without the 'unique 2009 September boost in sales' there is no hand waving away the weak sales.

Adult Paperback did ok in October. But with Weak September sales, it is more of the same trend. Someone is not ordering books; I suspect as part of Borders attempt to reduce inventory and debt.

Overall, my summation of 'trade books' just ads up to one thing. Someone is not ordering this year.

Christmas Day could be the #1 sales day of the year. If that is indeed the case (if only for Amazon), then we will see the fast shift. Or maybe it will be Borders.

I do not want to dance on any graves, but if Borders does not gain a new management and strategy, they are done as early as the 1st quarter of next year. If they dissolve, I expect their customers to go to:
1. Big Box retails (Costco, Walmart, Walgreens, Target): ~30% of Borders customers
2. Indie book stores: ~30% of customers (there are 2,200 of them out there!)
3. Indie book stores: ~20% of the customers
4. Amazon (online and Kindle) 20%

The trend is towards ebooks. Now if only we had the complete data. I cannot wait to see Christmas sales.

But how can the AAP only count 14 out of 400 publishers on e-books? Not to mention skipping indie authors.

Got Popcorn?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

September Ebook Sales

Once again looking at the data of book sales in detail draws a different conclusion than the 'knee jerk' reaction. The quick answer is that last year the pbook market had an unusually strong September and comparing against that is tricky; this time I have far more graphs than prior posts. Do recall the AAP numbers are comparing wholesale sales. Thus pbook 'sales' lead the much more 'retail' ebook sales.

Ebooks are gaining share. I expected more of a 'September bump' due to the introduction of the Kindle 3. The lack of a large bump doesn't mean much, September is a month that in the start of the end of the year ramp up in ebook sales. In many ways the October data will be far more interesting.

To the charts (with further comments):

I'm plotting the data in two forms.
1. A plot chronological with time to show the long term trend
2. By month, with each year being its own line. This shows seasonal trends which are strong in book sales.

The 2nd graph really shows the growth of ebook sales year over year. It also shows:
1. Device sales drive ebook sales
2. The beginning of the year 'tiff' hurt ebook sales
3. Ebook sales are back on a growth trend
4. Kindle 3 sales have yet to impact ebook sales

As ebook sales have increases, we see that mass market paper back sales have mostly drifted in their normal band.

When plotted by year, we see mmpb sales are weak, but there is no trend with ebook sales. If anything, I would say over-pricing or a poor 'product mix' is more to blame than ebooks.

Paperbacks sold poorly in September. In the past, September was one of the strongest months for paperback sales (if not the strongest). This year's weak showing is probably due to the customer switch to ebooks.

The year to year comparison clearly shows a missing peak. Who didn't order paperbacks? Some retailer (or several) didn't stock up this year on adult paperback pbooks... This could be corrected in October, so it will be worth looking at the next data set.

Harcover sales are in their normal band:

Year on year comparisons show that 2009 had an abnormally strong September. 2010 hardcover sales are on the weak side, but that is probably just the economy.

Ebook sales are strong and have a very seasonal tendency for growth (end of year and post-Christmas). It looks like adult paperbacks are taking a hit with increased ebook sales. Otherwise, it does not look as if ebook sales are impacting print sales. Ebook sales growth is also greater than the impact to paperbacks, so it is possibly ebooks are growing the market!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Authors, Make it 'Stupid Easy' to buy your book!

In a discussion over at Konrath's that authors need to make finding their books very easy to find.

One author had a book with a title that was also the title of
Eight books!

My recommendation when you make a comment on blogs is to have a text file which allows you to 'cut and paste' your sinature:

Your Name (or pen name)
Author of: link text/image

Link to multiple books. If you're selling one, put in a *very* brief description.

On your web page please have on the side and at the bottom a link to buy the book. Make it obvious! (e.g., Buy the book for KINDLE NOOK SONY). Do not link to Smashwords expecting buyers to realize that is where they can buy a book. Also, do not hesitate to become an 'Amazon affiliate' to gain a bigger cut. ;)

Also, please make which book in a series your book is. I'm really getting to dislike having to google to fine out which is book #1 in a series! My favorite way is to put the book # in the title. For example:

One Kiss (Book#1 of the Toad series)
Long Tongued Prince (Book #2 of the Toad series)
Warts and Legs (Book #3 of the Toad series)

Every time you make it easier for your customer, you are more likely to sell. Heck, it might just be a sale to a 'drunk clicker.' But at least that is a sale. If your book is read and liked... even better!

Make buying your book 'Stupid easy.'

Got Popcorn?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Book buying in October

How many books did you read last month? Myself? Not as many as normal for me. Why? Draculas . We recently had a child, so the scene in the delivery ward just stopped me. Great writing... almost too good.

Why that intro? I notice my credit card bill and the first 7 items were ebooks to replace what I read in October. (Yes... a slow month was 7 books.) :) What I observed:
1. For the first time in years, not one book over $5. Not one.
2. Median of $2.99. This month none below $2 (other than free books...)
3. I buy in batches (rarely one book at a time).

I've been tracking ebook sales and it just feels as if October was a strong transition month from pbooks to ebooks. I'll be curious to see the (very delayed) sales numbers.

I'm not going to be a big buyer in November. I must have downloaded a hundred free books in October. Just for the sake of organizing books on my Kindle, I should read through them! Not to mention a Robert Jordan pre-order should be delivered. ;)

Don't worry indie authors... I'm hooked. I'm sure that at least four books will be purchased.

A recommendation:
The unsuspecting mage (free today) has sucked me into a new fantasy series. Fun!

I will conclude noting it is easy to understand why readers want a series. Once a character and series is interesting... it is so much fun to continue to the next saga. If I didn't organize my Kindle well, I'd forget to continue a series if the next book wasn't available. (I'm going through too many new authors to slow down!) So once you have a good thing going, expand the brand!

Got Popcorn?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ebooks outsell Pbooks on

Amazon must be gaining book market share. Obviously in ebooks, but taking a moment to consider the numbers, they must also be gaining in the overall book market. In other words, ebook sales are not just lost pbook sales for Amazon, but there is some cannibalization.

Amazon's press release is generating a bit of attention. I've heard Kindle fanboi and naysayers are both making statements out of perspective.

I will agree that Amazon customers are far more likely to buy a Kindle than non-previous Amazon customers. But...

I would point out a few things:
1. Amazon is about 15% of the pbook market.
2. Amazon is somewhere between 60% to 80% of the ebook market.
3. Ebooks back in August were 10% of the market (9% is for YTD.)

In other words, if it took until October for ebook sales to outsell pbooks at then it implies Amazon is growing market share. For if Amazon's pbook customers just switched to e-books, this milestone would have been announced back in January! (see August sales post).

But looking at the graphs from my previous post and the August sales... We can do a little more than guess.

1. Everytime after major e-reader sales, we see a spike in ebook sales.
2. Don't forget it was Septempber that brought the Kindle3 wifi price down to $139. Look at the July/August ebook sales spike off the Kindle2 at $189.

Signs of success:
Amazon is hiring for long term investment in the Kindle:
Ireaderreview on Kindle job openings

I still do not believe we are yet at the tipping point for the whole book market. But we're getting there genre by genre.

Romance and SciFi are already past the tipping point.

October is the start of the Christmas buying season. So I wonder how many Kindles are being shipped for later delivery. Amazon had better work on gifting books ASAP.

The rumored color Nook sounds exciting for Kids. If there is a ruggedized ereader by Christmas, our kids will find one under the tree. Kiddie books are a natural to go digital.

Any which way, I see see this as significant market share growth in books for Amazon. Those that love pbooks will try to diminish this press release. But lets not forget that Amazon is the 800 pound gorilla of online pbook sales. We should expect a nice upside surprise in ebook share as we review book sales data over the next six months.

Got Popcorn?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ebook Trend on Kindle

I believe it is a 'push me/pull me' scenario between how many books are available on Kindle and how many Kindles are sold. The more readers, the more books will be offered. The more books offered, the easier it is to convince readers to buy a Kindle.

At first there were 90,000 books on Kindle and a mere 8,300 more per month were being added. Then the slope changed after June 2008. The slope almost doubled to 14,800 books per month. In 2010 there is another 'step change.' The rate books have been added to the Kindle more than doubled the 'mid' rate to 35,450 books per month!

The publishers should worry. I suspect the 14,800 books per month was the quantity of books the publishers wanted released to Kindle. The quantity of books being offered looks to be ready to prove the 'long tail' theory.

The variety of books being offered will pull readers to ereaders. By mid-2011 we should expect to have over a million books for sale on Kindle (plus the 1.8 million+ public domain books already available). Anyone who doubts the growth of ebook market share needs to ponder the impact of having such a quantity of books less than a minute away...

Got Popcorn?

PS (late edit)
We should see another doubling in mid-2011. How? I expect it to be amateur authors putting their novels out. Or maybe it won't be books but rather an effective doubling of offered text via Amazon's 'singles.' I'm not a writer so I can be the 3rd party observer just wondering what more will be offered for my enjoyment.

Monday, October 18, 2010

August Ebook Sales

My conclusions on the August ebook sales numbers are very different than before I looked into the data. Basically, we see the normal July to August dip in ebook sales (gee... even readers will enjoy the outside...). I also do not see why the drama with trade book sales. We're within the noise of normal seasonal sales.

First August ebook sales. We have a small dip versus July. If you jump ahead to the last graph, it is visually obvious that this is just a seasonal dip.

Notice how available ebooks have broken away from the previous trend? I think we will have a positive feedback loop! More readers will help ebook sales. Having more books available will persuade more readers to go to ebooks.

I've plotted ebook sales versus my calculation of trade pbook sales. Note: my numbers are off by 1% by the published aap numbers for year to date. I suspect they 'correct' numbers after the fact and do not update the previously posted numbers.

Notice how noisy the pbook sales data is? The Christmas spike is huge! Since there is so much noise in the data, I wouldn't make much out of August 2010 sales being below August 2009. Ok, the drop could be explained by ebook sales; but notice that if the monthly sales volume (in $) is plotted on the same axis that ebook are obviously a market just starting to grow.

Market share tells a slightly different story. Ebook market share grew very quickly at the start of 2010. Then we had the whole 'publishers vs. Amazon' tiff. That tiff blunted ebook growth. Now we have ebooks growing again. I suspect Indie authors are helping the trend. Recall, we're talking market share in $.

My numbers are again a little off of the AAP's numbers. It looks like the 'corrections' on ebook sales might be a bit more important than those on pbook sales. Since I do not have access to the corrected data, I will post graphs on the released data and accept there is some error.

If we extrapolate this graph and do some averaging, we see that 2010 is on track for ebook market to be 10% to 12% of 'trade books'. But the share will grow quickly. Doing a 4th order polynomial fit on market share, I see 2011 market share ending in the 20% to 25% range.

Note: I did my 'market share' as ebooks/trade books and not =ebooks/(tradebooks+ebooks) as the AAP publishes. This is not a proper way to do market share. I will correct in the future as ebook market share is becoming large enough that the difference in calculation will be meaningfull.

Oh well... in 2012 ebooks will end at a third of the trade market. Sometime in 2013, we're on track to see ebooks half of the market.

My last chart is a reprint where I do each year's monthly ebook sales by month to show the seasonal trends. I switched to the above formats as an experiment. But I will post the alternate formats for those readers who were visually 'tuned in' to the older formats. I personally do not like a transition without some previous style graphs as how one graphs the data impacts the conclusions.

Since I analyze data for a living... I know a dozen plus ways to chart it. ;)

I use the AAP press releases for monthly book sales to create these graphs. I couldn't find a single source on the web of anyone plotting the data, so that inspired me to do so.

Comment on Indie authors:
I do not have any links to quantitative market share of indie authors on ebooks. I know before 2007 that going indie for an author was the end of a carrier unless they were big enough to launch their own publisher. Now one can look at most generas and see 25% to 35% of the authors are indie in the top 100. So I speculate that some of the ebook recovery is due to indie authors.

But how much is it do to customers accepting high ebook pricing?

Ebooks are back to gaining market share. The publisher/Amazon tiff did its damage but now ebook growth is back on track. I wonder if some of the ebook gains in dollar market share are due to readers accepting high ebook prices? Or is it do to Indie authors taking off? Either way, by mid-2013 we should expect ebooks to be half the book market.

For this reader, that means more variety. I also expect by mid-2013 that ebooks will be far enough along that I'll start a new blog on a new topic. Until then... we'll have fun tracking ebook growth.

Got Popcorn?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tipping point for E-books

Not yet.

I'm writing this post to clarify what I consider the tipping point. Why now? I think we are past that point for some sub-groups. It is only going to spread...

What is a tipping point?:

Wikipedia describes an... 'old example' of how on to many creates a sudden shift. I'm referring to as the 'ebook tipping point' as to when there will be a sudden shift out of p-books sales to e-books sales.

When? (time):

The discussions were originally in 2012. OK, last year At the Frankfurt book fair it was proposed to be 2018. Obviously it will happen before then. ;) But that doesn't narrow down when there is a shift from p-books to e-books.

The Publisher/Amazon tiff certainly delayed that tipping point. Probably by six months. In the long run, it will just result in more ebook piracy". Higher prices always slow adoption. In the digital world they also provide incentive to find 'free alternatives.' Didn't mp3s teach the publishers anything? Sigh...

Thankfully, indie authors have filled the gap. I'm trying to find a quantifiable metric to blog the shift to indie authors. Any suggestions for something that wouldn't take more than 15 minutes to collect each month's data?

When? (trigger event):

Some of speculated that it will occur with as little as 10% market share. I've been adamant that it is 20% market share. But what if it is 20% by genre or other sub-group? That is almost certainly the case!

We've briefly discussed on JA's blog" how in certain genres an 'old guard' was limiting the variety of sci-fi available. (: If you didn't click on the genre link, please do so. There is a huge variety that readers desire.
long tail theory" definitely applies to Sci-fi, Romance, mystery, and basically every novel genre has an 'old guard' keeping out too much of the variety.

When the readers from those genres go e-book, they'll pull their friends. For some it has already happened.

I'm one of those readers that once I fully went ebook, I'm done buying p-books. I have a bookcase and two boxes with about 200 unread p-books. (Mostly 'finds' at the local library used book sale or gifts.) While a few ebook readers truly prefer pbooks, most of the reader I know make the switch and do not look back.

A big sub-group that has made the switch are those that travel. Pbooks are just too bulky. However, Amazon must do a better job of 'converging' devices. e.g., I'd love to see an 'Android' cell phone with an LCD screen on one side and e-ink on the other.

The types of books that the 'I love turning pages' crowd love will be available at independent book stores or the checkout isle of Walmart/Costco. I really see little space for the current style chain bookstore.

I see a huge potential for POD coffeeshops. It might be another business where the POD is not a huge profit center but rather something to attract customers. Please expand LAX and put a few of these POD coffee shops into the airport! :) I'd actually buy a pbook just for the experience...

But as far as I can tell, Scifi&Fantasy and Romance are past the tipping point. 'Road warriors' are at the cusp. Mass transit commuters are there in some cities, but not in others. So in some ways, this will be blogging a 'rolling tipping point.' That will be fun! :)

I personally think Google editions" will rock the market. While it might (or might not) reach significant market presence, I expect the media attention directed to e-books due to Google editions to shift the book market.

I know of quite a few people worried about Kindle and ePub... With multiple ePub applications under development, one will work. Probably one developed by Google. ;) (I see no advantage for Google developing their own hardware a la the Android where they had to.)

Some book covers generate snide comments from the 70% of the population who doesn't read much. Those snide comments are pushing those readers to ebooks.

I'd love to know the true fraction of ebooks being read on smartphones. Among my friends it is about 10% to 20% and growing. Mostly among the "20 books a year crowd." The 100+ books a year crowd have mostly gone all Kindle.

Out of curiosity, do you know a significant number of friends or relatives who still read 100+ books a year in pbooks? 50% of those I know are Kindle readers. 10% other ebook readers. 10% to the IPad/Laptop. All of the above groups have a fraction that use smartphones 'here and there' to read. Only about 20% of those I know refuse to go digital. But I tend to travel in 'tech friendly' crowds. Note: The missing 10% are 'tech friendly types' trying to 'read through' their pbook library before going to an e-reader.

E-readers are now at an ideal gift giving price point. Judging by the large spike in ebooks sales volume at the start of 2010, we could hit the tipping point post Christmas due to the generosity of readers' friends.

Smartphones will also grow tremendously at Christmas. I still expect smartphones to be the primary 'gateway device' to ereaders. I do not consider them competition, but rather 'augmentation' (the cell phone is there to read) or to give readers a tast of ebooks. :)

Conclusion and Prediction:
Some people will not convert. I see a bright future for POD and used book stores. In some cities, independent book stores catering to a literature crowd will thrive. But not in most cities. :( Perhaps 20% of the pbook market will survive a la vinyl records in specialty stores for connoisseurs.

But for SciFi and Fantasy readers... the old guard kept out too much as well as snide comments from the techno-phobic. I think that market is past the tipping point. Same with Romance for similar but slightly different reasons. Please let me know if you've seen any other genres make the switch.

We're in the rolling tipping point for ebooks. Enjoy. :) By January 2013, I expect 50%+ of the trade book market (including mmpb) to be ebooks. Text books will lag, but not for very long.

Got Popcorn?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Why an e-reader

This week, I asked people who were intense readers why they went to e-readers or kept with print books. I put the pros in order the group discussed their preferences, not my preferences:

Why to use an ereader:
1. Ease of acquiring books.
2. Size of the portable library in hand.
3. Adjustable font size (reading for poor vision)
4. Economics for those 'intense readers'
5. Lack of eye-strain (mostly vs. mmpb)
6. Ability to switch to text to speech.
7. Ebooks do not take up physical space.

Why not to use an e-reader
1. Pleasure of the p-book experience
2. Economics for those who 'read little'
3. Lack of eye-strain reading hardcovers
4. Books can be disposable.
5. Ease of book borrowing/sharing

One group was at a kiddie birthday party, so for all, the ease of acquiring books was paramount. Everyone agreed that they just do not have the time (nor hands) to browse a bookstore. Time with the kids is precious, so book buying must be done during the child's nap/sleep or other times that do not require a dedicated trip. The same was true of disposing of books. So parents of young kids are gravitating to e-readers for convenience.

I find it interesting how fast some of my friends are losing visual acuity. :( For those having this happen at a younger age, they simply cannot find large type books that are of interest. For them e-readers are a blessing.

Of interest was how good the android 'text to speech' readers have become. The father that 'hacks everything' had his android equipped with a variety of voices. To be blunt, Amazon had better match this technology or I might switch e-readers!

There really was a line drawn between those who mostly read hardcovers and those that mostly read mass market paperbacks (mmpb). Most mmpb readers had gone e-reader; perhaps 2/3rds of them. Most of the holdouts will borrow a Kindle and/or a Sony e-reader to see if they want to switch.

Most intense readers had to give up space previously used to store p-books. Let's say I wasn't the only one who made the switch to cut out the clutter.

For some hardcover lovers, the preference was visual acuity (ease of reading). They switched to hardcovers due to the higher quality paper. Two are going to borrow a Kindle to try it out.

The other hardcover lovers 'retreat to books' as a break from the modern 'fast paced tech society.' For them, a p-book is like an old piece of furniture; it isn't there for its practical worth, the p-book is to take the reader away to a better place that doesn't have blackberries or screens with Microsoft project deadlines.

Overall, a few more will try e-readers. But I finally found a reason I can understand why tech savy individuals might resist e-readers; the relaxation aspect of retreating into a favorite reading location that is in a 'tech free zone.' So now I understand why some intense readers want the piles of books, inconvenience or procurement/disposal, and cost of Hardcover p-books. It is the retreat from tech. (All love & work tech, but that isn't the same as not wanting a break.)

I've argued p-books will survive with better than 20% market share. After this discussion, I could see stabilization at 40% market share (at most). Used book stores will be around as long as the acid in the paper allows them to trade.

Note: among those I polled, we had very different experiences in how older mmpb's held up. Hardcovers definitely have less acid in the paper, judging the durability of the books.

The other points didn't seem worth taking your time discussing. If you would like to know more, feel free to ask questions in the comments.

For me, my retreat is getting into the book's story and having the reading medium disappear. For me, e-books provide the better experience. But I finally had a group of people able to explain the reasons behind 'loving the page turning experience' for reasons that didn't seem either contrived or a resistance to change.

Let's face it, this is healthier 'escapism' than drinking, over-eating, or smoking.

Got Popcorn?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Thoughts on Mercedes and the Kindle

I've seen a lot of controversy on the web regarding the Kindle "Pool ad" .

I honestly think it is like the Mercedes advertisements. I've always been told (is it true?) that Mercedes ads are intended for their current customers. By making their current customers feel better, they 'sell the product' to their friends.

The more I think about the Kindle pool ad, the more I believe it was created to make current Kindle owners feel better about their Kindles. I think it worked.

Side note: How many Kindles have you sold? Me? I know of about 40 people I've influenced to buy a Kindle. (Yes, 40.) Only a few did yours truly really influence them to buy a Kindle. e.g., my parents after I suggested the Kindle as the 'splurge' Christmas gift as a reward for providing multiple grandkids. Although my brother *might* be even more responsible in selling the Kindle...

Now, among those 40, I think I accelerated the purchase by an average of 6 weeks. In other words, they would have bought an e-book reader anyway. So 40 Kindles * 1/2 book per week sold * 6 weeks=120 extra Kindle books sold. Not a bad strategy to accelerate that trend...

I'm waiting to find out if any of a group of friends bought a Kindle this weekend. I was reading as I arrived 1/2 an hour before everyone else for dinner. As in I arrived the stated time rather than SoCal 'on time.' I also showed my Kindle to a curious bystander when I was reading at the beach. It is certain that individual wouldn't buy a Kindle; but now he knows a screen can be read in bright sunlight that even 'washed out' his watch.

What has this to do with the pool ad? I think its working. I know of three people that carried their Kindle around a bit more since seeing the ads. Those people influenced the sale of 3 to 4 more Kindles because of it. If nothing else, the 'pool ad' will mellow out 'Kindle evangelism' so that it is more effective.

Amazon needs to pursue a Mercedes advertising strategy where half of their TV ads are to make current customers sell the Kindle. The other half of the ads should be focused on new customers. The 'pool ad' was obviously geared towards current Kindle owners.

Got Popcorn?

A few Indie books to recommend

I was asked what Indie books would I recommend on anther blog. So I'll recommend a few Indie books and a few published books.

Indie books: Perhaps books I just couldn't find a reason to believe were from an established publisher?

A mystery that has been a lot of fun for someone into history as much as I am:
Billy Boyle is even free today! Available in print by Soho press, 'an independent book publisher.' I'm currently reading the sequel...

A fantasy recommendation (I know Dad... just move on and accept I like the genre.)
City of Rouges albeit Ty Johnston has older books when he was in the conventional publishing business.

More Sci-fi
The Second ship by Richard Phillips. Note: Synergy press is for 'independent authors.' I laugh at the $13.95 list price, the book sells for $0.89 and has for a month!

Here is one that is in between indie and published that would never have seen a bookstore. It is from an online audio publisher; I count that as Indie, but I can also see why others wouldn't. It is the best naval story I've read in a decade. Better than Patrick O'Brien, but not as good as CS Forrester's Haratio Hornblower series:
Quarter Share

A fun scifi, not to be taken seriously and you will have to read through a few pages that *need* a re-edit:
Galaxy of Heroes, by Gus Florey. A few typos, but just fun!

Now for some good stuff from the "backlists". Note, the Baen stuff is free over tat their site.

Space Prison, the survivors.

Ok... I hope I'm not the only one waiting for Pournelle's backlisto to hit the web. Some of those works haven't been in a bookstore since I discovered this author. I found a few used, but there are a few I missed.

And something new for a publisher I enjoyed enough that it has to be recommended, even at $7.99:
Ghengus, birth of an empire

Ok, enough. My daughter woke up, so time to be a daddy. :)

Got Popcorn?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

July Sales

July Sales Figures are out with a nice spike in sales. I've added a few more captions as to why sales might have changed. We're back to growth. I believe due to the e-reader price war started in June. The market should be price conscious. A spike in e-ink reader sales should spike e-book consumption.

To me, the impact of the publishers going to the agency model in February is obvious; there is an instant cut in e-book sales instead of the prior (nearly) constant growth trend. Just as lower prices will spike sales, the sudden increase in 'hardcover' prices stunted e-book sales. :(

It is only recently that Indie authors on Amazon have been treated to 70% of revenue (for books $2.99 to $9.99). With the agency model becoming universal, the number of excellent Indie author e-books is exploding. I do not know about others, but starting in August, most of my e-book purchases have been from Indie authors; in this I include 'publishing houses' that sell only one author. ;) The few others have been from small publishers who dropped prices below $5.

There were a half dozen authors I was willing to pay high e-book prices on. One just published a lousy book; a book I paid $14.99 to download. I'm now gun shy on e-books above $5.

JA Konrath has a post on e-book sales versus pricing. Look at how pitiful sales are for higher priced e-books. The only reason to price e-books high is to protect p-book sales. Too late.

SciFi and Rommance sales are apparently two of the hardest hit groups. I'm not surprised, it is among the genres that are the hardest to explain when someone sees the cover and asks for an explanation of 'why are you reading that?'

Book stores are losing the best customers at an accelerating pace. We keep hearing about more an more authors putting their backlist up on Kindle. I think it will be a year before the majority realize how many good books are available in e-book form only.

I'm excited e-book sales are back on the growth trend. I'm bummed the data trails by so long. For I would bet e-book sales are exploding in this month (September 2010). Oh well, we'll find out at the end of November...

Got Popcorn?

Late edit on 9/26/2010: I should have mentioned that July is when Amazon reported e-book sales exceeded hardcover sales.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Welcome and some book data

I've been out of the blogsphere for a bit. I've decided to switch topics; I will add data to my previous blog, but I am switching my primary focus to e-books.

I'm not in the literature business other than as a consumer. Quite the consumer of e-books. I converted over with the launch of the Kindle 2 to e-books from p-books.

I'm amused that one can clearly see the impact of major devices upon e-book sales. The Sony e-reader launch moved e-book sales off a very low floor. The Kindle (original) started a slow rise in e-book sales through 2008.

The April 2010 Ipad launch also seems to have a small impact. But far less than the Kindle 2. Considering how many people web surf and play games on Ipads, I cannot say I'm surprised to find it has a small impact. But the post Christmas slide in e-book market share was stopped right at the Ipad launch.

The real 'birth of the e-book market' came with the Kindle 2. The slope change is very perceptible.

I also notice a jump in e-book sales at the start of 2009 and 2010 year. To me, this implies that Kindles are a popular Christmas gift. So I expect the Kindle 3 to boost e-book sales on two counts:
1. Lower price. i'm a believer in the elastic nature of consumer markets.
2. That lower price makes it a low enough price gift. Above $200 is too much of a splurge.

I still recall the rush for Christmas 2008 Kindles. The backlog was extensive. To say the least, the jump in e-book sales between December 2008 and January 2009 signifies the Kindle coming of age.

To the charts:

E-book sales, in dollars:

Note the spike in sales after Christmas in January 2009 and 2010. I'm looking forward to the AAP data to catch up and show how Kindle2 price reductions and the launch of the Kindle 3 impacted sales.

There has been a theory that e-book sales have been at the expense of mass market paper backs. (MMPB). While plausible... The big drop being at the Nook launch time? I think that is a recessionary coincidence.

I do a different take on e-book market share. I take e-book sales in dollars and divide it by Adult sales (hardcover and paperback), children/youth sales, University sales, and technical book sales. I remove higher-ed and K-12 due to the volatility of those markets. (They can go from +$1 billion in a month to -$100 million due to returns.)

I'm left with one big question. It looks like Amazon feeds into the Census data (note, I am searching for confirmation). If so, the flat e-book sales of 1H2010 are an indication that it takes device sales to boost the book sales.

A bit on this blog. I'm not doing device reviews. As far as I'm concerned devices are to sell the e-books. I'm not going into the p-book vs. e-book debate. I'm an e-book enthusiast, so I'm going to celebrate e-book sales. I am curious as to how cell phones and tablets will enhance the market. Also, I'm going to remain device vendor neutral. I have my favorites, but my desire to grow the e-book market out-weights any fan loyalty I might have.

So I will delete in the comments any nasty comments. I do not care if the nasty comment is pro-Kindle/Ipad/Nook/Sony/e-book or p-book. Stay polite. Oh, be a fan, but be polite about it. And provide links. ;) I also accept many book purchases are impulse buys.

Also note, I have no patience with the 'publishers validate' argument. That was dis- proven on JA Konraths blog in the comments. Reader willingness to pay ($ sales) are what I use as validation.

I do plan to stay numbers oriented. So if you disagree with my posts, please post links to data sets. Note I ignore any one data point. The trend is what matters. Book sales data is inherently noisy (weather, holidays, school start, release of popular books or lack thereof, vacation season, etc.) There is a reason I'm not a stock day trader...

I'm excited for where e-books are going. I see tremendous growth in for the next few years. Why?
1. Lower e-reader prices. We're finally getting down to mass market gift pricing.
2. Tablets. In particular the flood of tablets predicted for January 2010. I expect these to effectively be portable laptop replacements a la the Ipad.
3. New e-readers (flexible?, dual screen?, larger cell phones that bring in the 'one book a year crowd)

I expect the 'tipping point' on e-readers to be in 2012. Due to the above three points, I expect to see e-book sales growth from now until then (with noise and seasonality in the data, of course).

Got Popcorn? ;) (Tag from the last blog)