Are eBooks Really Dying?

by | Sep 26, 2015 | Book Marketing Basics, Marketing Your eBook

Reading Time: ( Word Count: )

There’s been a lot of noise out there recently around eBook sales lagging behind print and already several news outlets are heralding the return of the print book.

Candidly I’m not sure it was ever dead.

I seem to recall a few years back we were discussing the end of print books with the same, solemn predictions: print is dead, long live digital! This of course was much to the chagrin of bookstores everywhere who were scrambling to keep up. That said, there is some merit to this news only in that eBooks buyers are super price sensitive. We talked about book pricing being crucial to your book success in a newsletter update and blog post we did a few weeks ago, you can see it here:

Are eBooks Really DyingMy take, in general, is that eBooks were bound to wane. With eReaders proliferating the market it was a hot new thing but eventually, things are going to even out. However, I do think that much of this news has come from the traditional publishing side, which has always had challenges trying to figure out their eBook strategies.  The other piece of this, the authors who go direct to eBook via Amazon’s KDP program. They are given an ASIN number, not an ISBN number and are really impossible to track. So when we talk about eBook sales waning, I think we’re really a far cry from having remotely accurate data to proclaim this as fact.

Do you Know What Your Audience Wants?
I do think the news around the decline of eBooks brings with it other issues, one being that eBooks in your genre might not be doing so well. Do eBook lovers favor one genre over another? I would say that is 100% accurate. But now the bigger question is this: do you know what your buyer favors? If you don’t, or if you’re second-guessing yourself just by reading this article, it’s time to do some critical thinking.

First and foremost, unless you want to hire a big market research team to uncover your particular audiences’ preferences, you’ll have to do a bit of this sleuthing on your own and the first piece of this might be to check Amazon. What are other, similar books doing in your genre and – even more specific – how do the sales ranks differ from the print book to the eBook? Let’s start by saying that you’ll have to look at a couple dozen books to get an average and here’s why: there are a variety of mitigating factors to eBook vs. print sales. Genre being the first and, obviously your focus, second is pricing – eBook buyers are price sensitive and if your eBook is only $2 cheaper than your print, many will opt for print especially if they’re getting free shipping via Amazon Prime. So just do a comparison of some of your top competitors and see what really seems to be moving.

Second, you could always ask your market by doing a survey – this works really well if you have a mailing list that you can target. The other factor is age. So while we may think that the Young Adult audience is all about digital this is shockingly not true. Many Young Adult readers are gravitating to print over digital. I also see a lot of older readers who prefer digital because they can adjust the font size and don’t have to wait for a “large print edition” which may or may not be offered.

I find, in general that Genre Fiction does well in eBooks, better in fact than in print largely due to the fact that these readers read so much of it – it’s a better use of their money.

The other issue to consider is the keepsake factor. Is your book a keepsake? Because if it is, you’ll find that more people will prefer the print version instead of the eBook. Often Children’s books fall into this category. Contemporary Fiction, generally not so much. If you have a coffee table book or some other picture book, something you really don’t envision your buyer just handing off to a friend, you may be better off pushing your print book – and spending less time on your digital version.

Give Them More of What They Want
When you finally settle on what your reader prefers it’s time to up the ante when it comes to reaching them with their desired format. To do this you’ll want to keep your eye on the book price point first and foremost. Also, consider when you do contests or anything else in conjunction with promotion that you offer the most favorable format to your readers and/or give them options (because this is also a good way to test reader format preferences).

Enhancing books – beyond enhanced eBooks
If you’ve found your reader’s sweet spot in terms of preferred format, it’s time to give them more of what they want: enhance your book! Keep in mind that any book can be enhanced. We’ve all heard of enhanced eBooks with links out to supplemental content but you can do the same with a print book and with an audio book. For example, you could add reader discussion points to the book, or supplemental content like bonus chapters, behind the scenes chapters, song lists, virtually anything. We’ll look at more of these enhancements in future pieces but for now, consider this: if you can over deliver on your book, you’ll not only make a sale to your existing reader but word of mouth could help you outsell even your greatest expectations.

At the end of the day, only we, the author, can determine what’s working for us and what isn’t. I tend to use these news items as thought points for bigger ideas. A lot of authors reading the NYT piece might panic and pull back from their digital promotions. Think before you act on any news and, in the end, follow YOUR reader – not the news. Only then will you find bigger sales.

The news piece referenced:


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *