IS the Kindle on the dwindle, while the paperback claws its way back?
Well, that’s the latest shock news from the book publishing industry, as reported this week in The Guardian newspaper − but is it the real picture or a distortion of the truth?
The article cites new figures from the Publishers Association showing digital book sales in the UK fell by 1.6% last year from £563 million to £554m − the first drop in seven years (when such sales were first recorded).
Meanwhile, printed book sales in the UK rose by 0.4% from £2.74 billion to £2.76bn − the first rise in four years, albeit a small one.
Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins applauds these figures, saying: “Clearly publishing, like other industries before (and since), suffered a bad attack of technodazzle: It failed to distinguish between newness and value. It could read digital’s hysterical cheerleaders, but not predict how a market of human beings would respond to a product once the novelty had passed.”
Deriding ebooks, Jenkins adds: “Virtual books, like virtual holidays or virtual relationships, are not real. People want a break from another damned screen.”
And he backs up his argument with this quote from the Publishers Association, which represents 120 publishing companies: “Readers take a pleasure in a physical book that does not translate well on to digital.”
But are these new figures an accurate reflection of book publishing in the UK, with ebooks seemingly on the slide?
The Guardian piece (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/13/books-ebook-publishers-paper) triggered almost 900 responses from readers, with many of them rubbishing the claims.
Mike Robbins wrote: “The Publishers Association release should be taken with a large pinch of salt. Actually, an entire salt mine.
“I assume they’re referring to ebooks sold by their members, which are likely a small minority of those sold, because mainstream publishers’ ebooks are so stupidly overpriced. I buy more ebooks than physical books, but none of them are from members of the Publishers Association. They’re from independent authors and small presses. So the figures Mr Jenkins quotes are meaningless.”
Another reader, Lynne, wrote: “The Publishers Association publishes figures from publishers. It doesn’t take into account sales from a site like Amazon. Where do you think most ebook sales are made?”
Eden Sharp also slammed the report, saying the Publishers Association did not count books without an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) in its sales figures. Self-published ebooks often don’t have ISBNs, especially on Amazon, which allocates its own serial number (ASIN) to an ebook released on its Kindle Direct Publishing platform, at no charge.
Authors’ earnings figures probably give a more accurate picture of the state of the market. They show that self-published ebooks now account for 45% of digital sales on Amazon, while ebooks from the five biggest publishers have fallen to less than 25% of market share on Amazon.
My book editing operation (www.ebooklover.co.uk) helps independent authors to publish their books as Kindles on Amazon, and almost all of my clients choose not to have ISBNs − and so sales of their ebooks, and many millions more across the self-publishing spectrum, are not included in the Publishers Association figures.
One self-published author recently claimed to have sold 750,000 Kindle books on Amazon − all without ISBNs and therefore excluded from the Publishing Association figures. And there are many more like that.
So, far from being a Kindle dwindle, surely the real story continues to be an ebook explosion, largely driven by a fast-rising number of indy authors? And perhaps it’s snobbery in the traditional publishing houses that excludes self-published success stories from the big picture on book sales.
FOOTNOTE: If any of you have written a book – either fiction or non-fiction – and need help with editing, proofreading, formatting for Kindle, or paperback design and cover design, I can help you on the road to publication. See below.
My ebooklover.co.uk business offers editing, proofreading, formatting and book and cover design services to self-published writers, of both fiction and non-fiction. See my website www.ebooklover.co.uk for full details. Check out my Facebook page www.facebook.com/ebooklover.co.uk and follow me on twitter www.twitter.com/ebookswizard