Rosemary on eBook Sales

The following is a guest post by Vice President of Sales and Marketing Rosemary Carlough on eBooks sales.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project recently released a ‘mini-report’ on the adoption of tablets and e-readers that found the number of Americans owning tablets and e-readers nearly doubled over the holidays. The bottom line numbers represent phenomenal growth in consumer device adoption: from mid-December 2011 to early January 2012, the number of Americans owning a tablet computer rose to 19 percent from 10 percent, and the growth in e-book readers jumped an identical amount, to 19 perent from 10 percent. Overall, the number of Americans owning either one of these devices jumped from 18percent to 29%, meaning that nearly 1 in 3 Americans now owns a device.”
Publishers Weekly E-Newsletter 1/23/12

One in three Americans now own either an e-book reader or a tablet computer, both of which are excellent ways to read eBooks.   How has this impacted book sales for a small publisher like AMACOM? Well sales units are certainly shifting to eBooks. Looking at the statistics for just one week’s sales on the biggest site, our sales in units are approximately 30 percent from eBooks, and the balance from print. However, it’s important to remember that while the digital list price of our eBooks is generally the same as for the print editions, we do not control the price to which they are sold to consumers. And some of our best-sellers are occasionally heavily discounted.

Ebook pricing was one of many much-discussed topics at Digital Book World last this month.  In the analysis presented by Kobo many of the examples were fiction, and most of the price points were under $9.95, with a fair cluster in the $3.99-$7.99 range in fact. But there were exceptions, although the number of units fell sharply for titles with prices over $17.95.  The exception to this was very specialized books which they find sell well to international territories where the physical book might not be available, or if it was the shipping costs alone would be very high.

Jacket image, Just Listen by Mark GoulstonOveJacket image, The Accidental Entrepreneur by Susan Urquhart-Brownrall, on a title by title basis, the statistics are more striking.  While the AMACOM average for E (electronic) vs. P (print) is 30 percent vs. 70 percent, there are exceptions. Our best-selling Jacket image, The HR Answer Book by Shawn Smith, JD, and Rebecca Mazintitle during the week being analyzed was Just Listen. For this one title, selling at the time at a 56 percent discount, a full 65 percent of the units were the eBook edition. Two other titles, The Accidental Entrepreneur and The HR Answer Book  had eBook sales that were tied with the print sales.

That seems to open up the question: How important is price? Do people make a buying decision based on title, and then format? Or, if the eBook is significantly discounted will they buy titles they would not originally have purchased? We know that for some titles lower prices can help drive unit sales. A number of our titles are currently in a discounted offer aimed at the college market and we’ll be curious to see if sales of these titles jump during the special offer. We’re also going to be lowering the list prices of selected backlist titles to see if that creates a bump in sales. Stay tuned for more eBook sales reports.

Rosemary Carlough is the Vice President of Marketing for AMACOM Books, but this really means she’s a jack-of-all-trades. Along with two colleagues at AMACOM, she has managed AMACOM’s growing presence in the eBook world for more than ten years, starting back in the days when the most common question was “Do we have files?” and the answer was often “No.” Most days the job seems like project management, or is it firefighting? Author questions, metadata questions, EDI questions. Computers seem to talk to each other more than humans some days. She reads a lot of books, which she  frequently gets from her public library, and keeps her reading list on Goodreads.com.

Earlier Posts:
Rosemary on Selling Content Chapter by Chapter
Rosemary on the Triumphs and Frustrations of Metadata
Rosemary on Fourth of July. Books, baseball, & blueberry pie!

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