Monday, August 15, 2011

The Digital Revolution Continues

I saw a couple of different things this week that really reinforced to me how much the digital revolution has taken over the publishing industry.

HarperCollins released their sales figures for the year, and my first thought was, "What the hell kind of calendar are they on?" I always thought the fiscal year went from October through October, but apparently that's not the case at Harper. Anyway, they claim ebook sales for the year of twelve percent, but for the third quarter of nineteen percent.

My suspicions have been that by Christmas ebook sales will account for close to twenty-five percent of book sales overall, and if the nineteen percent figure at HarperCollins for third quarter sales is accurate, I don't see anything to make me believe twenty-five percent won't happen. Unless the percentage goes higher.

On a related note, bestselling author Scott Nicholson blogged about the accelerating trend of bookstore closures, and how that fact doesn't necessarily mean shelf-space is declining. In fact, he says, it's just the opposite when you consider virtual shelf space. "The decline in new paper books is way more than offset by the avalanche of new digital titles."

"We aren't killing bookstore," he says. "We are birthing a new Golden Era of literature, by writing and reading and sharing ideas..." Whether you'd rather hold a paper-and-ink book in your hands or prefer the convenience of an ereader, it's a fascinating post and one well worth your time.

Another blog post from another of my favorite authors dealt with the digital publishing revolution as well. Noir author Heath Lowrance released his first book, THE BASTARD HAND, back in March as a trade paperback edition. The book is available now digitally as well, and in this post, Lowrance analyzes the pluses and minuses of both options:

"The feel of an actual book in your hand, one that requires you to turn pages and stuff, is comfortable to me and I suspect I’ll always prefer that...But: if you’re milling around Amazon, window-shopping at the Kindle store, you come across so many great books for SO cheap… a book for anywhere from .99 cents to 3.99 is, honestly, just a killer deal, especially considering that you get to read it within SECONDS of finding it."

Lowrance goes on to say his sales of THE BASTARD HAND have been much more brisk digitally than for the print edition. As an author, the whole point is to get your work in front of the readers' eyes, and he seems to recognize that the price advantage and ease of delivery for digital books makes a big difference.

My own experience is pretty one-sided. Both of my novels and my short story collection are available only digitally, and while I would love to see them all in print, I understand and accept that the vast majority of my sales would still come from the digital editions. It's much easier for readers to justify spending 99 cents or $2.99 or even $7.99 for a digital book from an author they don't know than spending much more than that for a hardcover edition or trade paperback.

Either way, I keep writing, knowing I can tell a story, taking full advantage of the breaks as they come my way...

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