eBook Trends: 5 Snippets of News to Keep Up With Today’s eBook Market

An author recently told me that she feels there are so many expectations on authors these days. Not only is an author supposed to be an expert on writing, but also on marketing… and also on the publishing industry at large.

That’s a tall order.

It’s tough to keep up with the trends of the publishing industry. They change often, and technology has demanded new customer experiences and new legal processes and new retail shifts and new publisher responsibilities… It can all seem overwhelming and a little turbulent.

But I am a big believer in the fact that information is required for success. The more you know about your world, the better prepared you are to navigate it.

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While the book world in general moves up and down often, eBooks are a particularly rapidly-changing market–one that’s especially complex to follow, yet especially critical for an author to understand.

When you know the data, you’re prepared to ask the right questions with your publisher and make the right decisions for your book. You’re prepared to talk sell-in, pricing, and marketing more intelligently when you know the news and norms of the day.

With that in mind, here are five snippets of eBook information to know and consider.

1- A plateau sets in–for now.

In 2012-2013, we saw eBook market share skyrocket, with digital books accounting for about 30% of all book sales. That upward trend has since died, with the eBook market finding a much steadier plateau in recent months, sitting right at about 15% in non-fiction books (much higher in fiction). Some say that the trend is actually a clear and constant decline, and that the eBook’s downhill stride means the return of the print books–but I don’t completely buy this. While print sales are strong, so are eBook sales. The only thing that will toss that graph line sky-high again, though, is new technology. eBooks were the hot new thing a few years ago, so people bought. It will take new eBook innovation (read about enhancement below!) to cause another growth trend. It’s sure to come…

2- Downpricing slows.

You used to find some of the hottest books–the bestsellers, even–available in digital versions for $9.99 or less. The debate over whether e-version intellectual property should have the same price tag as “hard copy” intellectual property wars on, but the fact is that eBooks have been downpriced since their inception, and significantly so. However, the ripple effect of the 2012 government suit against Apple and other publishers means that nowadays, publishers set eBook prices, rather than Apple and Amazon–which changes the game. This “agency pricing” is a complex deal, but the not-so-complex outcome is that eBooks are less significantly downpriced these days. A bestseller eBook might cost $13.99, rather than $10.00, for example.

3- Enhancement is the new thing.

eBook enhancement is a topic that’s ebbed and flowed for years now. Ever since eBooks and e-readers hit the scene, forward-thinkers have been dreaming up ways to make the cool cooler and the new newer. Basically, eBook enhancement means building new elements and tools into eBooks to give the reader a deeper and richer experience than a regular book offers. This looks like interactivity, embedded media, narration, and more. Embedded audio and video are the most common enhancement that some eBooks offer today, but as innovation continues, we’re sure to see more features hit the scene. As I said above, I don’t anticipate that the eBook graph line will spike again, as it did a few years ago, until we see a truly unique, high-level enhancement hit the market.

4- Self-publishing dominates.

This comes as no surprise, but self-publishing is on the rise exponentially. Industry market share is slipping from the Big 5 Publishers and being handed to smaller presses, as well as to self-published authors. We see this change most significantly in the world of eBooks. In less than two years, in fact, the market share of paid unit sales between indie (mainly self-publishing, but includes small presses) and Big 5 eBooks has more than inverted. The top “big time” publishers now produce less than a quarter of eBook purchases on Amazon, while indies are close to 45%. With the rise of self-publishing–which ain’t going away!–eBooks will continue hitting the e-shelves, regardless of others’ speculation on eBooks declining.

5- eBooks as trial books.

Not all eBooks serve as trials for print books, but a great many do! More and more, publishers are using eBooks to test the market before putting significant investment into hard copy production. This is most common in fiction, likely because a larger percentage of fiction readers are eBooks reader. There’s a good chance we’ll see this trend continue, as it allows publishers to sign on lesser-known authors and test the product with less risk before moving forward with a physical product.

Remember, you’re not marketing your book in a vacuum; it’s a wild world of book buyers out there. While you do have some control as an author, you’re also surrendering that book baby to some uncontrollable industry trends when you launch it into the world. You’re better able to hold sales steady and leverage the ebb and flow when you know what it’s all about.

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