Selling E-Books

If you had any doubts about the rise of the e-book — and you didn’t really, did you? — Publishers Weekly has come up with some statistics that are pretty solidly convincing. The magazine has completed a survey that uncovered the information that more than 1,000 e-books published in 2011 and 2012 sold at least 25,000 copies (or whatever you want to call e-books). That’s a heap o’ digital, folks.

It is no surprise — publishers tell us that the popularity of e-books has been on the rise for the last five years — but it documents a higher degree of bestsellerdom for the digitally produced books. And it probably goes a long way in explaining why mass markets paperbacks — the least expensive and traditionally the biggest selling paperbacks — have seen declining interest and sales over the last couple of years.

[It doesn’t however, go quite far enough to explain why the prices for the e-book versions of those mass market paperbacks remain so high — high enough that for many purchasers, still, it makes no sense to pay a similar, higher or perhaps only slightly lower price for the electronic version of the costly-to-produce paper edition.]

The e-book bestseller list contains the usual suspects. In fact, you could probably come up with your own guesses and be pretty much spot-on. The biggest selling e-book with over 15-million sold has been the “50 Shades of Grey” trilogy written by the British author E.L. James (evidence, as if we needed it, that not everything the Brits write is deserving of a Man Booker Prize). Next is “The Hunger Games” followed by Nora Roberts, James Patterson and more very familiar names. In other words, the majority of readers of e-books aren’t straining their brains any more than their print-paperback colleagues.

So, does it make any difference? The short term answer is likely nope, none. You want to buy a paperback, it will be there. Prefer the e-book version? It’s there, too. I can’t imagine that landscape getting altered much over the next several years. After that? Well, anyone’s guess is a pretty good one. My only surmise is that the industry won’t disappear; readers aren’t going anywhere, in spite of the lures of the internet, television, NASCAR, twitter, sequestration, and all the other things that want to seize our attention spans these days.

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