Decline in Book Publisher Sales — What does it really mean?

books-decline-in-salesI just read a posting on Book Business that book sales, by publishers, declined by 2.7 percent. The problem is this is from Association of American Publishers (AAP) and thus has no context withing sales across the board. This is only from the 1200 publishers that belong to the association. I say only, because as we all know the business of books is changing. I noted just a few posts ago how many titles were being put out by self/indie publishers. This explosion of self-publishing no doubt accounts for almost all of the decline in eBooks sold by publishers (21.8%). In fact, I would say given the huge number of self-published books a decline of 22% from publishers is good news, not bad. Good news in the sense that despite that huge amount of competition they held on to 78% of that sub-market.

To me the most important part of this was the increase in audio books. Audio books are still primarily sold/created by publishers. As even this market continues to have pressure from self-publishing, it demonstrates how strong this area is. People are LISTENING to books.

New Libri Press (my small press) is in the Trade book segment. This segment was down 5.6%. Again, given the explosion of self published books, I find this “not bad.”  I’m not being sanguine. Rather as the over all industry changes–and it will–and as publishing revenue continues to decline–and it will–I simply see that there will remain a strong place for publishers, albeit a smaller slice of the pie.

There are a lot of consumers and authors who argue that the reason for these sorts of declines are because publishers are not in step with the industry and that it is their own fault. BS. When the barrier to entry is essentially zero and it went there in a matter of a few years, one can say that publishers are slower than technology, but hardly obsolete. That said, when the barrier to entry is zero, things will continue to change at publishers and I’m not sure which direction. More like self publishing? Or trim the number of authors you accept and give them better treatment? Time will tell.

Given my spin (and I admit it is my spin, not a statistical truth), I would say the publishing industry is hanging in there. Those who think they are greedy, should examine their profits (not great). The argument that they price ebooks too high doesn’t fully hold water when even after the pressure of a million new titles they only lost 22%. Many of those titles are free. There are only so many eyeballs and so many hours in the year.

I am less sanguine about authors and their ability to make money. Your average author never did will, but given how the slices of the pie are being divided, I think it will continue to get worse.

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