Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Days of Future Past

I am stealing from a few places for this post, starting with the recent X-Men movie title and I linked that to Michael Cader's Publisher's Lunch coverage pasted below from his take on trade sales and the drop in eBook sales as reported by the AAP StatShot.  I always find Micheal's commentary insightful and typically connects the dots that are not obvious to draw out conclusions.  I also appreciate the context Michael provided with the historical data.  But in this instance, trying to connect the dots, if these figures portend any notable trends, I am left to my own devices.  With that being the case, I will offer a few of my own observations:
  •  Publishing is a hit based business, there needs to be an 'it' book to draw people both into stores and on-line and when that happens, there will be more book sales in all formats.
  • As indie booksellers continue to display resiliency, it should be no surprise that print numbers would mirror that trend of stability. 
  • eBook sales may have dropped, but that was probably easier to predict as those sales are even more driven by hit books.  Also, as Sony has exited the market along with other dedicated ereading devices, digital reading is going to be driven by tablets and mobile devices.  The biggest gain Apple has made in market share is due to iBook app being bundled onto Apple devices with their roll out of iOS8.  I still do not think the vast majority of people look to read on tablets/phones.  But that will change over time as people are more and more dependent on devices for all aspects of their lives.  Both my pre-teen boys have cell phones and they never use them as a phone - they use it for text, gaming, checking on school work through our school district's Infinite Campus system it is very rare that they use them for a phone call.  My point here, books/reading already have a strong foot hold on these platforms which are more ubiquitous than cars or TVs - reading from devices can only grow.
My reference to Days of Future Past simply reminds me that the future of publishing is tied closer to the past than I would have though possible not too long ago.  A great book is still more important to the industry than anything else and good old fashioned bookselling and printed books are still the foundation that this business depends on.  

The AAP reported StatShot figures for January 2015, putting overall trade sales of $495.5 million flat compared to a year ago, with adult sales up a couple of million dollars and children's/YA sales down a couple of million.

In adult sales, trade paperbacks were the notable gainer, up $11.5 million to $122.7 million, while mass market paperbacks declined almost as much (down $9.2 million) and ebook sales were down $4.4 million as agency pricing returned. Digital audio, however, continued its advance, at $15.6 million up 37 percent from $11.4 million a year ago.

Children's books declined $2.2 million, or 1.7 percent, as print sales of $110 million still grew -- rising in all three formats, up over 8 percent -- but the falloff in ebook sales without big YA/crossover hits brought that segment down $7.8 million to $12.9 million for the month.

The change in ebook sales is the most notable story in the January statistics: In what used to be a big, post-holiday sales period for new ebook device owners, ebook sales totaled $100.3 million -- down at least $11.3 million -- and they comprised only 20 percent of trade sales for the month. Significantly, which you likely won't read anywhere else, that is the lowest one-month AAP ebook sales in years. The last time that monthly count was lower was all the way back in April 2012 (just as the Fifty Shades trilogy took off), when ebooks accounted for $99.5 million in sales. The next lowest levels since then were at the end of 2012 (when ebooks were $108 million in both November and December) and then again in March 2014, when they were $108.5 million.