Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It's not about print vs. ebook or bookstore vs. online sales or small press vs. large

I came across this statistic the other day that shows where the real competition is in the publishing industry--


- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows [English Language Edition], the seventh and mostly widely read book in the series, sold 44 million copies over three years.

- The video game Bad Company 2 sold over than 5 million units in one month, while Modern Warfare 2 sold an estimated 10 million in four months.

- With a US audience of 116 million, the average time spent on Facebook is over 7 hours each month and growing.

- And, of course, while watching videos (on the internet and TV) accounted for 9 hours per month, it was more than made up for by Americans watching TV 84 hours monthly.


These kinds of numbers tell why books keep shrinking in value (and sales). Because the reading public is shrinking. Especially kids, with all the other entertainment options out there, too many are no longer picking up books when they have free time.

Yet more books are being published than ever before. Books are everywhere, in every format. Is it any wonder that free and .99 has become standard for self-published ebooks?  Look for publishers, especially the smaller ones with lower overheads, to start following suit on that trend.

It is sad when books become devalued in a society. 

43 comments:

  1. I completely agree. I enjoy playing computer games but the majority of my computer time is spent writing. I wonder if and how writers might be able change those statistics? Besides writing for nothing.

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  2. mshatch, Writing for nothing is what is happening and I don't like that.

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  3. So maybe there is an opportunity here -- books that are multimedia, integrating online activities and games.

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  4. We are all pulled away...not just kids. Last night I retired to my room, plunked into bed and read. I used to do that every night. Now it seems like it has been forever. And yes, the computer pulls me away. Often though, I'm reading blogs...that counts some, doesn't it?

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  5. This is a sad commentary on our society and what it values. It's like movie stars and sports figures earning millions of dollars and teachers not nearly enough.
    Karen

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  6. Hub and I travel a lot (we're off the 28th on another trip) and are constantly surprised when we return to the U.S. at how cheap things are here - from gas - it's about $10.00 a gallon in England, according to my British friend - to food - to housing - and especially to clothing. U.S. salaries are much higher than in Europe, yet Europeans have more disposable income. I gag when I see the prices of books in Europe - yet bookshops are filled with people actually paying $15.00, equivalent, for a paperback.

    From my branch on the tree, we're partly responsible for how cheap e-books sell. It's a "quantity" mentality, the heart of raw capitalism. We can't have it both ways!

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  7. i have two ideas on this:

    according to some researchers, "Today’s teens and children, Millennials, have been raised with technology, video games, and instant everything, MRI’s prove their brains are wired differently. Although they may frustrate parents and teachers, they can’t change the way their brains work." maybe their brains aren't wired to relate to books as much.

    or, could this be an indication of how life has changed? before movies and tv were so popular, books were the only form of entertainment, the only way your mind could escape life for a while. now there are so many ways to escape and most of them are visual. if the visual options disappeared, would we go back to books?

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  8. Michelle, Yes we would but there are many things parents can do now to encourage reading in their children. It's not easy to compete but it can be done. ooo thanks you just gave me an idea for another post!

    Kittie, interesting comparison between the two.

    Karen, A great example of how it seems like culture and education are dropping in importance in our society.

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  9. There should always be a fair exchange. Free is not a fair exchange, unless there's some other benefit to the provider attached, like "Buy my new book in hard copy, get the ebook free." I hope to raise my child with as much of a love for books as I have.

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  10. Books are 99 cents because self-published authors are hoping to get the reader looking for a bargain.

    The fact that electronics is what people are buying doesn't surprise me. I'm sure #'s are staggering if you looked at iPods or computers too. But ebooks make reading more accessible - not less. And I wonder what people bought instead of books 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago. I bet there was always competition taking reading time away from the book. If it wasn't TV, internet, or video games vying for kids' time, it was something else.

    And book sales are still strong considering the state of our economy right now.

    As a parent and teacher, seeing reading going on, I still have hope.

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  11. I just heard on the news this morning that 1 in 3 homes don't have a single book inside. Serious? It's probably because I'm hording them all. =)

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  12. I sometimes wonder whether its due to all the netspeak. Wot do U thnk? MayB kidz can't read th@ gr8 anymore? ;:o/

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  13. When I visit homes of young relatives, some with MA degrees even, I see not a single book. And I wonder where this will lead.

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  14. Other forms of entertainment present easy babysitting and instant gratification whereas reading may be something that is an investment on the part of the parent or the kid in question. I believe it's an investment well worth it, but a lot of people don't realize the value.

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  15. I read that article about 1 in 3 homes having no books. I can't imagine what that's like. While we have a hefty DVD collection, we still have stacked bookshelves in our front room as well.

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  16. I posted a comment on Nathan Bransford's blog about how the latest craze over e-readers gives me hope that more people are going to start reading regularly now. I do see a lot more people on the trains and buses pulling out e-readers rather than iPods. I'd probably get one too if I could afford it and if I wasn't afraid I was going to get robbed for it (it seems like these days the thieves seek out the electronic devices even more so than people's wallets).
    On the other hand, a lot of my students say they don't like to read (or maybe they just don't like the books I assign them). But they spend a lot of time reading text messages, Twitter feeds, and Facebook posts.

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  17. There is a deeply disturbing short story by Roald Dahl called 'The Great Automatic Grammatizator' that this post brought to mind. I don't think we're seeing anything like the awfulness Dahl imagined but it does beg the question of how much we need to value human creativity.

    From Wikipedia:
    The Great Automatic Grammatizator: A mechanically-minded man reasons that the rules of grammar are fixed by certain, almost mathematical principles. By exploiting this idea, he is able to create a mammoth machine that can write a prize-winning novel in roughly fifteen minutes. The story ends on a fearful note, as more and more of the world's writers are forced into licensing their names-and all hope of human creativity-to the machine.

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  18. I'm trying to be optimistic and think - well globally there are BILLIONS of people so hopefully reading globally is a more robust trend set against the onslaught of games and what not. I hope! LOL! take care
    x

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  19. Devalued. That is such a sad word.

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  20. Alarming stats. And, yes, I have to admit I do worry that reading is going out of style. :(

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  21. Linda, Yet more people are writing and publishing than ever before! Each year it is over 200K, probably well over with the proliferation of epublishing.

    Old Kitty, I am positive that it's still possible to raise book-lovers, I raised 10 of them! But it takes a concerted effort, it doesn't just happen.

    Ellen, This summary you give has unnerving parallels to today's somewhat unfortunate literary climate. Now I want to go find the story. I am a Roald Dahl fan, but somehow missed this one.

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  22. This IS sad.

    And oh no! I just read your comment on my post. I did forget the picture of Jen holding up the book. I'd better do that right now!

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  23. Hi Karen ..I don't think the kids of today can read .. so who's going to write the rules and regulations for the future .. let alone concentrate - it will be interesting to see what happens .. thanks for the thoughts .. Hilary

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  24. I think people still read... clearly, other pursuits take a more front row seat, though.

    But think about this-- even people who don't read fiction read Facebook, blogs, news stories, emails, etc. We, as a society, probably read MORE. The question is just are we getting more value out of our content?

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  25. ...the scary reality is that we're venturing ever closer to an era when the only readers in our society are writers themselves. Just one massive group of storytellers sharing our thoughts with each other while the rest of the world sits around playing X-Box. Scary indeed :(

    EL

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  26. We're bucking the trend in the land of the Bear.

    Our grandchildren have no tv and no cell phones (meaning no Facebook, etc.). So their grandma and I spend time reading to them, and letting them read to us — mostly from books. I hope they continue to like reading!

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  27. Rob, That might be why our kids turned into such avid readers. We went several years without tv, but then when we got one, and game systems, etc, the older ones were setting the example for the younger ones, and reading books, telling the younger ones what books they needed to read.

    Elliot, You are so right. Readers and writers are turning into one and the same people!

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  28. How sad. It seems to me, though, if parents set the example, their children are likely to follow. My kids were raised with books, and they're following suit with their children. I find it horrifying that there are that many homes (a THIRD?!) without a single book in them. Even a family that can't afford to actually purchase books can check them out from a library. Although books were my prized possessions when I was a kid, owning books isn't nearly as important as being exposed to them.

    On the other hand, in reference to e-books, I find it very interesting that the NY Times best seller lists now includes a separate category for e-books. (They may have been including them for some time, but our newspaper has only listed them for the past couple of weeks.) That's gotta be significant.

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  29. Perhaps we should be producing our books on MP3 and letting kids download a chapter and listen to it on their ipods.

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  30. That sounds like an excellent idea, Clarissa! Audio books are still fairly popular, relatively speaking. A friend of mine is dyslexic and far prefers audiobooks over physical books.

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  31. This makes me sad, as I watch my son play his video games.

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  32. This is the stuff of nightmares. Are we doomed? (=

    All I know is that I read constantly!

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  33. I'm glad to see that my kids still love to read, but it's true that there are so many time-sucking distractions out there.

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  34. An interesting point, Karen. I tend to think that books aren't losing their value as much as adjusting to a new economy scale. Kind of like when music started selling for .99 a song on iTunes. I think this has the potential to actually grow and expand the reading culture as it will be much more accessible for people to own books. At least I hope my theory is right!

    I really stopped by to say 'thank you' for your support during my A-Z blogging month. I've created a fun "no strings attached" blog award for you and all of the other awesome bloggers who offered feedback and encouragement.

    You can view the award and my thank you note here:
    http://the-open-vein-ejwesley.blogspot.com/2011/06/im-back-bringing-love.html

    Hope you are well and that I see you around in the future!

    EJ

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  35. Story will always be around, but not so much the book in the paper format as we know it today.

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  36. This is a great post. I say bring on the books, I'm of the belief that a good book will always find its audience.

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  37. Things are certainly turning in the world of books and publishing and authors are kind of forced to go along with the tides -pulled and pushed...

    Yours is one of the blogs I haven't been able to comment on until I realized if I put in "anonymous" it works! now I'm going to try something else ...here goes!

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  38. It's a fascinating issue. As a teacher, I constantly saw kids toting around reading books...with their pounds of textbooks. I thought life would be so much more efficient for them if they were just given a laptop or notebook and told to upload their textbooks each school year. I think kids still read, but we've seen a new outlet for kids' energy too. As long as they can still enjoy a good book and don't lose too much time on the computer, I think the technology can be good. Of course, this is a subject that I constantly change my mind about--on some days I think that even college students shouldn't be allowed to bring computers into classrooms! ;)

    Carla

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  39. Great post! I agree with Carla about the fact that kids and adults are still reading, but they are doing it more, electronically now, instead of with printed books. And the lower prices appeal to them as well as adults, as well as the convenience of instant delivery. I love my Kindle and wonder how I ever lived without it. So why not self-pub an ebook, and make it affordable for a larger number of people. And for example, $.99 X 100,000 = $100,000. and with lulu.com, the author gets 80% vs. maybe 20%, the other way. And you can still have a printed version, as they print on demand and advertise your book on their site, Amazon, and B&N, etc. That's hard to beat and of course it's Google, so their professional services are great, as well!

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  40. I agree with you, it is so sad to see books becoming something that people don't have time for or don't even care for in the least.

    My husband and I read to my daughter several times a day, every day. She is only ten-months-old but if I did not pass my love of reading on to her it would be such a tragedy.

    Instead of hours of online time, TV, and video game time, it seems like books are drowning.

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  41. I am a skills developer in the workplace. I get university graduates for training and they can't read or write except insms language. It's a truly horrid reality. The mystery to me is how they come through higher education as graduates. Ask them to read something out loud and you'll seem them squirm. This certainly does notbode well for society.

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