In intriguing but perhaps not sign-of-a-radical-shift news: Publishers Weekly reports that ebook sales were up in May, making it the first time in two years there’s been an increase in ebook sales from one month to next.
Why is this intriguing? Because every year since ebook sales peaked in 2013, sales have dropped. Double-, even triplet-digit drops. Ebooks account for about 23% of the industry’s annual unit sales, so even an upward blip on the sales graph registers attention.
Why have ebook sales been dropping? Device fatigue remains a commonly cited factor. Also, dedicated e-readers are decreasing in use, and those folks were buying a good chunk of the ebooks. Last year also saw the impact of our return to the agency pricing model for ebooks. The 2015 Department of Justice ruling called for that pricing. Now, ebooks run you about $9 for a trade title. Numbers suggest consumers aren’t thrilled about that. Self- published ebook prices aren’t affected by the ruling.
This has all been happening as print book sales went on the rise. Yep: Peeps are buying bound books. Unit sales for hardcover books went up 5% in 2016. That’s the first time hardcovers have outsold e-books since 2011. Seems consumers are migrating back to print.
This May uptick PW reports is a fact; I’m curious about the reasons behind it. Personally, I’ve started reading more ebooks lately. I’m now filling standing-in-line or waiting-for-the-kids moments—when I’d previously dip into the news stream to pass a moment or two—with dips into a book. Many Americans, no matter where they are on the socio political spectrum, are feeling news fatigue. I am one of them. By dipping into books, I’m giving myself moments of escape and delivering creative inspiration via drip-feed throughout my day. And being an author and an editor, I’m contributing to my knowledge base and expertise.
I’ve long listened to audiobooks while exercising and doing housework. Tapping open my mobile reader for a moment of literary succor while moving about my daily business is a welcome addition. Perhaps others are doing the same? I’ll be watching ebook performance.