The shift to ebooks

Here's something of a future shock for you: a couple of months back I signed up to a free online service called NovelRank.com that purports to provide a reasonably accurate estimate of how many copies of a particular title you sell through Amazon on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. This isn't the kind of information Amazon are actually inclined to give away - they still haven't to my knowledge yet given a figure, for instance, on just how many Kindles they've actually sold, for instance - so by means of some comparative algorithm (one assumes) the aforementioned website provides a best-guess figure.

What's interesting about this is that I just checked the sales of the Nova War paperback on that site and assuming it's in the least bit accurate, Nova War has sold approximately three times as many ebook copies in the UK as it has in paperback. Three times. If you listen to most technology/publishing pundits, they'll tell you that ebook sales are already accounting for 10% of overall sales, but assuming NovelRank.com's guesstimate is anywhere near accurate, I'm shifted pretty far along the bell curve and away from the average author.

The effect gets even more pronounced when I look at the sales of Stealing Light in paperback and ebook format over at Amazon.com (the aforementioned sales for Nova War were lifted, by contrast, from Amazon.co.uk). Over there, where the paperback of Stealing Light is relatively expensive and/or hard to get hold of, the ebook version is - by electronic guesstimate - selling six times as many copies.

There are two reasons I can see for this: one - the people who buy my books tend to be drawn, I suspect, from relatively technical backgrounds, or are at the very last early and enthusiastic adopters of new technology - like, say, Ipads and Kindles. This is one reason there was a fairly strong early bias towards sf and fantasy in the first online ebook retailers like Fictionwise. Secondly, and perhaps just as importantly, the ebook versions are a good bit cheaper: $10.79 for the paperback of Stealing Light - but only $6.89 for the ebook over at Amazon.com. Back on Amazon.co.uk, the paperback of Nova War goes for only slightly more than the ebook version, but the price difference is, I suspect, significant enough on a psychological level.

So there you go. Judging by my own rough estimates, the ebook revolution is most certainly here.


LINCARD1000 said...

Not sure if the revolution is here yet, given the cost disparity between ebooks and their dead-tree equivalents. Unfortunately despite the fact that there is very little cost for a publisher compared with a printed version, the pricing difference is still too small to make it that attractive to a mass-market.

There are also still a significant number of people out there who value having something physical for their money, not just an intangible electronic version :-)

All that said, you're probably right though - readers of "hard sf" are probably more likely to embrace such technology :-)

I've got the first two Shoal novels in dead-tree format, so will probably stick with that when I manage to find a copy of the 3rd novel as well :-P

Andrew said...

I bought your third shoal book from W H Smith ebook shop for my Sony Reader. I had to wait a month following the release to do so.

I generally read SF genre books only, with some crap fantasy mixed in.

I am increasingly frustrated that publishers are releasing books to amazon for the kindle rather than for readers which use the epub format.

I really don't like the look of the kindle and do not want to be tied down to one book seller.

This is why I can't read other authors like neal asher or peter hamilton (although you can buy them from american websites if you can get round the country boundary problem).

This is surely a major issue for book piracy. If you are unable to purchase a book legally I am sure some will visit torrent sites to download poor quality pdf's produced using OCR.

I have never done this, but have considered buying the paperback solely to have the moral authority to download a dodgy pdf to read my favourite authors work.