I read recently that there has been a decline in the sale of eBooks. I was surprised by this because it has seemed to me that more and more people are reading books on Kindles, iPhones and tablets and so on.
I was also intrigued by the idea that eBooks were not doing so well because I'm a big fan of the eBook - I've mentioned more than once how much I love my Kindle!
I decided to do a bit of sleuthing and what I found was rather interesting. It appears that we are definitely witnessing a decline in eBook sales, while we are witnessing a boom in eBook sales! Are you confused? I was.
The problem was that depending on who you listen to, or in my case, what article I read, we either are or are not.
For example, according to Publisher's Weekly, eBook sales are declining to the point where they are affecting the financial performance of companies like HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster - two of the big guys.
Read further and the article explains that while eBooks are in a downward trend, the sale of digital audio is on the rise. What I don't understand is whether digital audio refers to music or audio books as well. Anyway, that's one side of the coin.
On the other side is Amazon's denial that eBooks are in decline. In an article I read on Fortune, the apparent reduction in e-sales represents the market share of traditional publishers declining as more people turn to independent ePublishing. In many cases, these books are being published without the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) that was always one of those things you or your publisher just applied for as normal part of the publishing process.
It worries me that so many independently published books are not getting ISBNs. It's worrying because the purpose of an ISBN is to create a unique identifier for your book. Without it you'll never get your book on a book shelf in a store.
Why is this a problem? Well I've talked in the past about vanity publishing and the increasing number of rubbish books available for purchase online. These books are poorly written, badly - if at all - edited and serve to rip off the unsuspecting purchaser and allow the writer bragging rights about being a published writer.
If you don't apply for an ISBN for your book, what you're telling me is that you're not serious about the publishing game - you just want to get your book online, as quickly and cheaply as possible so you can start bragging about it.
It's not like an ISBN is expensive - a single ISBN in Australia will only set you back about $45!
This argument is borne out by the fact that many ePublishers are reporting higher sales but lower revenue. What does that say? That says that they're selling large volumes of cheap books. More expensive books are not selling.
Maybe the humble reader can't find them in the mounds of el-cheapo independently published books that are cluttering up the eStores. Like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack!
This is a huge problem for those of us who love books, whether we're readers or writers, because it means that to buy an online book means you are required to wade through piles of garbage to find one sparkling gem.
I alluded to this a couple of weeks ago when I wrote about All the light we cannot see. What a find that was! A treasure to be sure, but I was close to the end of my tether at the time I found it.
So are eBooks on the decline or not? I still don't have a satisfactory answer to that, but if they are, the ePub companies only have themselves to blame.
How about being a bit more stringent about who publishes? How about insisting on an ISBN? How about making it more expensive to ePublish and that the cost includes a professional editing service before the poor unsuspecting reader lays out their cash - in good faith - in the hope of an entertaining, well written, book without spelling or grammatical errors.
Well, perhaps these ideas are not practical. I can see that they may infringe certain freedoms of expression, but seriously, if it's good enough for print publishers to vet their material before putting their name to it, why can't it be good enough for ePubs to do the same?
Ultimately, I believe that ePublishing is here to stay - and I still love my Kindle - but if serious readers are turning away from eBooks and returning to physical book stores, the ePublishers need to have a good look at the reasons.
Until next week, keep reading. There are good books out there!
P.S. It may be a coincidence, but Amazon is offering a $20 discount on some Kindles. Not sure what the Ts & Cs are or if this offer is available in Australia but might be worth checking out.