Those who follow my blog know that I love stats, so a blog by Kathleen Jones from the Authors Electric Collective caught my attention. Kathleen takes a look at the UK publishing scene, but the numbers might also reflect North American trends. No links are provided to the source of the stats, so I’m taking this at face value. Heaven knows that numbers change weekly in this crazy biz.
First off, it will come as no surprise that the total market share for the big publishing houses is down from 70% in 2001 to 59% now. Penguin Random House alone was down by 15% in 2013, not a good sign but this doesn’t necessarily mean that it will remain this way. Assuming that these publishing houses want to stay alive, they’ll have to find new ways to market and sell books, just like the rest of us.
The self-publishing world continues to grow at a pretty healthy rate. In 2013, Lulu rose by 38% and CreateSpace sales were up by 161% in one year! It appears that a lot of self-publishers are bringing out print versions of their books. Apparently, half of all book sales in the UK (print and e-books) are now through Amazon. A few months ago, I wrote about the large number of bookstore closures over there. Clearly, Amazon is having a huge impact on book buying habits.
Kathleen refers to Nielson source which indicates that e-book sales were up by 20% in 2013. E-books accounted for 25% of all book purchases in the UK and one in five of those sales were self-published books. Paperback sales were down by 23%.
You can draw your own conclusions from these and other stats in Kathleen's blog, but it sure seems that the tough times for traditional print publishing isn’t over. As Kathleen also notes, with all those books out there, an author’s discoverability is going to become tougher as well. The tsunami of books is growing and each of us is a guppy caught in the wave. The challenge, as always, is not to drown in it.