ebooks vs print books

e-Book Reading on Smartphones in the Future?




The publishing world was turned upside down when the first e-books appeared 15 – 20 years ago.  The Kindle e-reader was not the first, but it is until now the most famous e-reader and helped Amazon to built their e-book imperium.  When you check out the 2015 e-book reader rating, one of the many Kindle types that are now on the market, the Voyage, is the “Gold Award Winner #1” for 2015. #2 is the NOOK GlowLight, then the Kobo Aura H20, and then another Kindle, the Paperwhite.  At least in North America these are the most popular e-readers.  In Europe it looks a bit different, at least in Germany, the Tolino is on its way to surpass the Kindle.

Contrary to early predictions, not the e-reader – but the smartphone will be driving the future e-book sales.

Tablets such as the iPad or the Kindle Fire are currently the most popular (41%) platform to read e-books, 11 % more than three years ago, but 3% less than last year. However it’s not e-readers that will be driving future books sales, it’s the phone. But people who read primarily on phones has risen to 14% in the first quarter of 2015 – from 9% in 2012, according to a Nielsen survey. And about 54% of e-book buyers said they used smartphones to read their books sometimes.

Meanwhile, those reading mainly on e-readers, such as Kindles and Nooks, decreased over the same period to 32% from 50%. Wattpad, the serial publishing platform, explains that phones are encouraging people to read more. 90% of their 40 million monthly users read on mobile devices. Nearly two-thirds of respondents who read on their phones said they do it, because they didn’t have their e-reader or tablet with them.

Reasons to Read on the Phone
It might be convenience. If you’re standing in line at the grocery store or the bus stop, waiting at the doctors or dentists office or riding home on the subway, you may not have a print book or an e-reader or tablet with you.  But chances are, you are carrying a smartphone.  And I have even seen people reading on their smartphones while pushing their baby’s strollers or walking their dog in the park – where certainly audiobook would be much more appropriate and practical.  Around 65% of American adults now own a smartphone, and predictions are that in a couple of years it will be over 80%
The size and clarity of new smartphone models, are making e-book reading easier – if you have good eyes I might add.  The release of the iPhone 6 series, Apple has seen an increase in the number of people downloading books through its iBooks app.  And among all new Amazon customers using Kindles or the Kindle app, phone readers are by far the fastest-growing segment.

Free Reading on SmartPhones at Trains and Airports
Publishers are now experimenting with ways to make themobile-reading experience better. They are designing book jackets with smartphone screens in mind. Simon &Schuster for example offers free e-books at hotels and airport lounges in New York, California, Missouri, Florida, Texas and Hawaii. Users can read as much of each book as they like forfree, while they stay within the prescribed geographical area. And Penguin Random House introduced free excerpts of e-books on Amtrak’s Acela Express trains. Online e-book retailers, such as Amazon, Google, Apple and Barnes&Noble offer smartphone apps for e-book reading.  They automatically sync all devices linked to the same account, so a reader can open an e-book on her phone and pick up exactly where she left off the night before on her e-reader or tablet.

The literary world is divided over whether a phone can deliver the experience of deep, concentrated reading. Scholars who study the subject note that smartphones are an important part of the effort to improve literacy in developing countries where books and computers are out of reach for many people. Reading on a phone is better than not reading at all, these experts all agree.

Drawbacks of Phone Reading
A neuroscientist who studies the reading brain: “For most people, a phone will make concentrated reading more difficult – if not impossible. It’s not as easy to share an e-book with friends as you can with print books. Many people still read in print part of the time. If deep, concentrated reading is possible despite the ringing, buzzing and alerts that come with phones – I am not sure. Phones will certainly not replace print books altogether. However, one should stop worrying about how other people are reading, and be glad that they are reading at all.

Phone Tips for eBook Readers
The blogger at EbookFriendly advises: “The underestimated power of smartphones is that they are great testing devices. If you want to try ebooks, it doesn’t mean you have to immediately buy a Kindle. Just get a free Kindle application for you mobile phone and you’ll learn – in no time – about all advantages of ebook reading.  Standard features of book reading applications are:

  • customization of font size and typeface
  • themes or backgrounds to choose from (at least day and night mode)
  • text highlighting, note taking, bookmarks
  • dictionary and reference
  • instant access to ebooks stored in your cloud library
  • syncing bookmarks and latest read locations
  • ability to add your own books

Book reading apps usually let you discover new books within the app. The exception is iOS, where this quite obvious feature is offered only by the Apple’s e-reading app iBooks. Find more tips on his blog. Smartphones are multi-purpose devices.  Reading ebooks will never be their primary purpose.  But they are extremely helpful in extending book reading to “not planned” places and circumstances.”  Read the article here.

What About Audiobooks?
The question is whether the phone is appropriate for long-form reading, if other options are available. Audiobooks are certainly an even better way of “reading” as you can listen to your favored book – hands-free – even if you are exercising in the gym or do intense gardening.  I personally love listening to audiobooks, especially on long road trips, when discerning radio stations are not available and I have listened too many times to the same CD’s.  In many cases, audiobooks have also proven successful in helping students to access literature and enjoy books.

More on this topic:
The best phone screens are listed in a Cnet.com article

Why digital reading before sleeping is not a good idea

How to conserve your smartphone battery



eBook or Print Book? Short Answer: All Three

Not only eBook AND print, but ALSO audio!


A survey of book-buying behavior from Nielsen “Books & Consumers”, listed sales of books from January through September 2014:

  • eBooks accounted for 32 per cent of book unit sales
  • Paperback books made up 43 per cent of book unit sales
  • Hardcover books were 25 per cent of book unit sales

Surveys measured ONLY trade publishers who delivered to bookstores and large online retailers. Numbers of author-publishers (often without an ISBN) are different, but one can see that print books are still relevant.

eBook Sales by Online Retailer
Amazon continues to be the leader with 57 per cent of readers reporting buying e-books through this retailer in 2014.  Amazon’s closest competitor is Barnes & Noble, where 14 per cent of reader purchased ebooks via the Nook store in 2014, and 6 per cent of readers reported buying e-books through the Apple store.

Selling both print and digital copies of your books, you have your basis covered for maximizing book sales.

eBooks vs Print Books – Some Things To Consider
Obviously eBooks are easier and cheaper to publish, whereas there are more costs associated with a print book. With a digital version, you can get your book out quickly and offer it at a lower price, which in turn means they can publish books more frequently.
The growth of e-book sales is increasing in other parts of the world.  This will especially be seen in all developing countries where the use of smartphones is growing, allowing readers easy access to digital books.  So make sure that your e-books are available for sale worldwide and tap into this growing e-book market.

When weighing the decision between e-books vs print books, determine which book version your audience usually purchases.  For example romance and erotic books are usually only read as e-books.  But for all other genres are other reasons why you should have both:

  • You can give out review copies to newspaper/magazine or book blog reviewers
  • To be hosted at local media / TV interviewers who want to see/show a copy of your book
  • To sell your book easier to libraries
  • To participate in a Goodreads Giveaway
  • To sell your book to those who really don’t want an e-Reader or just love paper books
  • If you write non-fiction it is almost a MUST to have it in print
  • You have an ISBN number and can get listed with Bowker at WORLDWIDE bookstores
  • Physical books are just nicer to give on Christmas – unless you put an e-book on a new e-Reader and wrap it
  • To sell more e-books!  Yes – because they seem to cost so much less in comparison to your print book
  • To list your book in more categories / genres on Amazon: per book type you are allowed to choose two categories / genres.  Two print and two digital versions – which increases your book’s visibility and also shows you exactly in which genre you have the most success.

Why an Audio-Book?
Stephen King just released a new short story as an AUDIO-BOOK exclusive!
And Bob Mayer, successful author of more than 50 books, explains: “Initially, as I learned how to use ACX, (Amazons Audio Book Company) I moved slowly, with only one other title going live that month. Since then, though, as I saw sales accelerate, I began putting multiple titles into production. Just recently, my 27th title went live.”

There are so Many Benefits of Audio-Books:
Listening let’s you multitask while driving long distance, walking the dog, or laying on the beach. And certainly a wonderful way for blind people to easily enjoy books. Audio-books can be listened to on an iPod or iPhone / SmartPhone or MP3 player, even on most e-readers such as Kindle and Nook.
Each Book Format has its Advantages:
Readers might prefer physical books when it’s something that they need to reference; or just for the pleasure of holding a book in their hands.  With
e-books you’re buying the license, not the actual books. What if you install the Kindle application on a lot of devices, but the book you buy only allows 4 devices? Often readers prefer e-books with fiction, and print with non-fiction.  While traveling or jogging they might enjoy audio-book.  It might be really smart to offer books in a variety of formats: print, digital and audio.




How Newspapers / Magazines Deceive Readers

A Joke? Statistics about the numbers of e-Books versus print books – taken from companies that sell only print books? Yes, that’s right – or have you ever purchased an e-book at WalMart, Costco, Sam’s Club, Target or K-Mart? How can statistics be true if one (large) part of the measurement is not taken?



Flawed Survey, Sloppy Research, No Fact-Checking…
“Print Books Still Outselling e-Books” or “Print Books Outsold Ebooks In First Half Of 2014” are the big headlines these days at newspapers and magazines, from PublishersWeekly to GoodeReader and Huffington Post.
“According to Nielsen’s survey, e-books constituted only 23 percent of unit sales for the first six months of the year, while hardcovers made up 25 percent and paperback 42 percent of sales.”

What’s NOT Included in these Articles:

  • The fact that NielsenScan covers a maximum of 75% of the US and UK book market
  • NielsenScan does NOT count e-books at all! How can they compare print vs e-books?
  • From which book retailers and which publishers – trade and / or independent publishers?
  • Does it include used book sales or only new books? Just launched books or back lists? Book retailers usually stock only new books…
  • In which countries are these stats taken – probably it means just the USA.   But after all we are on the world-wide web, right?  And in countries who are avid e-book readers, the picture looks completely different, e.g. the Netherlands, who has more e-book readers than the UK, or Germany.
  • According to Nielsen: “Library, professional, corporate, premium, export, and some specialty retail sales are not included in the BookScan physical panel.
  • NielsenScan does NOT report any Print-on-Demand books including CreateSpace!
  • Amazon reminds authors:
    “Note about Amazon print sales: Sales reported depends on which retailers selling your book and participate in Nielsen BookScan, and whether your book is registered with one of the companies from which Nielsen derives its list of reported ASINs. If your book is registered with the Ingram Company, for example, you will see sales info. If your book is Print on Demand, your publishing company may not report ISBNs to Ingram and you may not see sales information. If a disproportionate number of your books are sold by stores that do not report to Nielsen, your sales information may underestimate your total sales.”
    These are the Facts:
  • Millions of independent published books, Print-on-Demand books and e-books as well as retailers are NOT included at all in Nielsen’s statistics
  • How wrong Nielsen’s numbers are, can be found in several articles, one of these on Forbes, where authors proofed their royalty statements, that have completely different book sales numbers.
  • NielsenScan covers only major book chains and mass markets, such as WalMart, Costco, Sam’s, Target or K-Mart in the United States and Great Britain. Presently they try to target the Australian market.
  • Amazon cautions: Most Amazon print sales are included in the sales figures; however, Kindle or other e-Book sales are NOT included because those figures are NOT reported by Nielsen BookScan.


A Harvard University Article Explains:
“Prior to BookScan, the only source for market data for some individual titles were Best Seller lists, compiled by publications such as the New York Times that survey selections of book stores from which they generate estimates of rankings. However, these published lists don’t indicate how many copies of a book have sold or the relative sales among books on the lists.”
“Since 2009, BookScan does supply weekly “book charts” to the Wall Street Journal, but they are just best seller lists. The bottom line is, only book publishers have comprehensive sales data, and they don’t usually make it public. Strange as it may seem, we know of no reliable, publicly-available way to get comprehensive statistics for book sales at this time. Nielsen BookScan, which reports point-of-sale data, but even that claims to represent only 75% of all retail sales!”
“If you are looking for current sales figures, you can use Amazon.com to get a general idea, although it relies on very recent numbers, so the figures are not really accurate. The “Author Central” feature on Amazon.com does provide BookScan data to current authors only.”

How Bestsellers Are “Made” by NielsenScan

“Bestseller doesn’t necessarly mean it is a terrific book, worth to read. It rather shows a 2-3 week old sales statistic of books that sold well in chain bookstores and at independent booksellers, who are connected in a certain country (e.g. USA or UK) to Nielsen BookScan which currently covers approximately 75% of retail sales.”

To Compare e-Book Sales with Print Sales
Paper books and e-books will co-exist peacefully.  Most book lovers read their favoured titles not only in print, but as well in e-book format.  A comparison of e-book sales with print sales will NEVER show the real numbers!  Good only for a catchy headline, but it lacks the journalistic facts: who, when, where, what, why and how.
If Nielsen wants to deliver serious stats, they would have to be done world-wide, at all book retail outlets and all publishers – small, big, trade or independent.  So, if someone is stating statistics they need to be explained: from which country and which retailers those “statistics” are rendered and that they not show the real picture – especially when they are taken from retailers who DO NOT sell e-books at all.  It’s like comparing apples and pears, don’t take them seriously!

BookBoon Offers Everyone to Participate in a Survey:
“In June 2014 we started a new eBook survey to get an idea of the latest trends. Please help us by answering our 11 questions (takes maximum 2 minutes). At the end of the survey you can see the preliminary results. Click here to start the survey.”


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Tagged: Bestseller Lists, book statistics, BookBoon, Compare e-book sales, ebooks vs print books, New York Times, Nielsen BookScan, NY Times bestseller

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