Publishers don’t know how much they’re making on ebooks, and other neat facts

Aptara released the results of a survey today. They surveyed a group of 600+ publishers on the various things they're doing with ebooks. If you want, you can find the complete report here.There are a bunch of interesting details in this report, like more of the respondents prefer the iPad over the Kindle (with PC in 3rd place). Think about that. The iPad was only released this year.

My next interesting bit of data is that 62% of publishers don't know their ROI on ebooks. That raises a question in my mind. If they don't know the ROI, then how can they justify Agency pricing?

Aptara was a little surprised by the only 7% of respondents who are currently making enhanced ebooks. I'm not surprised. An enhanced ebook can have a lot of extra cost, and given that most publishers don't know their current ebook ROI I don't blame them for not throwing more money down a hole.

Format support was also interesting. More publishers support PDF and Epub that support the Kindle. PDF support doesn't surprise me but Epub support does. Perhaps publishers aren't being swept up in the Kindle media hype.

I'm even more surprised that Mobipocket is still hanging on. Didn't Amazon kill it? Also, given that Kindle and Mobi are the same format, I'm surprised that there is a difference in the number of publishers who support them

About Nate Hoffelder (11794 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

3 Comments on Publishers don’t know how much they’re making on ebooks, and other neat facts

  1. Perhaps publishers aren’t being swept up in the Kindel media hype.

    I think it has more to do with publishers not wanting to support Kindle because of the difficulties they had with pricing of ebooks on Amazon. A highly public fight with a retailing giant does not usually engender goodwill toward that retailer by the manufacturer.

  2. Some pretty easy answers to most of this.

    ROI is tough right now because ebooks have a long, long tail. Publishers are used to thinking about books more or less like “produce”. You put the tomatoes up on the store shelf, and they have a shelf life. They sell for a while, then sales dwindle, and you pull the book to put another one up. Ebooks right now are the opposite, with sales on many books actually *rising* month by month, slowly gaining ground. In part, that’s because ebook market share has been going up a percent a month all year, which is sort of like saying a million more people are buying ebooks each month than were the month prior.

    But it’s partly because we have no idea yet how long an ebook will sell for. It costs nothing to “stock” one, so an ebook could in theory sell for a decade. Or more. At a decent, steady rate the entire time.

    Publishing has no models for this. Publishers can extrapolate from first month print sales to pretty reliably predict the ‘shelf life’ and total sales of a print book, but there’s simply not enough data yet to predict long term ebook sales. We’re all in uncharted territory on this.

    Enhanced books are still a couple generations of ereader away. Publishers aren’t sure yet what the heck “enhanced” is going to be, for one thing, and finding out is going to require risking enough capital to make people nervous.

    What sort of enhancement are we talking about? Video, that can’t be used at all on the nearly 10 million eInk devices out there? Audio, which is expensive to produce? And what sort of audio? Sound tracks for books? Audio format for the book – something that often sells for $20-30 a book? Not something you bundle with a $9.99 ebook. People are still feeling their way with “enhancements”.

    For formats, I am going to guess that most of the publishers surveyed were not producing mass market books. For mass market consumer books (novels, general nonfiction, and such), you would see nearly 100% AZW adoption AND nearly 100% ePub adoption. It’s cheap and easy to kick a book up to Amazon and B&N, and between them they have 90% of the consumer ebook market, so everyone is doing those two. PDF is largely dead on the consumer level ebook, but we’re still seeing some of it because it’s readable on both Kindle and Nook. Mobi is still being heavily used because it’s the Kindle format ebook that doesn’t need to be sold on Amazon – so authors selling for Kindle software devices from their website sell mobi, for instance (so they can get 100% of those sales instead of 70%). Smashwords sells mobi for Kindle users. And anyone else starting an ebook store who wants “in” on the 75% of users who read with Kindle software (on whatever device) will sell mobi as well – it just makes sense. (Yes, I am looking at Google like they’re nuts on this one.)

    Hope this helps some. 😉

  3. I am an author and I am co authoring a book with a friend. We are looking to getting our book on Kindle. I have done a little research and I believe it is a good prospect to submit our book to Kindle because we will have more creative control over our work. In addition, we get 70%of royalities.

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