The print & digital self-pub service Lulu shared some rather disturbing details in a press release yesterday. Well, it's probably going to disturb anyone opposed to $10 ebooks; as for me, I'm thrilled.
Lulu was an early self-pub pioneer when it got its start 10 years ago as a POD service. This long predates the ebook explosion, and Lulu's solid core of creators (now over 1 million) gave Lulu a unique vantage point to watch the change int the book market when Lulu started offering ebooks.
Do you know how the Price Fix 6 said that they needed to prop up the price of ebooks so they didn't cannibalize print sales? According to Lulu, that doesn't happen.
What Lulu.com has found is that each of the two types of formatting tends to help fuel the sale of the other. Those authors who publish their book in both print and e-book format tend to sell double the amount of books, because it is available in the format that the reader prefers. While someone may read an e-book and recommend it to someone else, that person may go on to buy a print version of the book, or vice versa.
Print still makes up the majority of Lulu's sales (68%), though it only accounts for less than a third of new titles produced. What's more, ebook titles are growing much faster than Lulu's print catalog.
If Lulu's experience tells us anything, it's that the digital customers are an addition to the print customers, not an exchange. That would tend to disprove the belief that ebooks cannibalize.
As interesting as the above data might be, Lulu left out a number of useful details from the press release (found over at DBW). For example, they mention how ebooks are growing faster but they leave out what percentage of their catalog is print vs digital. Elsewhere on their site they mention having 1.2 million titles and growing by 20 thousand new titles each month.
I suppose this seems like a digression from the topic but I don't think so. While I might primarily write about ebooks, I try to watch what's going on for all types of self-publishing. It's not uncommon to see a creator move across several categories. While music and video is the line most commonly crossed, moving from music into books isn't so rare anymore. I'd say that the dividing line between cartoons and picture books is more of a smudge mark than a line. And as we get better tools, this kind of thing will be more common.
In my opinion, the interesting stuff we see in the next couple years will be crossover type of content, and we're already just beginning to see some of it come out of iBooks Author. I'm looking forward to it.