Some Interesting Numbers . . .

While US numbers are kind of odd at the moment, a Vienna, Austria-based analyst started looking at European (EU) and British book sale patterns, including e-books, pricing, and audio-books. His big “take-away” is that baseline patterns have sped up, most notably for e-books and what consumers are willing to pay.

Those of us in Indie and Small Press businesses are familiar with some of these, because of Amazon and other sources. There’s a sweet spot for prices on e-books. It ain’t $14.95 US plus tax, even for a title that works out to 600 pages in print (mass market paper back). Readers are wary of free books, although they’ll nibble, and seem happiest between $1.99 and 4.99 (US). More than that unless you are a major, well-known author seems to reduce sales, although I’ve seen a lot of back and forth on that and my own numbers are, let’s just call them Odd.

The following is from Publishing Perspectives interview:

Wischenbart tells Publishing Perspectives in an exchange prior to his presentation online today, that the status quo before the COVID-19 crises was already characterized by “some significant developments and challenges.” He lists:

  • A growing pressure on prices in the digital offer
  • Consumers who naturally switch between digital and analog formats
  • Consumers who similarly switch between reading and listening—or may be gradually changing their primary mode
  • Purchase vs. subscription
  • Streaming capabilities and library lending
  • Steady growth in downloaded audiobook sales, although the format’s sector remains a small percentage of most markets—in the audio-friendly US market, for example, 8.9 percent in March, per the Association of American Publishers’ StatShot

[End Quote]

As far as pricing:

“Consumers willingly paid just under €5 (US$5.58) and just under €10 (US$11.16) for ebooks.

“For downloaded audiobooks, they paid up to just under €13 (US$14.51).

“Publishers certainly earn money with higher-priced offers with comparatively low sales,” Wischenbart says, “up to €15 euros for an ebook and more than €20 euros per download for the audiobook. But the price trend was clearly pointing downward.”

Wischenbart says he sees a hardening of the price ceiling in Spain and Italy, he says, where before the pandemic hit, €10 had become the most that consumers would pay to download an ebook. And overall, he says, the trend was universal toward “the cheapest offers” in the digital markets he was studying.

[End Quote]

Now, the EU and UK markets are not the US. The governments there play different roles, and print sales are still the number one focus. I love being able to poke through three small book stores in a four block area and find different local history and such books in each one. The Tyrolia Books shop behind Stephansdom in Vienna . . . Well, I leave a lot of Euros on the counter there every time I go. But those are very specific titles and I’m a very strange and specific reader, who also uses for German-language books.

The trends, however, are intriguing. I’d recommend reading the full article for some food for thought. For most of us here, the EU and UK markets are not areas we really focus on. However, the patterns are interesting, especially the last bit about how high priced, best-seller e-books are becoming so important to publishers. That’s going to keep hammering the mid-list authors hard, just as in the US.

At the Readmagine Conference Online: The Pandemic’s ‘Acceleration of Trends’


  1. One thing I wonder about is whether any inability to film new content for television will affect the reading market. We watch Blacklist at my house, and that show gave us its most recent episode partly in animation.

    1. That’s a very good question. We might see a rise in sales of tie-in books, although those seem a lot more common for video games than TV. It would be fun to see if you could market books using “If you like ‘The Expanse’ or ‘The Orville’, you’ll love [sci-fi exploration book].”

  2. Depending on the author, I will pay up to $9.99 for an ebook (I have to know and really like the author.)

    There is precisely ONE tradpub author right now that I am willing to cough up $15 for a new ebook–Simone St. James, because she writes my rare-and-perfect catnip of “1920s suspense with ghosts.” But she only puts out a book every 2-3 years, so it’s not so bad.

    (I am tentatively willing to pay full or near-full price for Pat Briggs’ latest Mercy novel….but I gotta catch up first.)

    Although there are contributors to this blog that I would also pay that much for–but thankfully I don’t have to, because they are wise and put their ebooks out at more reasonable prices (and I buy more of their stuff accordingly).

    1. I will pay $8.99-$14.99 for an author only if:
      1.) they’re one of my trad-pub favourites and the last one was so good I really can’t wait for this one, or
      2.) They’re someone I’ve been following and using their free resources for a while, so this is payback / they’re someone who’s interview I liked and I really want to see how they went more in-depth in a specific subject in the book.

      So if you’re not Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher, or other very small fiction shortlist, then you’re, ah… Michael J Durant’s book on the 160th SOAR, Tom Satterly’s book on the problems SF have on the homefront, both on personal assimilation into the civilian world and especially the impact on their dependents… yeah, that’s pretty much it in the last 6 months.

      The last two I bought in print were both cookbooks.

  3. When I look at an e- book to purchase, I keep firmly in mind that I will not own that book. I will only have access to it as long as Amazon allows me to. Very different situation from buying a real book that I do own. Vision issues make print books a struggle so getting one is rare.

    I am aware of the ability to download some e-books so that they can’t be remotely deleted but I rarely make the effort for 99% of my purchases.

    I either borrow the print version of expensive stuff from the local library or just skip reading it. Lower prices books from a very few authors, and only ones with lots of good reviews I will consider buying but my budget is a couple a month. Everything else is free sample books or KU.

    1. Well, my policy as a writer is that when you click that “Buy Now” button, you own one copy of my work. Until you transfer it to someone else as a sale or a gift, it is yours. (After the transfer, you no longer own it, and are doing me wrong if you keep a copy.)

      When I buy a book, it gets downloaded to my Kindle for PC and the Fire. The PC file gets backed up in the normal cycle, so they have at most 24 hours to take it back away from me. None of the extremely few DRM books that I have bought have been “discontinued,” so I haven’t had to face the (minor) ethical issue of cracking the backup copy. Yet.

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