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
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.
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 Amazon.de 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.