Thad McIlroy has an interesting discussion of The Wall Street Journal‘s article about the Sourcebooks decision to withhold an e-book edition of its big Fall book. He raises a couple questions based on statements in recent coverage of e-books, including whether people who buy e-books also buy and read paper books, as well as whether graphics-intensive books would be better in paper than on the Kindle.
I think the Journal’s reported “one to two percent” of book sales now being accounted for by electronic publishing is well above the real number. I’ve looked at a lot of publishers reports and the aggregate industry figures, and it appears that the correct range of e-book revenue as a percentage of total publishing revenue is between 1/10th of one percent and a half percent. As a share of units sold, e-books account for two to three times the revenue figures, because e-books are sold at a deep discount to paper editions.
Amazon’s numbers suggest that Kindle users frequently buy both the paper and e-book version of a title in order to read in different settings. Frequently does not mean the majority, but the statements by Jeff Bezos last fall and in January were unequivocal, Kindle sales have not cannibalized paper sales and the Kindle buyer buys more books than the ordinary Amazon book customer. There’s no evidence that Kindle readers don’t read paper books or vice versa and, the categorical statement that no Kindle buyer also buys paper books is clearly incorrect. I buy both, choosing formats for different kinds of uses.