Ned Ryerson and the Startled Rodent

Much has been discussed about the growth (or shrinking) of digital book content delivery. I figured today was the perfect day to put in my two cents.

Here is what happened in the last few years, explaining why digital sales have slowed, as told through a little story I conjured up.

Avid book reader Barbara got up early one morning, made coffee and sat down to read with her e-reader. She noticed there was a special on eBooks, so she bought one she liked and added two more eBooks for free, happily loading all three so she could read them eventually.

 The next morning, avid book reader Barb, got up, made coffee, sat down with her e-reader and her steaming cup of joe and noticed because she bought a book yesterday, she could get three books for free, she happily loaded them on her e-reader. She would read them…eventually.

 The next morning, avid book reader Barb, got up, made coffee, sat down with her e-reader and her steaming cup of joe and noticed she could get three books for free, she happily loaded them on her e-reader. She would read them…eventually.

 The next morning, avid book reader Barb, got up, made coffee, sat down with her e-reader and her steaming cup of joe and noticed she could get three books for free, she happily loaded them on her e-reader. She would read them…eventually.

 The next morning, avid book reader Barb, got up, made coffee, sat down with her e-reader and her steaming cup of joe and noticed she could get three books for free, she happily loaded them on her e-reader. She would read them…eventually.

 The next morning, avid book reader Barb, got up, made coffee, sat down with her e-reader and her steaming cup of joe and noticed she could get three books for free, she happily loaded them on her e-reader. She would read them…eventually.

 The next morning, avid book reader Barb, got up, made coffee, sat down with her e-reader and her steaming cup of joe and noticed she could get three books for free, she happily loaded them on her e-reader. She would read them…eventually.

 The next morning, avid book reader Barb, got up, made coffee, sat down with her e-reader and her steaming cup of joe and noticed she could get three books for free, she happily loaded them on her e-reader. She would read them…eventually.

The print-loving world screamed with joy, “See, no one wants eBooks. We win!”

Authors and publishers pushed out so many books for cheap and free that e-readers are saturated, at least for a time. And sales of the various e-reader devices have flattened out because, frankly, not everyone can afford to buy one. Money doesn’t grow on trees you know.

Once we all get comfortable reading books on our smart phones like the other seven billion people in the world, digital will grow again.

Happy Groundhog Day.

 

 

15 Responses to Ned Ryerson and the Startled Rodent

  1. Avatar
    Christine Malkemes February 2, 2016 at 5:21 am #

    I get it! A virtual groundhog day over and over and over again. Like your humor. Have a great day. Still thankful for your confidence in me…. Chris

  2. Avatar
    Peter DeHaan February 2, 2016 at 5:41 am #

    Brilliant post; encouraging prediction! (Happy Groundhog Day to you, too!)

  3. Avatar
    Shelley Neese February 2, 2016 at 6:58 am #

    Well played but I still sympathize with Barbara! So many ebooks, so little time.

  4. Avatar
    Linda Sammaritan February 2, 2016 at 8:00 am #

    I’m afraid I don’t get it. Avid reader Barb ends up with an entire library on her device and never paid a cent for it, other than for her e-reader. Don’t both print pubolishers and e-publishers eventually fold?

    • Avatar
      Linda Sammaritan February 2, 2016 at 8:02 am #

      Sorry I didn’t proofread before clicking send above.

      • Dan Balow
        Dan Balow February 2, 2016 at 8:11 am #

        Ha!

        No, I think the $30 billion generated annually by the traditional publishing model will sustain companies at least for this year.

        For those who give their books away, I hope their various bills can be paid in “units” rather than “dollars.”

        😉

  5. Avatar
    Cynthia Herron February 2, 2016 at 8:53 am #

    I’m sure I’m in the minority, but please give me print books over an e-reader. I work on my computer all day. I appreciate the convenience, but my eyes simply must have a break. And call me old-fashioned, but…I love the “feel” of the book in my hands. I adore the ink-scented pages.

    And… I think to some degree “free” is/was good for a time. It’s a nice incentive, but it doesn’t necessarily generate further sales. I’m a traditional gal. I work too hard to give my work away for free. I’ve seen so many instances of this backfire. (But for folks who do prefer to work under this model, this is just my personal opinion. Please don’t throw eggs. 🙂 )

    Unless it’s a ministry that a person feels strongly about, then “a worker is worthy of his wages.” The only thing I give away for free is my blog/newsletter content because my ministry is to encourage. And if friends want to pass along something I’ve said, I always appreciate a nod of attribution and a link back. AND for heaven’s sake, if someone posts something that’s ours and claims it as their own… that’s NOT the kind of “free” that most of want anyway. Sorry, Dan. A bit of a bunny trail.

    Thanks for this!

  6. Dan Balow
    Dan Balow February 2, 2016 at 8:57 am #

    The term “free” is really another way to say, “Someone else paid for this.”

    Authors pay for free with their time and work.

  7. Avatar
    Jeanne Takenaka February 2, 2016 at 9:24 am #

    Fun and insightful post, Dan. Don’t so many of us download free ebooks with the mindset we’ll get to them . . . someday? I’m guilty, I confess.

    I see the serious side of this too. Just because this is how readers tend to function (free always sounds so good, don’tcha know), they will read at least some of those titles in time. And it will be electronically.

    That said, I’m like Cynthia. I like holding a book in my hands and turning the pages, and knowing the geography of where I am in a book (credit to Wendy Lawton for that term). I’ll read a number of the books on my reader . . . eventually.

  8. Avatar
    Carol Ashby February 2, 2016 at 10:26 am #

    I’ve been taking numerous webinars on the business and marketing aspects of writing. The “free” book is like the loss leader in a store. Someone comes for the free or ridiculously cheap item and then buys much more at the regular price. The free book offer is supposed to be for a limited time to get someone to try your work, like it, and come back for more at full price. The self-publisher works on a different sales paradigm where maximizing total income from the sum of all their books is more important than maximizing the sales income from a single title. It’s a different but effective business model.

    I’m still using the first Kindle Keyboard that I bought several years ago. I can afford a new one, but I probably won’t’ replace it until the battery stops holding a charge. I think the slowing of the rate of growth of e-reader sales might be more related to the planned obsolescence that makes us have to replace major appliances now every 7 years instead of every 20. (We just replaced a dryer we bought in 1976 – only got 39 years out of it. I hope for 10 from the new one.) It isn’t perfected for e-readers yet. Maybe readers of e-books don’t feel as compelled to have the newest hardware like the users of smart phones seem to, so we keep using the old ones until they break.

  9. Avatar
    Janet Ann Collins February 2, 2016 at 10:29 am #

    And e-readers, like other tech devices, will eventually become obsolete or wear out. But I can reread my hard copy books that are decades old.

  10. Avatar
    Heidi Gaul February 2, 2016 at 6:22 pm #

    Dan, I really loved this. It was like being told you’re pretty or smart— or that your book will be a bestseller. I read those same words over and over again, loving them more each time, because in your simple and wise way, you let us know the harsh reality. My husband calls it following the path of least resistance, building a life on whatever’s cheap and easy. The woman in your story never quite got around to reading, let alone reading something really good. Thank you for sharing humor and smarts, week after week. You make me wish I wrote non-fiction instead of fiction.

  11. Avatar
    Connie Almony February 3, 2016 at 6:31 am #

    Dan, there is definitely some truth to that! But I also think there are other factors at play. First, I want to know where the “digital sales have slowed” data came from. If it is from reader surveys, though not polling 100% of sales, and therefore having a margin of error (as in all surveys), it would likely show a better representation than what we are currently seeing with BookScan data, particularly on THIS issue. BookScan only counts books with ISBN numbers, therefore inherently favoring print books since there has been an influx of digital books on the market that do not use ISBN numbers. It is interesting that the rise of books without ISBNs has also occurred during the supposed decline of digital sales. Could it be that digital sales have only shifted to more non-numbered books, meaning those sales are not counted at all. The only thing it can show is the decline of sales of ISBN-numbered books.
    The other factor in play, the decline in sales of dedicated ereaders, can be explained by the rise of tablet sales, smartphones and apps. I no longer have a dedicated ereader though I read 98% digital books. Several members of my family now read solely from their phones and many have only just become big readers because reading is so much more convenient than it used to be. They can pull out a good book at any time they find themselves waiting.
    Though I think the above-demonstrated premise is a factor, I don’t think it tells the whole story.

  12. Avatar
    James Pepper February 4, 2016 at 2:56 am #

    Can you repeat that?

    At first we thought that publishing my handwritten illuminated manuscript of the Gospels would be far more effective as an ebook as the book is a full color book and the cost of printing scared us away. Then we found out about the pricing models of the venues and for some strange reason in 2012 the biggest one refused to put a price on my Gospels. We had to resubmit it over and over again, missing the Christmas season because of some jerk at that company decided to screw us over by setting the price to 0$ We could not get past him in the company until after the Christmas season was over. A banned book.

    But I have found through feedback that people want the printed work. To have the hands on experience of handling the pages. I am looking for a print publisher for the manuscripts and the marketing of the images. Blessed for this by Pope John Paul II, 2 Archbishops of Canterbury and 2 Archbishops of York. I am a Methodist and my work unites Christendom. Here is a link to an American Bible Society video on the Pepper Bible: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndpq4EpzvSc

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