Tuesday, June 3, 2014

BookExpo America: Book Sales, Amazon and John Grisham

Over the last week, I attended BookExpo America,  America's annual book trade show, held at New York's Jacob Javits Center, where everyone who does anything with books gathers. Even though the book business has been under pressure in recent years: people read less or seem to buy fewer books, the rise of eBooks has put more pressure on bookstores, book chains disappear, such as Border's, or face difficult times, such as Barnes & Noble, the atmosphere this year seemed optimistic. Still, some of the numbers presented in the daily BEA publication are not indicative of a healthy industry. The Codex research found that:

- Amazon's share of new book unit purchases in March was 41%, dominating 65% of all online new book units, print and digital;
- Amazon is the largest channel for eBooks, with a 67% market share in March;
- Amazon has a commanding slice of the sale of print books online, with a 64% share in March.

Nielsen Market Research found that online outlets accounted for 41% of book purchases in 2013, while bookstore chains accounted for 22%. In other words, the only two booklets with a meaningful share of eBook and print markets are Amazon (by far) and Barnes & Noble. (with a faltering eBook operation.)  If that's reason to be optimistic, then probably only if the book business would be dead that would be a worse outcome. Against this backdrop, people in the corridors were discussing the
pricing dispute between Amazon and Hachette, one of the big five trade publishers in the U.S. (although Hachette itself is a French company.) This dispute about new terms for selling Hachette's eBooks between these two giants has now become front page news, as apparently the negotiations are not going well and Amazon seems to delay shipments and prevent pre-orders of certain Hachette books.  This is not just about Hachette,

as the outcome of these negotiations will most likely influence the other big five publishers as well, whom I'm sure are holding their breath while waiting for the outcome of this dispute.

I'm ending this post with acknowledging a few authors at this BEA:  Lynnda Pollio, writer and friend, has won the 2014 Nautilus Gold Award in fiction with her novel, Trusting the Currents. Last year’s Gold award winner in Fiction was Barbara Kingsolver’s bestseller, Flight Behavior. Previous Nautilus Award recipients include The Dalai Lama, Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Desmond Tutu and Marianne Williamson. We congratulate Lynnda with this award. Last but not least, on the last day of BEA, I attended a conversation between two Southern U.S. bestselling authors, Carl Hiaasen and John Grisham, where Grisham was asked why he does not tweet. While explaining that he couldn't imagine interrupting his daily activities to write a tweet, or follow someone else's tweets, he said:" I don't want you to know what I'm doing, and I definitely don't care what you are doing." I couldn't have said it better, hear, hear!

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