I haven’t analysed how much money I spend proportionally on hardcover, paperback, audio or ebooks each year but know it is not as predicted several years back. The truth is, I spend almost as much money on traditionally bound books as the other two combined rather than my expenditure slowing to a trickle, as expected.
It appears I am not alone.
It seemed reasonably logical that ebooks would more than just dominate the market but virtually eliminate bricks and mortar competition. The rise and rise of Amazon and a host of new e-readers seemed to suggest this would be the case. It was and is easy to install a free app and read on a tablet or phone. More and more younger people are listening to audiobooks in their cars and via their devices. Angus and Robertson was one of the casualties that apparently provided evidence that this seismic move away from printed books was inevitable.
The music industry has been radically transformed in the last decade and “record stores” have all but disappeared. Books are different it seems. They cannot be streamed and three minutes later a new one appear on your device and through one’s earphones. It is easy to pirate music but the advent of inexpensive streaming services has greatly reduced costs and most would hardly find it worth doing. It is also easy to pirate audio or ebooks but one suspects that many of the potential audience does not have the stomach for this or lacks the technical skills. Maybe they just have enough money to not make it worth it.
Books are still expensive. The rise of audio and ebooks have not reduced the prices of printed copies significantly but we still keep buying them. Nor have the prices for any kind of book been reduced due to competition from illegal downloading. Last month I purchased hardbacks by Tim Winton and Simon Schama, as well as the new one by Kerry O’Brien about Keating. Two of these are signed. I regularly buy all kinds of printed treasures and mementoes to sit on the shelf and to take into the backyard where I sit and read with green tea.
In the last week I have spend over $200 on books ordered for my children, including Christmas and other rewards for jobs well done but have not walked into a bookstore since being in London last month. I suspect the reason so many traditionally bound books enter our home is Booko.com.au! I love that it is so easy to type in a title and get the prices, including delivery, for just about every conceivable option an Australian reader has to get a book delivered to the door – often very quickly. Often, hard to get titles are found secondhand.
Booko is great for gifts too. Recently I ordered a book that I knew my Dad would love and within minutes of buying the email came saying it was winging its way to his mailbox.
Our children (through my largesse) support the local bookshop reasonably well but I only buy a few books a year. They like to browse and go home with a glittering prize. The bookshop is around the corner from the library so if we have no luck borrowing I often weaken and let them buy books (and knowing it is essential we have a local bookstore am happy to do it). Kiama is a great place to live but I do miss being in Sydney or London where one has such a large number of disparate bookshops to browse.
I certainly give Amazon far too much money (and was very unhappy with them last year but that has been sorted out). I suspect that the sample chapters, tweet quotes or post on Facebook from the app, plus the ability to clip highlights that are then easily accessible are important functions for a social reader but the habit of instant book gratification, when I read a review or come across a new title, is a reason why I stick with them. I really like Audible (Australian link) who are part of the Amazon web too. Kiama library saves me from going completely broke.
These suggestions will assist if are really interested in analysing the national data about book sales.
What have you noticed about your spending patterns on all book formats?
I will be in New York next April-May and am making a list of destinations. What bookshops would you recommend?
Featured image: flickr photo by Darcy Moore http://flickr.com/photos/darcymoore/22857230665 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license