Historical and Contemporary Romance Author

Print vs Digital Sales: An Addendum

Today, Hugh Howey provided an update to yesterday’s data by looking at print sales and what impact giving up those sales might have on authors’ bottom lines. (Sorry, I have to link to the information on The Passive Voice because the firewall here won’t let me load Howey’s site directly. Can’t help wondering if my employer is in collusion with the Big 5, lol!)

Anyhow, when I looked at this data, it struck me that when the AAP says 70% of book sales are in print, they don’t mean actual unit sales; they mean gross revenue. You can see right away why that’s an important distinction. Because in general, prices for digital books tend to be lower than prices for print, even when it’s the same book. (Thank you, DOJ, for the abolition of agency pricing.) So when traditional publishers say 70% of the market is in print, they don’t really mean that 70% of books sold are still sold in print. That’s what it SOUNDS like they’re saying (it’s what *I* thought they were saying!), but it’s not.

I wondered, based on this light bulb going on, whether the estimates on print vs digital sales would change if I did the math based on gross revenue as opposed to unit sales. Of course, this has one inevitable problem, which is that I have to estimate the average sale price of both print and digital books to arrive at a conclusion. And I have to estimate those prices to take into account all the different print formats as well as the different pricing strategies of different publishers. I thought, however, that it was reasonable to assume the average sale price of a print book is $8 (taking into account retailer discounts) and the average sale price of a digital book is $4. It’s possible that my average for print is too low and my average for digital is too high, but from my look at the Top 50 on Amazon a week or so ago, I think it’s pretty close.

Ready for the math?

$70 in print = 8.75 copies sold
$30 in digital = 7.50 copies sold
$100 print + e = 16.25 copies sold

7.50/16.25 = 46.15% of all unit sales are digital

I did NOT expect that outcome. I swear, I didn’t choose my pricing estimates with a goal in mind. But there it is. It’s nearly exactly the same as when I estimated it based on 75% of the market belonging to traditionally published books and 25% belonging to mostly digital/self-publishers.

But what if the average price of print books is $9 and the average price of digital is $3.50?

$70 in print = 7.78 copies
$30 in digital = 8.57 copies
$100 print + e = 16.35 copies

8.57/16.35 = 52.42% of all unit sales are digital.

Again, all I can say is coffee=smelled.

No Comments

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.