E-Books verses Brick & Mortar

In 2010, negotiations between authors/agents and publishers heated up over the royalty on e-books. Finally, it was agreed that authors should receive 25% royalty, which is much higher than a printed book. This 25% would be for all back-list titles. But what about the front list titles as we move forward? 

Publishers have claimed that the 25% royalty is not sustainable. 

Why are publishers saying this? “There are more options for authors to earn money these days.” 

What does that statement tell you? Think about the debate over authors earning a much higher royalty rate on e-books, which turned into other concerns for publishers. “More options for authors to earn money these days.” 

Established authors are now demanding 50% royalty on e-books, because if the author went on their own, they could make 100% royalty. 

Let’s not forget that e-books only constitute about 10%-15% of the publishing industry. In 2008 and 2009, it was 5%. At this rate, it could take nine or ten years to really take hold of the market. That is, if e-books do not level off, which is bound to happen. 

Yes, I know e-book sales were up 139% last quarter, but here are some other statistics that will change the way brick-and-mortar stores do business and launch them back into the market. 

The most popular printed books are for children. 70% of children’s books are purchased by women. How are bookstores responding to this? Here are just a few ideas that bookstores will add in the coming year: 

  • More diversification, less books
  • Educational games
  • Toys
  • Large playroom/play areas
  • Yogurt sold inside store
  • Wine
  • Chocolates
  • Greeting cards
  • Craft products 

This covers parents and young children. However, bookstores will also use product placement to draw in the teens. In an age of electronic devices, 80% of teens prefer books that are printed. 

Product placements in stores are based on how teens view books. In order of importance, here is what teens are looking for: 

  1. Sequels
  2. Recognize Authors Name
  3. Description on Book Jacket
  4. Title
  5. Overall Cover Appeal 


Children and teens want printed books and mothers are purchasing those books for their children. That leaves adults making decisions on what books they want to pay for and where they will spend their money. 

Bookstores have been failing because they have limited their shelves to bestsellers. Adults want more of a choice and seek diversity. In short, bookstores have gone away from niche books, while e-books can still provide that service. That is a big loss for bookstores and colossal win for the electronic age. 

On the other hand, bookstores are placed in strategic areas to gain the highest amount of traffic. E-books are successful based on SEO. (Search Engine Optimization.) What is more profitable? A good location? Or a good search engine?   

Adults that prefer the touch and feel of a product before buying will go to a bookstore. Moreover, adults that browse on a Saturday afternoon will also favor a bookstore. 

Some may feel that e-books that cost $2.99 will certainly sell over a hardback that costs $29.95. I really do not have an opinion on that, because aren’t iPad’s $800? Kindles are $139. The customer is shelling out money one way or another. 

Why do we have e-books anyway? Why have bookstores and publishers been struggling? The answer to both these questions is the same…Printing books is expensive. 

That leads me to another thought. Did the consumer really want e-books or has the industry marketed e-books in a way to convince people that digital is better than print? 

Consumers are intelligent and cannot be fooled that easy. I believe that a reader will choose based on an experience of their choice. If a family wants to spend an afternoon in the bookstore, eating yogurt, kids in the playroom, teens browsing the vampire section and eating chocolate, parents drinking wine and looking at crafts, well that is what will happen. 

If someone prefers the experience of a Kindle, searching for books that could not be found in a brick-and-mortar, reading on a print size of their choice, taking risks on new authors that sell their books for a buck, that is going to happen no matter what. 

It does not come down to printed verses digital, but rather one simple factor: EXPERIENCE. What does the consumer want to experience? Some readers may enjoy both print and digital, craving a diversified experience.   

Here are some other points, directly related to authors: 

An author’s shelf life in a bookstore is 120 days.

An author’s shelf life in an e-bookstore is so long, I don’t have any statistics. 

An author’s royalty in a bookstore is little to nothing. 

An author’s royalty for e-books can be anywhere from 25% to 100%. (Depending if the author has been traditionally published or self-published.) 

Struggling publishers are not giving out contracts to even the established authors, so….

 All authors are going to e-books. 

If an author’s book is in both a brick-and-mortar store and an e-book store, the purchasing chances are higher in the bookstore, because customers can be led to certain locations/sections. 

Whether you are a reader, author, literary agent, publisher, or bookstore manager, you are doing a service for someone. Take away all the fluff and narrow it down to one simple factor…Providing a satisfying experience. 

One last thing. I predict that every bookstore will have a print-on-demand service. A customer may request any book in the world that has an ISBN number. The store will print that book for the customer in fifteen minutes or less. 

This takes away inventory and allows bookstores to compete by selling all the same books as the digital world, with one great exception…The book will actually be printed. 

Ron Knight 


Marketing: www.brand1111.com  

Publicist: www.mayspr.com

Ron Knight

Facebook Twitter