Last week, Adweek.com posted results from a millennial-on-the-street poll that contradict the cliché of the “smartphone-addicted twentysomething who spends her free time posting selfies on Instagram, sharing BuzzFeed lists on Facebook and creating socially conscious hashtags on Twitter”. Nearly two weeks earlier, The Bookseller announced findings from their own poll. Both showed that young people (in the US and the UK) prefer reading print books to digital. Perhaps more telling for the future economics of book writing and publishing though, is that the millennials surveyed said they are not willing to pay print book prices for e-books.
“In our research,” explained Luke Mitchell, Director of Voxburner, the company that conducted the survey for The Bookseller, “70% said that £6.99 was a reasonable price to pay for a paperback but only 10% were prepared to pay the same for an e-book.” Mitchell added, “Online retailer Amazon was the most popular sales channel, used by 75% of respondents, but high street bookshops were also in favour, with 73% of young people choosing to buy their books through this channel. Some 37% purchase titles at supermarkets, 37% go to charity shops, 34% use independent bookshops, and 13% use online retailers other than Amazon.”
In their ongoing dispute with publisher Hachette over e-book prices, Amazon has said selling e-books to readers at lower prices than print books could actually be a boon to writers and publishers.
In an open letter to the industry via their website ReadersUnited.com, the Amazon Books Team explains:
For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.