How we read

There were a few surprises to come out of the Library Thing giveaway that I did recently, and they’re making me question the conventional wisdom.

Out of the 119 copies I’ve sent so far, 45 were Kindle and 32 were Nook. Granted, it’s not the biggest sample size but I would have expected a 3 to 1 ratio of Kindle to Nook. If you look at the monthly sales reports by indie authors at Kindle Boards, book sales are overwhelmingly Kindle.

Is it possible that the Nook market is bigger than we think and authors are just doing a lousy job of selling to it?

Now it’s time for the curveball.

Of the format requests that came in from readers, 42 said a PDF file was fine with them. These are people who are reading books on an iPad or their laptop computer. They clearly don’t mind a book that’s formatted like a college term paper.

The big question is whether only avid readers are willing to settle for PDFs or if it’s a much larger segment of the population than we thought. PDFs can be easily sold from a website. No middle man is needed.

Are we overstating the need to duplicate the reading experience that comes with a hardback book? What do you think?

• • •

Coming soon: An interview with author Revital Shiri-Horowitz on her novel “Daughters of Iraq” and how she translated her novel from Hebrew to English.

You might want to check out these past interviews:

Tony Eldridge on how the author should use Twitter.
• New York Times bestseller Victorine Lieske on keeping the faith.
Paula Wiseman on writing for the Christian fiction market.


Filed under ebooks, On writing

9 responses to “How we read

  1. the1940mysterywriter

    A few comments, Alexa:
    1) The Kindle e-reader uses a proprietary MOBI format for its files, used by no other device. Nook, on the other hand, uses the open source EPUB format, which is also used by the iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Android smartphone systems, Sony reader, Kobo, Gnu/Linux systems, the PocketBook reader, and Adobe Digital Editions. Users of these readers have learned to simply ask for the “Nook format,” to make it simple while shopping. As well, Digital Editions is preferred by many libraries using OverDrive for content delivery, so EPUB is becoming more common.

    Finally, Kindle readers can accept an ebook in EPUB format and use the free program Calibre to translate it into MOBI, giving them flexibility to read the document on other devices as well as the Kindle. They can’t go in reverse, from MOBI to EPUB.

    So perhaps it’s more accurate to say that, while MOBI remains popular amongst dedicated Kindle readers, other brands that use EPUB are making inroads.

    2) ARC review copies are commonly released now as PDF files, and so reviewers are accustomed to working with them. They can be read on computers as well as Kindle, Nook, and most other e-readers. So the question is, did the Library Thing giveaway target reviewers, or general readers?

    3) The middleman (Amazon, B&N, etc.) isn’t necessary now. Are you familiar with Ecwid? It’s an e-commerce widget that can be installed on any website, enabling sales (including through PayPal) and e-file downloads. Oh, and it’s free. No, I’m not a sales rep.

    Love your logical way of thinking. I’ll be back for more.

    Gunnar Grey

    • I think that’s a great point about epub versus mobi, Gunnar.

      From the self-reported sales data I’ve seen, indie authors are definitely leaving sales on the table with the people who use epub files. We need to figure out a way to find them.

      • davidgaughran

        Indies have a visibility problem in the EPUB stores. B&N pull all sorts of ruses to keep us out of the Top 100. Lots of the others give a lot of display preferences to book publishers. I know indies who have books on the Kobo store, and can’t even find their own books there, even though they get some sales from Kobo.

        Amazon are the only one who give us straight dice. I think that’s the main reason why we sell so much more there. But this isn’t true for all indies. Romance writers, for example, often sell more on B&N.

  2. Funny thing is, I write books, but really prefer reading PDF.
    As for Revital, I loved her book.

  3. Thanks for the input, David. I’m still three weeks away from publishing my novella, so I appreciate others sharing their experiences. I’m hoping that some industrious person will fill the void and create a place where Nook / epub readers can easily find indie authors.

    It’s amazing that places like B&N still let the tail wag the dog.

    • davidgaughran

      If I was a children’s/YA author, I would be pretty pissed. Apple & B&N are building a big storefront for HarperCollins children’s books that all readers will see before they get to any indie books.

      But don’t forget about Smashwords. Epub/Nook fans can shop there, and they are very friendly to indies. Ok, the customer side sucks, but that’s next on their list, and if you think how far they have come from a tiny operation in 2008, I think they are doing well.

  4. davidgaughran

    They are. I would love to see the site become a lot more popular.

  5. My Kindle sales far out-weigh my Nook sales…and I own a Nook! I haven’t tried Smashwords to date, but have just published on Createspace.

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