Saturday, November 03, 2007

Reading Lists and Market Shares

I officially have to stop buying books. Not only is there very little room left in my apartment (we haven't started using them as furniture yet), but I am legitimately behind on my reading.

As I've been told many times by different publishers and market researches, only has about a 17% market share, so publishers tend to ignore the website. I think this number is deceptive. I still do buy books in bricks & mortar stores, but I also write down the titles and authors of books I want that look too expensive and then go buy them online for 10% of the cover price, after shipping. I know I'm the exception to the rule, what with buying an overwhelming majority of my books online and having an Amazon credit card to earn rewards points to continue buying books online, but maybe the industry should take a little note: I buy around 200 books a year. That makes me unusual in a very significant way. Serious readers without a tremendous amount of disposable income now have a serious alternative to libraries - buying used books on the ever-expanding online used book market. Honestly the biggest hurdle to that is the recent postage increase, but it's worth it if the book costs $0.01 and is "used, like new." Used book sales aren't tracked (at least not by anyone I've heard from), and I wonder what Amazon's "market share" would be if they were.

Reading list this week:

- The Mishnah, Seders Kodashim and Tohoroth
- I am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert (gift from dad)
- Sefer Yetzirah, Chapters 1:1 - 1:14
- Samurai by Mitsuo Kure
- The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice (admittedly, couldn't get through it)
- Half of an urban fantasy manuscript I'm reading for a friend


Maria said...

I don't think you're all that unusual of a book buyer. I buy the same way--only I don't like the bookstore that is near my house so I'm almost 100 percent Amazon--and while I don't buy 200 books a year...I'd put it at 40. We did a poll over at --lots of book buyers there and a lot of them buy used on Amazon. A LOT of them.

I also buy new on Amazon using their 4 for 3, no shipping. I'll deliberately store up titles that I want--and even pick one just to get it free and then order books. Amazon almost always knocks 10 percent or so off some of those books--and then has free shipping, no tax AND a free book. This is where all my new book purchases have been so far this year. Without counting exactly, I purchased 1 through a bookstore, new (out of town). 10 from Amazon new and 30 or so used from Amazon or (used).

Before visiting this site, I was over at Amazon browsing and trying to decide whether to order a book used or just get it Interlibrary loan through the library...

Madge G. Sinclair said...

Rejecter, honey, there's no need to keep buying 200 books a year, darling, save your money. I will be more than happy to send you the large sacks of books that my friend Agnes continues to give me week after week.

However, if you don't happen to have an 80 year old friend named Agnes with more books than God, then I suggest you go to used book stores, or even thrift stores. Do you know how many books you can get for under a buck? Lots, honey, lots.

Take a lesson from this old braud, capisce?


Madge Sinclair

p.s. Get a copy of The Maytrees by Annie Dillard, I loved it.

Don said...

In terms of market share, a lot depends on the book. I would guess that it's a lot less than 17% of the copies of The Secret that get sold by Amazon. But on the other hand, I'd guess that it's got to be a lot higher for specialty and backlist titles. Small publishers live and die by amazon these days, especially those handling specialty non-fiction titles.

I'm old enough to remember book buying before amazon. It used to be that outside of specialty stores, every new book store carried the same 2000 titles. It was kind of spooky to suddenly see The Autobiography of John Stuart Mill in every store I visited. Getting a book not on the shelves was a difficult process (I ordered a collection of W. P. Kinsella short stories direct from the Canadian publisher, a transaction which was fraught with difficulty on both ends of the bargain). It was part of what got me visiting every used bookstore in the phone book when I would travel to a new city (I used to just tear the pages from the yellow pages and check them off as I went to each shop).

With amazon (and also, suddenly, you can get any book you want right now. This has resulted in things like my 153-item amazon wishlist (it's not all books, but close to it).

As for that backlog, I've got myself down to 5 shelves of unread books (from a high of 14 a decade ago). I think I might catch up by 2012.

Anonymous said...

Why should publishers care about Amazon's (or anyone's) share of used book sales, when that doesn't affect them in any measurable way and no one does (or could, really) track used sales overall anyway?

That said, 17% (if accurate) of the new book trade seems like nothing to sneeze at!

New orders matter; hopefully someone working at an agency understands this.... I buy new more than I used to, for several reasons--but I use Amazon discounts & free shipping, Borders Rewards coupons, etc. But I don't completely ignore used prices when shopping online.

BTW, like you, I will write down info & buy online. But I find out about most new books [that I'm interested in] elsewhere anyway (online, LOCUS subscription, etc.), so I'm rarely surprised by new books at a bookstore; I usually already know about them.

"10% of the cover price, after shipping" (emphasis added): Hyperbole? At least, if you normally buy on Amazon, with their $3.99 flat used book shipping're really buying books with cover prices of $40 or more?! Even on sites with lower shipping, that "10%" sounds like an exaggeration.

Kendall (fan of Borders rewards, Amazon discounts & free shipping)

The Rejecter said...

OK, to be fair, it's more like 20% or 30% of the cover price, but I buy a lot of history books by university presses that tend to be ridiculously overpriced, list. Or, they seem like that to me.

none said...

Stop buying books?


Anonymous said...

"The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty" was one of the most gawdessawful books I ever read...and I *did* get through it, mostly because I read it in very small increments (between exercise sets). Not only do I now think Anne Rice is a truly @#$%-up individual, but I really really REALLY don't understand what is so great about her...her BDSM books don't have any plotline either!!!

Anonymous said...

Ah, history books from university presses...that even sounds expensive. ;-)

JohnO said...

Pah. Amazon. Icky corporate citizen, they.

Try Independent!

Or for used,

Their pitch is that you fund literacy, care for the environment, and get a fair price for used books.

Not bad, eh?