E-book sales expected to surge
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- You won't catch New York Times best-selling author John Lescroart reading an electronic book anytime soon.
"I'm a hold-a-book-in-your-hands kind of guy and likely will remain that way," Lescroart said in a recent interview.
That doesn't mean this technological revolution and the economics of it are lost on him.
"Hardcover sales of my last book were down 20 percent, while e-book sales were up 300 percent," he said.
Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean a huge jump in royalties. He receives $1 to $1.50 from a $10 electronic download and about $2.50 from a $25 hardcover purchase.
Lescroart and several other authors interviewed haven't embraced electronic readers, but they and their publishers are definitely using the technology to attract and build an audience through special promotions, sales of out-of-print works, and links to their Web-based content.
"For every 100 books we sell in physical, we sell 48 Kindle books," said Cinthia Portugal, a spokeswoman for Amazon.com. "This is up from 35 books for every 100 in May. Our customers tell us they read more with Kindle because they never have to worry about running out of books."
Gayle DeForest of Sacramento, Calif., a retired computer trainer for the state, is one of them.
"I bought a Kindle e-reader last year and really love it," she said via e-mail. "I can adjust the text size, [the screen] causes no eye strain. It's lightweight and very portable. And it's almost too easy to buy a new book. I will never go back to paper books."
Retired librarian Nancy Pifer of Roseville, Calif., though, is in Lescroart's camp.
"I cannot bear the thought of technology to read a book," she e-mailed. "I love bookstores and libraries too much. Ingesting the words off the pages and enjoying even the smell of books are wonderful sensations. Truly, books rule!"
Yet researchers expect electronic readers to attain a break-out success this holiday season.
In a recent holiday outlook report, Sarah Rotman Epps of Forrester, a research and business-consulting firm, predicted yearly sales of 3 million e-readers by the end of 2009, noting that e-reader sales reached 1 million in 2008.
"With 30 percent of sales occurring in the holiday season," Forrester's report added, "we expect sales in 2010 to double."
Potential buyers of e-readers can choose from Kindle (the latest model, the DX, retails for $489), the Sony Digital Reader Touch Edition ($300) and the brand-new Nook ($259) from Barnes & Noble.
As numbers fly and statistics mount, a realistic Lescroart sees the trend as a logical step from the Internet.
"Much of my advertising has shifted from print to Net-based," he said. "I think the jury is still out on which is more effective. But certainly, publishers and authors who ignore the Internet do so at their own peril."
Cara Black of San Francisco, author of the Aimee Leduc mystery series, set in Paris, saw the power of Kindle when her publisher offered her first book, "Murder in the Marais," along with her book, "Murder in the Latin Quarter," in a special promotion.
"'Marais' shot to No. 3 on the Amazon Kindle List of Movers and Shakers best-sellers," she said. "It was amazing."
Still, Black doesn't have an e-reader. "I have so many things that need recharging, I don't need another one," she explained. "I'm reading books I buy in independent bookstores, and have a huge to-be-read pile at my bedside. Very comforting in a special way, knowing I can just reach out and grab a book."
For authors who haven't hit the ranks of best-sellerdom, Amazon's e-book segment has opened up moneymaking opportunities.
"Since Amazon enables authors to place e-books for sale on their sites directly, it allows us to republish our out-of-print titles or titles that we have retained the e-book rights for without cost and without involving a publisher," said Mark Coggins, the San Francisco-based author of the August Riordan mystery series (the latest is "The Big Wake-Up").
"We are free to set pricing."
E-readers also allow authors to continue marketing to fans and newcomers with attached links to Web sites, videos and/or audio files.
Coggins was the only author we contacted who was among the ranks of e-reader owners.
With his Kindle, he said, "I'm buying more books than I did before. It's hard to beat the convenience and access of an e-reader, but I still collect first editions and enjoy the experience of reading physical books."
First Published November 29, 2009 12:00 am