Friday 12 August 2011

Are Hardback Books On the Way Out?

Reading an article by Alison Flood in the Books section of the Guardian online (Friday evening) I saw this headline 'Hardback sales plummeting in age of the ebook'.

"Sales of adult hardback fiction have fallen by over 10% this year alone, with e-books now accounting for 13.6% of US market."

The US has had e-book sales a little longer than we have in the UK, so this may explain some of the figures, but it could also be an indicator of the future in the UK too.

Already there have been rises in the recommended retail price of hardback fiction - 0.9%, so year on year 15p, according to this article on the Bookseller website (5.8.11).

The 'celebrity autobiographies' that appear in the run-up to Christmas are always hardback and when you see the prices they're starting at, it's not surprising the booksellers quickly put their eye-catching discount stickers on the covers and heavily promote their availability.

I wouldn't pay £20-£25 for them and I'm sure a lot of readers agree...

I do have a lot of hardback non-fiction but even I baulk at the prices being asked, so favoured books tend to be bought for me as a birthday or Christmas present by my family.

Even when I've seen the latest novel by one of my favourite romance authors available in hardback, I will wait for the paperback version to be released.

Though I know that in some genres die-hard fans will buy every new novel (by their favourite author) in hardback when it's released, and if they can get it personally signed, even better...

I've always thought that going straight to paperback was possibly better than having a hardback that sold poorly and never got the chance to go to paperback-because the HB sales weren't positive enough.
But perhaps it would be harder to get a paperback deal in the first place in that scenario...

When it was a choice between a book in HB or PB (assuming both formats were available) then it was only dependant on the personal preferences of the reader.

Now that same reader has the added choice of an e-book and perhaps even an audio book too. Personal choice still comes into play, but sales are now more diluted.

We all know publishers need to make money; without it there wouldn't be any writers taken on.
But with costs rising will it get to the point where only best selling authors get their latest novel published in hardback, or will hardbacks become the domain of non-fiction only?

So what's your view on hardbacks? Love them or hate them? Non-fiction only in hardback format?


Jennifer Lee Thomson, Jenny Thomson said...

Interesting post about hardbacks Carol. I always think that the best way to get them to sell is to have great cover art (some books I have are true works of art) and to give giveaways. For instance when I bought Stephen King's Cell years ago they had a thing where you got a free mobile phone shaped trinket if you bought the HB from Waterstones. That's the way to go - give people something extra.

Carolb said...

I agree with you about the cover art Jennifer. In a market where so many books are competing I do think the cover becomes even more important to make a book stand out and the potential buyer to pick it up and look at the content.
And everyone likes a giveaway...