Do e-book sales cannibalize print sales?

Over the last two years, I’ve converted most of my 15 books to Kindles and many of them to ePubs. It’s been a challenging learning experience, but it’s also been absolutely well worth it. For most of my books, my monthly e-book sales now equal, and often exceed, my print book sales. And they are, for the most part, growing steadily.

A fellow author asked me if I felt my e-book sales were cannibalizing my print book sales, i.e., if I was simply selling as many books as I would have sold if I had only print books (no e-books) available.

I did not have to think long and hard before answering him. In fact, I barely blinked.

Fact is, my overall sales are going up (I’m on track to have my best year ever), and my sales for a book doubles (in some cases more than doubles) when I produce the Kindle or Kobo (or both) e-book version(s). In addition, my e-books are selling with minimal promotion beyond the occasional social media mention (Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn) that drives potential readers to my book promotion page.

Meanwhile, sales for print books that are not available in e-format climb slowly (steadily, but slowly); they never spike the way sales for books available in e-format do. So it is easy to assume that e-books sales are adding to, not cannibalizing, my overall sales. Anyone with an e-reader will tell you that my conclusion — ebook sales are not cannibalizing print sales in any way, shape or form — is a no brainer.

From what I can tell, and I confess my evidence in empirical, but extensive, people with Kindle and e-Pub readers (such as Kobo) tend to not buy print versions of books. They might buy a print book if they absolutely must have the book and an e-version is not available, but even then (according to my friends and acquaintances–real and virtual–who have e-readers) they are much more likely to pass on it. And yes, I am one of those “people”. In all honesty, I cannot imagine buying a paper-based book ever again. I really like my Kobo–the number of books that I can store on it, that I can take more than one book with me on vacation–without increasing the space required for the books, and that I can increase the font size when I read books.

So, in conclusion, I must say that e-books are are expanding my overall book sales. Ask me if I’ll ever drop any of my e-books and, I confess, I’ll be looking at you as if you are crazy.

If interested, you can see my list of books on  copywriting, writing media releases, business writing and the business of freelance writing (and several other topics) at www.paullima.com/books. There you can also see which ones are available as print, Kindle and ePubs.

Paul Lima is a freelance writer and writing instructor. He has published 10 non-fiction books on business writing, copywriting, freelance writing, creative writing, how to write a non-fiction book, and other topics. He recently published his first book of short stories, Rebel in the Back Seat. Read more about Paul’s books online at http://www.paullima.com/books/.

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