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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
It went unnoticed by many: For the first time, the total number of e-books available on Amazon Kindle hit the 5 million mark. It depends on what country you access Amazon.com. From the U.S., Amazon.com will display 4,947,718 e-books. At the current growth rate, though, the number will be at 5,000,000 by the end of the year. When accessing the .com site from other places such as Germany, the 5 million threshold has already been surpassed (by adding the locally available book supply.) The number of English titles available on Amazon.com currently stands at about 3,853,260. Here are a couple of interesting observations:

1) Comparing these figures to what they were one year ago, we look at an annual growth in e-book supply of around 17%. Apparently, the demand for e-books has not grown at that rate.

2) The supply of non-fiction books outnumbers literature & fiction by a factor of 1.5, while non-fiction book sales are much lower than fiction.

3) The most competitive genres from a supply perspective are Religion & Spirituality with 413,473 English language titles (who would have thought that!), followed by Romance (339,577) and Children's eBooks 315,105. Of course, all these categories break down into more than 80 sub- and sub-sub-genres each. Nevertheless, the numbers give you a feel of how big a mass-market e-books have become. (See this page for the graph of all main genres: http://k-lytics.com/amazon-book-competition/)

4) On the other end of the spectrum, there are sub-sub-categories that contain as few as one title on the bestseller list. These typically do not sell a lot but if you want to impress your friends and family with a "#1 Bestseller" status (even without selling much of anything), you will go for categories such as:
- Crafts, Hobbies & Home-Crafts & Hobbies-Dried Flowers
- Romance-Series-Harlequin NASCAR (It is amazing that Harlequin has its own range of designated categories)
- Travel-United States-Washington, D.C.,
- or Children's eBooks-Fairy Tales, Folk Tales & Myths-African
In each of these categories, the #1 title sells less than a copy a day; still, these books represent "#1 Amazon Bestsellers" in their respective bestseller list. It is quite astonishing how Amazon--by using these category "bestseller" lists --suggests to the unsuspecting consumer that a book is popular when fact it is not selling at all.

5) The absolute growth of e-book supply per month has hardly slowed in 2017. Every month, approximately 60,000 to 75,000 new books (just English titles alone) make their debut on the Kindle platform. Many (new) authors enter into a book project blindly, not aware of the reality, i.e. the level of competition in their respective target market or niche. How else would someone care to write the 33,717th billionaire romance novel for Kindle?

6) As big as the numbers seem, there is still room for e-book growth. 5 million e-books on Kindle compare to a total number of 49 million available paperbacks and hardcover books on Amazon worldwide.

Some food for thought as we are about to embark on the 2017 self-publishing adventure.
 

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thewitt said:
Why would the market be saturated?

Books are like music. There can never be too many books, but only a small percentage of them will appeal to any one person.
Exactly. And once you've read a book, you move on to another and then another.
 

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thewitt said:
Why would the market be saturated?

Books are like music. There can never be too many books, but only a small percentage of them will appeal to any one person.
My bad for not clarifying: not the market, but competition for eyeballs. There's only so many hours a week any one person can devote to reading. Once a certain amount of professionally written and edited books is available, everything past that point becomes moot. Who goes looking for their next read on page 45 of any particular genre? You skim the top 100, maaaaybe the top 200 if you've already devoured everything up to that point.
 

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alexnewton said:
...if you want to impress your friends and family with a "#1 Bestseller" status (even without selling much of anything), you will go for categories such as:
- Crafts, Hobbies & Home-Crafts & Hobbies-Dried Flowers
I'm on it.

(I can include my typical explosions and naughty humor in this category, right?)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
thewitt said:
Why would the market be saturated?

Books are like music. There can never be too many books, but only a small percentage of them will appeal to any one person.
Well, I agree that from a demand perspective, there will never be point of (total) saturation. It is like 'katygirl' says: "once you've read a book, you move on to another and then another."

However, from a supply perspective there is a phenomenon of "over-supply". Whatever the right terminology -- saturation, oversupply, issue of discoverability, etc -- there are some genres that have a certain issue in this respect. There are many examples on Kindle:
- Take the whole genre of "Religion & Spirituality": There are more than 413,000 (!) titles on Kindle. It is wonderful that so many authors would like to help others by offering their spiritual counselling, advice, etc.; but Kindle is just not the right channel for this. The demand for these types of Kindle books is way to low in relation to the supply.
- "Billionaire Romance", there are thousands of authors who jumped onto the "50 Shades of Grey" bandwagon. If you type "billionaire romance" (in quotes) into the Kindle store, you will get more than 10,000 search hits. If you just type billionaire romance without quotes (what most people would do), you even get 35,000 search hits. From an author's or publisher's perspective, the odds of being discovered have become virtually zero unless you have a significant marketing budget and thus traffic to your Amazon book page. This is what I mean with saturation.
- Other genres or niches, by contrast, show much less supply but experience a significant demand.
The only point I would like to make is that the economic laws of supply and demand also apply to the e-book market.
 

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thewitt said:
Why would the market be saturated?

Books are like music. There can never be too many books, but only a small percentage of them will appeal to any one person.
Exactly. And the Amazon marketplace is less like a brick and mortar bookstore and more like the Library of Congress, because the thing about ebooks is that they never go out of print or get taken off the shelves for the new releases. But they just sit there, often unseen and unclicked from one year to the next. Just look at how many religion books there are! Now how many of those do you imagine are by religious scholars? I'd bet the vast majority of them are by just regular folks who write down their profound thoughts about religion - now they can publish them. They can tell their Bible Study Group about their book and maybe some of them will buy it. But they're not crowding out the new books on religion or the scholarly works. They're just... there. And there they will sit unless the author hits unpublish.

Personally, I like the staying power of ebooks, because I remember what it was like before them. Say you found an interesting book in the bookstore. Maybe it's a mystery. You like it, so you go looking for the other books the author wrote. Maybe she wrote twenty. Maybe your book store has the latest three. And maybe your hometown library has seven. But the rest were out of print and they were just LOST to you, unless you stumbled across them in a used book store. The new way is better.
 

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Apparently, the demand for e-books has not grown at that rate.
If you're looking at demand for ebooks as tracked by the AAP or even the Codex group you're going to get skewed numbers.

AAP only tracks trad publishers. Codex bundles trad publishers and indies together, and their report was published in April of 2016. In 2015 traditional publishers got the right to price ebooks at whatever rate they preferred. They chose to price them above Amazon's preferred $9.99 limit. Not surprisingly, traditional publisher's sales of ebooks dropped.

Now I'm increasingly seeing traditional publishers drop the price of ebooks and utilize services like BookBub. I'm wondering if this is behind the softness of indie author earnings in the third quarter of 2016.
 

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There is nothing new about trade publishers selling big name ebooks at knockdown prices. This is especially the case at this time of year which will make it harder for smaller presses and self publishers to sell. I rarely pay more than 1.99 for a trade eBook.
 

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This reminds me of something I've been thinking about lately — that collectively we don't promote ebooks in general enough. We only have something like 15% of the book-selling market. If we all put more effort into increasing "our" share of the total readership market, instead of only competing for that 15%, who knows what might happen?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
7seasonsgirl said:
Thank you for your post. I love your site, it's very informative and I'm a numbers person so I find it very helpful.
Thanks a lot for the kind feedback. Makes my day! - Have a great start into 2017!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
joyceharmon said:
And the Amazon marketplace is less like a brick and mortar bookstore and more like the Library of Congress, because the thing about ebooks is that they never go out of print or get taken off the shelves for the new releases. But they just sit there, often unseen and unclicked from one year to the next.
I find this a very interesting comparison. My hypothesis is that Amazon(dot)com will want consumers to view the Kindle Store as a "store" or "paid service", not as a "library of congress" or "public archive". However, due to the imperishable nature of an e-book, the Kindle platform will become (if it not already is) an archive. It contains five million English titles now. By the end of 2017, there will be 6 million. This creates a problem for Amazon (and the consumers) because of two important factors: "virtual shelf-space" and "choice".

Consumers are overwhelmed by too much choice. When people enter a mainstream shoe store, they want to be presented with the latest fashion for the right season. They do not want to enter a warehouse with all types, models, brands and sizes of shoes that have ever been sold in the past 20 years. This will become a growing problem for Amazon if they care about the consumer experience (which I they do.) What will be displayed in the "store front" i.e. the on front page of the Kindle store and in the top of search results? Highly likely, it will be those items that Amazon believes will make the most money for them. They money will come from sales, commissions, advertising fees or - perhaps at some time in the future - "virtual shelf-space" fees.

So how will Amazon regulate "oversupply" i.e. too much choice? -- Well, for a period of some 1-2 weeks last month, they stopped displaying the number of search results if you typed a search into the Kindle search bar. They just displayed "1-16 out of 500+ results". There was a huge pushback, probably less by consumers than by authors and publishers who use that transparency of search results to assess their market. In any case, after a short period, Amazon started displaying the number of search in the Kindle Store results again. For example: "1-16 of 36,026 results for "billionaire romance"".

However, if Amazon does not want to become a "library or archive" in the long run, they might do any of the following:

A) Regulate what type of books get into the store. This means more quality control, putting in certain stage gauges... thus they would move more into the role of a publisher or at least a book store owner who wants to maximise consumer satisfaction and returns from a limited virtual shelf-space.

B) Purge books from the Kindle store that do not sell at all over a certain period of time

C) Distinguish between the Kindle Store and a Kindle Archive

Any thoughts?
 

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alexnewton said:
Consumers are overwhelmed by too much choice. ... However, if Amazon does not want to become a "library or archive" in the long run, they might do any of the following:

A) Regulate what type of books get into the store. This means more quality control, putting in certain stage gauges... thus they would move more into the role of a publisher or at least a book store owner who wants to maximise consumer satisfaction and returns from a limited virtual shelf-space.

B) Purge books from the Kindle store that do not sell at all over a certain period of time

C) Distinguish between the Kindle Store and a Kindle Archive
If I were Amazon, the key would be to emphasize "quality" to ensure that customers aren't turned off by a bad experience (when browsing or reading) and have an incentive to come back.

There are several ways to implement quality control, including creating more standards, employing more gatekeepers (human or machine), leveraging ratings or reviews to cull titles from the catalogue, giving incentives to readers to leave more ratings/reviews, forcing KDP publishers to pay a setup fee or annual distribution fee to cut down on drive-by scammers, etc.

There are problems with these approaches. Quality is subjective, AIs can be fooled, production and editorial standards can put self-published authors at a disadvantage, fees take money from the pockets of authors and small publishers, ratings/reviews can be abused, etc.

Moreover, even if quality-control mechanisms managed to downsize the catalogue to 50% of its current size, that's still a massive number of ebooks. Does it really make a difference to the average Kindle owner if there are 5M vs. 2.5M books to choose from? Most customers will still only look at what Amazon recommends or what turns up in the first page of search results.

This gets to the issue of who rises to the top. As we have seen with the Apple App Store, its not just the "best" apps or breakout hits that show up in the top charts. It's the big brands, companies with the biggest marketing budgets, and sometimes the cheaters who exploit loopholes or weaknesses in the algorithms to get to the top. Meanwhile, some truly great apps (and great ebooks) languish in obscurity.

In other words, there is a huge discoverability problem, particularly for new or lesser-known creators. I am not sure what the solution is in the near term, although a few years out I hope that technology may provide better tools for Amazon to help their customers connect with great books regardless of the sales rank, marketing budget, or publishing history.
 

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There's no print catalog purge so why should there be an e-book purge? The print catalog is far larger so don't you think that the ebook catalog should be at least as large as the print catalog.
 

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Content removed due to TOS Change of 2018. I do not agree to the terms.
 

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alexnewton said:
- "Billionaire Romance", there are thousands of authors who jumped onto the "50 Shades of Grey" bandwagon. If you type "billionaire romance" (in quotes) into the Kindle store, you will get more than 10,000 search hits. If you just type billionaire romance without quotes (what most people would do), you even get 35,000 search hits. From an author's or publisher's perspective, the odds of being discovered have become virtually zero unless you have a significant marketing budget and thus traffic to your Amazon book page. This is what I mean with saturation.
I'm sorry, but that's simply not true. I published a billionaire romance serial in 2016 under a new pen name using nothing but bknights and Genre Pulse promos once the third installment went up. I didn't make as much money as Amanda, but I've been pulling in well into four figures every month from it ever since. And while I'd love to blow my own horn, I'm not anything special and the book wasn't really anything special - at least I didn't think so. It was a purely write-to-market deal that I put out because I desperately needed something to pay the rent. And it's still selling after almost a year with no follow up.

Readers aren't stupid. If they do a search on billionaire romance and get 35,000 results back they narrow their search. They know what niches push their buttons and so they type in billionaire assistant romance and cut it down to 326 results. Or billionaire assistant bdsm romance and only have to dig through 100. Amazon makes this even easier with their filters. Want to read a cowboy romance with amnesia as a major plot device? Just check off the boxes and you've got 118 books to choose from.

This kind of argument about too many books making it impossible to be discovered has been around since the invention of the printing press. It wasn't valid then, and it's even less valid now because we have search engines and Goodreads.
 

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I had the same thought about billionaire romance. I don't write it--well, I have one short series that's sorta/kinda, but not quite--but most of the big-selling authors I know have at least one billionaire series. Like a lot of subgenres/niches (witch cozy mystery, anyone?), or like cozy mystery or romance in general, it's crowded, but that's because there's such a lovely HUGE audience of voracious readers eager to get their hands on more of it.

The disadvantage of publishing in a tiny niche is that it's a niche. Limited audience. The advantage is that it's easier to get visible. And vice versa. It's not an accident that the majority of huge indie authors write contemporary romance. Biggest subgenre, hardest to break into, but once you get that jumbo jet off the ground--boy, you're flying.

Tougher slog (potentially). Bigger upside. Personally, I wrote a fairly mainstream-type story and gave it a unique hook for my first book & series, but I was definitely after the big market in the mainstream and not one of the tiny pools at the side.
 

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I think its worth noting that even though there may be millions upon millions of books on Amazon, a self published author isn't realistically competing with even a tiny fraction of them.

Firstly, a huge chunk of those books are no good (poor covers, poor editing, etc), and even more have no marketing put behind them. If you self publish and market well, I don't think you're competing with those books because you're already operating on a higher level.

And even within a genre, what draws a reader to a book is too subjective to really quantify. Two people who love reading spy thrillers, for example, aren't going to read exactly the same thing. There will be variations between what they like, and different authors will appeal to them. That's probably even more of a thing with romance, seeing how (from what I understand) the appeal of a book is based on a reader's romantic tastes. How could you get more subjective than that?
 
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