The Death of Print, Part Whatever

I’ll be the first to admit there’s been some bad news for bookstores lately. Borders is facing liquidation. Barnes & Noble is doing better, but they’ve had a few speed bumps as well.

So what does this all mean? Are we seeing the long-predicted Death of Print Books? Are the folks who claim New York publishers are dinosaurs, and everyone should run to self/e-publish instead, actually right?[1. I really wish we had a simple term for self publishing electronically.]

I did see a dropoff in my Bookscan numbers when Borders closed a group of their stores earlier this year. Maybe doomsday is finally here. Maybe the print book is finally going the way of the 8-track.

The more speculation I read, the more eager I became to see my Bookscan numbers for Snow Queen’s Shadow, which came out at the start of this month. Maybe the end of print, which I’ve been told is just around the corner for roughly a decade now, had arrived at last.

Behold, my print sales for each of my books after release week:

The first  thing most folks will notice is the big jump from Red Hood’s Revenge, and the dropoff when Snow Queen came out. Aha! Print is dying!

Actually, Red Hood is an anomaly. Penguin/DAW arranged to get that book included in a riser display in Barnes & Noble, which means the biggest chain in the U.S. ordered more copies and displayed the book more prominently, leading to much higher early sales.

If you eliminate Red Hood, then according to Bookscan, the new book sold more print copies in its first week than any of my previous books, just edging out Mermaid’s Madness.

What does this all mean? Not too much, to be honest. I’m one author, and there could be any number of factors going on here. Maybe I’ve been getting more popular, and the increase in my readership was significant enough to offset dwindling print sales. Maybe because this was the last book in the series, everyone rushed out to get it right away, and I’ll see a faster dropoff in future weeks’ sales. Maybe my Mom bought 1000 copies because she loves me.

But the fact that my print sales are continuing on this curve suggests to me that despite some problems, print ain’t dead yet.

Sure, that doesn’t mean paper books won’t go belly-up tomorrow. But I’ve been hearing predictions of the end of books and commercial publishing for a long time, and I’m just not seeing the data to support it. A new equilibrium between print and e-books, absolutely. The death of print? So far, not so much.