As an author I have noticed a trend in book sales. Not only are readers moving toward more digital content and less paper, which is unsurprising, but they are also moving toward more e-book borrowing and less purchasing. I decided to graph the royalties I receive on my best selling book, Cached Out, comparing on a percentage basis the royalties I receive from those who borrow the book (either through Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited) and those from sales of Kindle ebooks. This chart excludes the paperback and audiobook royalties.
As you can see, I now get more than a third of my Kindle royalties from borrowing. Not all of the increase is due to readers’ changing preferences. Amazon changed its formula for compensating authors for borrowed books in mid-2015. Before that time the authors’ “pot” was split up on a per book basis, i.e. someone whose 15-page children’s book was borrowed once would get the same amount as someone whose 800-page tome was borrowed once. Yielding to complaints, Amazon changed the formula to make the compensation proportional to pages read. (Yes, Amazon can tell how many pages of a book you’ve read with your Kindle/Kindle app, at least if you borrow it). It may be leveling off now, but the 2017 number only shows the average for the first two months. The March numbers aren’t out yet. By the end of the year it may be more.
This trend is consistent with what I read about other digital media. I hear that movie providers are going to earlier streaming because viewers don’t want to buy or borrow the DVDs/Blu-rays when they can stream. Even Snapchat reflects this. Younger people just don’t want to own or even handle digital media; they just want to view it and have it disappear when done. Why fill up your phone or reader with a bunch of books you’ve already read? They aren’t like music that you’re going to listen to again and again.