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Winter 2011 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey Results: How Agency Model Publishers Are Killing Their Own Kindle Sales

(One of several Kindle Nation posts exploring the results of the Winter 2011 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey. Click here to see a breakdown of results.) 
By Tom Dulaney, Contributing Reporter

Every salesman from Seth Godin to the guy at your local used car lot or Lexus dealership knows that one of the likeliest death knells for any prospective sale is signalled by these words from the buyer: “Let me think it over.”

eBooks are no different. While it is certainly true that the Kindle environment makes ebook purchases and downloads magically friction-free and convenient, that seamlessness does not turn Kindle owners into a nation of idiots.

For a whopping 88% of the 2,275 respondents in the Winter 2011 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey, “Let me think it over” translates into identification with the survey’s statement that “I frequently choose to delay purchasing an ebook that I want to buy if I think the price is too high.” 60% clicked “strongly agree” with the statement, and another 28% selected “agree.”

Those not coming down on the side of “wait-and-see” are a paltry 3% not sure about their actions, 4% who disagree and don’t delay, and another 4% who strongly disagree and pay up with abandon.

The DMZ no man’s land in the price struggles between publishers and readers is bordered by the $10 price line and the $12.99 price line, the survey suggests. In that range, 50% of survey respondents say they have paid the price occasionally for newly released titles. Some 8% “strongly agree” they have done so, while 42% “agree.” Some 46% disagree or strongly disagree; they haven’t flinched and paid. A neutral 4% sits in the middle.

So, half the respondents occasionally do pay from $10 to $13 dollars for an ebook, and just under half never do so. Cross the $13 parallel into more expensive waters, and things change dramatically, as shown a bit further below.

Whether large or small, traditional or indie, publishers and authors would do well to read between the lines here. For anyone with the sense to juxtapose these survey results with a look at the price composition of the Kindle Store bestseller lists, it becomes clear in a hurry that it is customers, not publishers, who are setting prices in the Kindle Store.

And any publisher or author who blows off the issue thinking the “delay” means the buyer will be back sooner or later needs to audit Business 101 next semester: You never recoup 100% of pushed-off sales.

Ominous news from the survey for big-league publishers and bestselling authors pushing higher prices are these figures from the survey: 76% of respondents say if “publishers keep charging higher bestseller prices, I’ll buy more backlist or indie titles.” To paraphrase the song, if you can’t be with the author you love, then love the one you’re with. 

Once again, it’s worth a look at the composition of the Kindle Store bestseller lists: 18 of the top 50 bestselling titles in the Kindle Store are by indie authors, compared with zero just nine months ago when publishers were launching their ill-fated agency model price-fixing scheme. Those 18 indie titles will sell over a million Kindle copies this month alone, and those are a million copies that traditional publishers will never have a chance to sell again.

There’s no doubt readers are much more price conscious this year. “With recent ebook price controversies, I’ve become more price conscious,” is the statement presented in the survey. Some 83% subscribe to the statement, with 43% saying they “strongly agree” that they are more price conscious and 40% saying they “agree” that they pay more attention to prices. Only 8% say they are not more tuned into prices, with another 10% opting out of the question by saying they are “not sure.”

Additional data indicates a smattering of respondents are occasionally paying more than $9.99 for books. The survey statement was: “I didn’t think I would be willing to pay over $9.99 for ebooks, but I’ve been doing it at least twice a month.” Only 14% admit cracking against their resolve, with only 2% strongly agreeing that they pay more and 12% merely agreeing they do so.

Some 36% disagree, denying they pay over $9.99 and 39% strongly disagree with the statement. An unsure 12% sit in the middle. To sum that up, nearly 75% say—in this survey question at least—they are not paying over $9.99 “at least twice a month.”
Exceed the $12.99 ceiling for newly released titles and resistance stiffens. “I occasionally pay $13 or more for newly released ebook titles,” is the statement respondents were presented with. Only 3% “strongly agree”; 16% “agree”. That is a 31% fall off from the 50% who relented and paid in the $10 to $12.99 range. To sum it up, 74% hold firm and do not buy newly released titles priced over $12.99.

Even if the ebook is professional or technical in nature, price resistance over the $9.99 tag is strong. For those types of ebooks, only 6% strongly agree that they would pay the surcharge for the specialty ebooks, and only 15% agree. A large 24% are unsure, perhaps never faced with the decision. But 32% disagree, indicating they would not pay more, and 23% strongly disagree.

(One of several Kindle Nation posts exploring the results of the Winter 2011 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey. Click here to see a breakdown of results.)

Winter 2011 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey Results: Citizens of Kindle Nation, Meet the Citizens of Kindle Nation

(One of several Kindle Nation posts exploring the results of the Winter 2011 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey. Click here to see a breakdown of results.) 

By Tom Dulaney, Contributing Reporter

She’s an avid reader. 

She’s “a woman of a certain age,” and without putting too fine a point on it, just between us we can acknowledge that she’s over 54. 

She loves to pick up new technology, the earlier the better if her budget permits. 

She lives in the US. 

An ebook’s author and price are important factors when she decides whether or not to buy an ebook, but so are recommendations by those she trusts, including friends and family, Kindle Nation Daily, and the “crowd sourcing” of Amazon reviewers. 

She’s very aware of ebook pricing and the price wars of the past year. She is a partisan in passionate support of lower ebook prices and greater selection, and she is willing to play a pro-active role and be the price-setter herself.

Who is she? 

She may be you, and she is certainly the “typical” ebook lover among the record 2,275 people who responded to the Winter 2011 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey conducted by Kindle Nation Daily in January.

A point of interest: Survey respondents were asked for their demographic information in the most gentle of ways. 2,228—or 98% of all 2,275 respondents—shared information about age, gender, and more.

The preponderance of respondents own and love their Kindle devices. The survey was open to the whole world during end of January, regardless of device they use to read ebooks. Survey details indicate large numbers of the respondents have devices other than Kindles on which they can read books from the Kindle Store. However, the overwhelming number of respondents do own Kindle devices, but are multi-device households.

The survey’s 15 questions collected detailed information on readers’ ebook buying habits, their preferences, their resistance to higher ebook prices, and their opinions on the key players in the book business, including authors, traditional publishers, independent authors, literary agents, Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs of Apple, and even Kindle Nation.

The data collected is detailed, so we will offer a series of articles breaking down the responses during the next few days.

For now, a closer look at the people who responded in general terms:
  • 67% are female, 33% male
  • 51.5% are over 54; 46.4% are between between 25 and 54; only 1.3% are under 25.
  • 70% call themselves “tech savvy,” but a significant 17.2% say they are not.
  • 75% love technology, and 70.1% are early adopters of new gadgets.
  • 17.3% use their Kindles when traveling internationally.
  • About 93% live in the US.
  • 1.5% are Canadian; 1.3% live in the UK, and another 3% are spread around the rest of the world. 
  • 7.1% frequently speak or read a language other than English.
  • 14% are — at some level — authors, publishers, journalists or bloggers.

(One of several Kindle Nation posts exploring the results of the Winter 2011 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey. Click here to see a breakdown of results.)

Thanks to All 2,275 Respondents to the Winter 2011 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey

The Winter 2011 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey closed just a few hours ago at midnight Big Island time, and I want to thank each and every one of the 2,275 official respondents! This is our 5th survey since early 2009, an that’s an increase of 15.6 per cent over the previous record high for participation, set in August 2010, and it once again secures the survey’s place as the single largest public survey of Kindle customers.

You can take a look at detailed results of the survey by clicking on the “Thank You” graphic or visiting this link: http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07e3akjmwxgj44hypt/results

Big thank yous also go out to our colleagues Len Edgerly at The Kindle Chronicles podcast, Bufo Calvin at the I Love My Kindle blog, Catherine MacDonald at the Kindle Lending Club website, Tom Dulaney at Planet iPad, and Harvey at KindleBoards for helping to spread the word about the survey.

Stay tuned to Kindle Nation for detailed reports on the results, and what they mean for the Kindle Revolution, in the days to come.

Winter 2011 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey Reaches 2,000 Respondents for First Time Ever, But There’s Still Time for Last-Minute Participants

by Stephen Windwalker
Editor of Kindle Nation

The late breaking news here at Kindle Nation is that at 9:24 am Eastern time (GMT-5) today we have officially reached 2,000 participants in the Winter 2011 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey for the first time ever. This is our fifth survey since we began conducting them twice each year, and each survey’s participation level has surpassed its predecessors, but with this one the citizens of Kindle Nation have blown through the 2,000 mark with almost 48 hours left before the survey closes at midnight Hawaii time on Monday night, January 31.

Special thanks to all of our participants and to our colleagues at Len at The Kindle Chronicles podcast, Bufo at the I Love My Kindle blog, Catherine at the Kindle Lending Club website, and Harvey at KindleBoards for helping to spread the word about the survey.

There’s still time to participate by clicking on this link:

Among other things, the survey results so far carry plenty of good news for indie authors and publishers. Here are some take-aways from a snapshot we took yesterday after the first 1,900 respondents.

Respondents continue to have strong positive feelings about bestselling authors (56% positive, 3% negative), but they don’t think much of the big agency model publishers (10% positive, 41% negative). Indeed, they have much more positive feelings, for instance, about:
  • Independent and emerging authors (52% positive, 1% negative)
  • Small independent publishers (35.5% positive, 4% negative)
  • Kindle Nation Daily (71% positive, 2% negative)
Influences such as electronic and print media reviews, bestseller lists, Oprah, or big bookstore displays in pointing readers to the books that they actually buy are in decline. Instead, respondents ranked the following, in order, as far more likely to influence them to buy books:
  • recommended or listed by Amazon.
  • recommended, listed, or excerpted on Kindle Nation.
  • reading a free excerpt, author interview, or other material on Kindle Nation or another source.
  • recommended by a friend, relative, or colleague.
Indie authors and indie publishers cannot survive without indie readers, and increasingly, readers are acting as if they are in charge when it comes to selecting the books they will read or acting as if they, the readers, are the final price-setting authorities:
  • 89% of respondents identified with the statement, “I frequently choose to delay purchasing an ebook that I want to read if I believe that the price is too high.”
  • 76% of respondents identified with the statement, “If publishers keep charging higher bestseller prices, I’ll buy more backlist or indie titles.”
And here, if you are interested, are links for our previous Kindle Nation Survey Results:

You Are Invited: Take the Winter 2011 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey

by Stephen Windwalker
Editor of Kindle Nation

Okay, I’ll cut to the chase here and begin by inviting you to participate in the Winter 2011 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey. Here’s a link:

But before you head over there — as I hope you will do in the next few moments — let me share a few words about why your participation is so important.

It seems like centuries ago in Kindle time, but in the late summer of 2009, it was big news when Amazon sold more ebook copies than print copies of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol. Within a year, that trend had spread to Amazon’s entire catalog, taken together: the company was selling more ebooks than print books overall, even though print sales themselves continued to increase.

But the velocity of change keeps increasing by astonishing leaps and bounds, and now we have learned that in each of the first three weeks following Christmas, publishers sold more ebooks than print books for over 35% of the top 50 titles on the USA Today bestseller list, including all of the top 6 books on the list last week.

So it is not hyperbole to say that there’s a revolution taking place in how we choose, buy, and read the books we love, and — just as importantly — in the roles that authors, publishers, retailers, agents and others play in bringing those books into existence, bringing them to your attention, and, of course, dividing up your book-buying dollar.

As a citizen of Kindle Nation, you are probably well aware already that you have a front row seat for this revolution. But it’s even better than that: as the greatest readers in the world, we are key participants in the revolution, at the barricades, making individual decisions that aggregate into larger trends that will force change upon the other participants. Whether or not we want to be change agents does not matter. To mangle a line from a recent election campaign, we are the change that traditional publishers have been having nightmares about.

Sometimes this kind of change occurs when the other participants figure out the trends and change their ways. Other times change occurs when those who don’t figure out the changing marketplace simply get run over and are replaced by those who do.

The dumbest of the dinosaurs never get beyond blaming and whining about the other players who they identify as leading the charge and forcing the changes. But the truth is that, as visionary and adaptive and aggressive as the change agents may be, if it hadn’t been them, it would have been somebody else.

If it hadn’t been Amazon and the Kindle, it would have been some other company and some other ebook reader. If it hadn’t been change-making authors like April Hamilton, Joe Konrath, Amanda Hocking, and Imogen Rose, it would have been other authors.

Change takes place when it is enabled by technology, by markets, and most of all by people. Change keeps a sharp eye out for market inefficiencies, for outmoded or unnecessary intermediaries, and for opportunities to improve the array of choices for, in this case, readers and writers. Change isn’t “right” or “wrong,” but like the sun that will rise again tomorrow morning, there’s not much of a percentage in opposing it.

To acknowledge the inevitability of change is not to suggest that there is anything random about the rise and the success of specific change agents. Again and again, those who play the biggest roles in bringing significant changes tend to be visionaries rather than copycats, doers rather than watchers, cowboys and cowgirls rather curmudgeons and cretins. Some of them succeed, some flame out, and some sell out their missionary evangelism by failing to listen to their customers along the way, but change finds a path and a place to continue its march.
So now more than ever, it is important for those in the book business to listen to you, the citizens of Kindle Nation. You speak every day in the choices you make about what books to buy, where to buy them, and at what prices. But it is also important to see what we as Kindle customers have to say about what influences us to buy the books we buy and what future features might be most important to us as readers.
All of which is why, a couple of times a year, we conduct the Kindle Nation citizen survey. There were 1,968 respondents for our last survey, which closed just before delivery of the first Kindle 3 units, on August 25, 2010. Each survey that we have conducted has been the biggest public survey ever up to that point among Kindle customers, and we hope you will help to make this one even bigger and more informative.

Here, once again, is the link to participate in the survey:

And here, if you are interested, are links for our previous Kindle Nation Survey Results: