Same-Day Delivery, Book Buying Habits, and Indie Authors

on August 14, 2014 in Book Design & Production, E-books
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The other day I was reading an article about Google working with Barnes and Noble to offer same-day delivery of books in a few locations. It's no secret that Amazon is also keen on making same-day delivery a reality for more shoppers. And it got me wondering. How might the rise of same-day deliveries affect book buying habits, and how might it affect the business decisions of indie authors?

While I'm sure it will be quite some time before the majority of shoppers can order books online and receive them the same day, there's no doubt we're moving in that direction. It's only a matter of time. And I'd like to pose a couple of questions to you in the spirit of discussion.

Your Thoughts on Same-Day Delivery

  1. Would same-day delivery (assuming a reasonable shipping cost) lead you to buy more print books than you do now?
  2. If you could get print books today without leaving home, would that impact your e-book buying habits in any way?
  3. As an indie author, can you see faster print book deliveries influencing you to offer your work in print rather than e-book only versions?

Leave a comment below and share your thoughts on any of these topics. In the meantime here's what I envision.

"Predictions" About Print Books & Same-Day Delivery

I generally hesitate to make predictions, and I don't quite want to do that here. I don't know what's going to happen in one, five, or ten years from now. But I'm willing to speculate. And here are some things that strike me as being possibilities:

Print Books Could Become More Attractive

One of the big benefits of e-books is the instant gratification factor. With same-day delivery of print books, that benefit takes a hit. As a result, I can see people buying more print books again -- especially those who switched to e-books for the ability to buy and read on a whim.

Will same-day shipping make print books "instant?" No. But for those who miss print books but were willing to leave them for greater convenience, "instant" might not be as relevant when "today" is still an option for the product they prefer.

This will definitely be me with nonfiction books. If I have a choice, I always prefer print books. But I'm not always willing to wait (and the nearest bookstore is about an hour round trip for me). So sometimes I buy the e-book version now and figure I'll buy the print version later for the best of both worlds. If I could have the print version by the end of the day on the day I order it, I won't have a need to buy as many e-books.

Double Sales Could be Lost

Along those lines, authors / publishers / booksellers used to be able to get multiple sales out of me for the same titles. It wasn't just nonfiction books though. I do the same with some novels. If the first chapter preview isn't enough to convince me and the e-book is cheaper than the print version, which it usually is, I'll buy the e-book first. I'll read enough to decide if I want it. And if I really like the book, I order the print copy.

With same-day delivery buyers who use e-books as a sort of preview product won't have as much incentive to buy both versions if what they really prefer is a print copy. The cost of the e-book could be put towards the shipping cost instead, and they could have the print copy by that evening when they're ready to curl up with a book before bed.

More Indie Authors Might Embrace Print Publishing

Many indie authors focus all of their attention on e-publishing. Right now it makes sense. Barriers to entry are low. And readers are ready and willing to buy. But what happens if print books become more accessible as a norm and reader expectations shift again (as they always will)?

While I don't think all, or perhaps even most, e-only indie authors will quickly move to print publishing, I'll be surprised if there's no shift at all. If readers want print books because they become used to getting them quickly (and they want to actually own their copies of books again rather than have a license to a file), my gut says indies will embrace the change and give readers what they want.

Personally, I'd love to see this happen, even if it's still a long way off. As I mentioned, if I have a choice, I always prefer print copies. While not all readers feel that way, that's what it comes down to: buyers like having a choice. And providing that choice could make more indie titles more attractive to more buyers, therefore making them more competitive in the marketplace. That's what I hope to see at least.

Same-Day Delivery Might be Used as a Negotiating Tactic

While it's always possible companies like Amazon will offer same-day shipping and delivery on every item they possibly can, there's also the possibility that could be used as a negotiating tactic. For example, as Amazon keeps pushing into publishing territory, I could see same-day print delivery used as a negotiating tactic to get exclusivity from indie authors similar to the way they use features to make KDP Select seem attractive despite e-book exclusivity. I don't think they're in a position to make a move like that any time soon, but I could see it happening down the line.

I'm really excited to see what happens on this front and what impact same-day delivery might have on general book buying trends. I've never bought into the "print books are dying" arguments. But they do need to continually adapt to a changing market. And I suspect delivery improvement is one of the biggest areas of necessary adaptation.

What about you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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13 Comments

  1. Yo Prinzel August 14, 2014 Reply

    1. No because I prefer eBooks to print. For me, print books are awkward to hold and hard to read at night. Also, while I’ve always been an avid reader, that doesn’t make me a book collector. I don’t like storing books, dusting bookshelves, or getting rid of books so, again, electronic wins.

    2. No–see above.

    3. Since most readers still prefer print, I already offer books my books that way, so same-day shipping or teleportation wouldn’t have an impact on my publishing choices (that I can think of). As far as duplicate purchases, I offer a free eBook version with the purchase of a print version when you buy through Amazon, so that’s probably not going to impact me that greatly (YMMV–just trying to answer from my POV).

    I’d be interested to see how same-day shipping impacts the buying habits of power readers, like romance readers who can easily saw through a book a day. I remember my mom’s shelves of Harlequins and I imagine that she would have strongly preferred a digital option if we’d had that in aught-nonyabusiness. So–purely for curiosity’s sake–I’d like to see if it affects that type of reader. My bet is that it won’t, and part of the reason why is that getting books formatted for print is more time consuming than getting them ready for sale as an eBook (in the very least, you’ve got to wait a few days for the proof copy before you can hit PUBLISH*), so power readers who want their books yesterday will (I’m betting) still going to end up buying the digital version.

    *CreateSpace allows you to proof a digital copy but after testing this on several books, I’d strongly advise most publishers to avoid this option.
    Yo Prinzel recently posted…Self-Publishing for Freelancers: Don’t Forget Phase TwoMy Profile

    • Yo Prinzel August 14, 2014 Reply

      By the way, although the above comment reads as if I was drunk when I wrote it, I assure you I wasn’t. Hiccup.
      Yo Prinzel recently posted…Self-Publishing for Freelancers: Don’t Forget Phase TwoMy Profile

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern August 14, 2014 Reply

      Thanks for your thoughts as always Yo. :)

    • Princess Jones August 15, 2014 Reply

      I agree with Yo on the book collecting. I have a very small shelf of books and they are all signed copies or books I’ve reread often. As much as I love to read, walking into someone’s home with walls of books never really excites me. I always wonder why they’re wasting all of that space on stuff that already happened.

      When I was young and still impressionable, my favorite librarian told me that the best way to love a book is to give it away so that someone else can read it too. (This was before I was worried about sales and pirating and what not.) And so for years, I’ve been randomly giving books to people I think they’d like or donating them or selling them back to the bookstore.

      I just realized this has very little to do with the article. I’m gonna hit “Post Comment” anyway.
      Princess Jones recently posted…Asked and Answered: Why Can’t Red Read?My Profile

      • Author
        Jennifer Mattern August 15, 2014 Reply

        You’re breaking my heart lady. ;)

        We’re definitely collectors. We’re also big re-readers. So our shelves full of books aren’t necessarily things “that already happened.” But I can see the sense in that if they’re sitting around for no purpose. I also loan a lot of books to family so they’re coming and going all the time (especially my mysteries).

        I’m glad hubs was a lifelong collector. We’re both big believers in building a solid library for children, and when we have our own we’ll be starting from a good place. He still has every book he had while growing up. I wasn’t quite that bad, but I also lost most of my old books in a fire. So maybe I would have been that “bad” if I had the chance.

  2. Cathy Miller August 14, 2014 Reply

    I am a bad one to comment because I still don’t buy ebooks *Gasp* I said it. I know that is going to change, especially if I ever get off my rear and publish a book. ;-)

    My nighttime ritual is to read (fiction mostly) for an hour or two before going to sleep. I just can’t snuggle up to an ereader (just the opposite of Yo). I do think they are better for traveling.

    As a consumer who is a huge print reader, getting it in one day doesn’t matter to me one way or the other.

    However, I can relate to Yo about collecting books. I always was a book collector. One of the most painful times for me was giving away most of my collections when I moved from San Diego to Boise. At least 10-15 boxes (maybe more). I did keep two separate series that I re-read often but I haven’t gone back to my book-saving ways. I donate my used hardbacks to the local library.

    When the day comes (and you’ll probably know it by the earth shaking) and I do publish books, I cannot imagine me not offering both options.

    My less than 2 cents-worth.
    Cathy Miller recently posted…Positive Customer Service Responses for 3 Thorny TiradesMy Profile

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern August 14, 2014 Reply

      lol We’ve got both extremes on the spectrum covered! ;)

      I’m like you with nighttime reading. There’s something very cold about holding yet another gadget in my hand. I like feeling pulled into a novel, and I don’t get that feeling when reading e-books. I’m much more open to them with nonfiction, though I do prefer having physical copies even if I have the e-book. I’m definitely in the collector camp. Having a library was mandatory when we moved here because we needed somewhere to house our books (and it still barely holds half — it was also converted to my office, so I’m constantly surrounding by them — read: in heaven). I doubt either of us could bear to part with our books. And one of our favorite things is driving to our favorite used book store (sadly about 5 hours away) to “adopt” good books in need of a home. ;)

  3. Anne Wayman August 14, 2014 Reply

    I like ebooks… and my kindle works well in bed for me and I’ve been known to buy for the literally instant gratification. But not at the beach or in the tub.

    Instant delivery of print books has me visioning drones circling above or big trucks filled with books driving around waiting for an order… and those thoughts make me unhappy.

    I do love printed books… except when I move… so I do more at the library than I used to.

    I really have no idea how this will go… so sad, Jenn, to think that you’re an hour from a bookstore… and I’m a good 40 minutes now… a shame imo.
    Anne Wayman recently posted…Freelance Writing Job Interview SuccessMy Profile

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern August 14, 2014 Reply

      An hour round trip, so it’s only about half an hour away. But that’s what counts as “local” shopping around here. It’s not bad. But it’s much too far to go because I suddenly want to make a purchase on a whim. That involves putting on real clothes, making myself presentable, trying to make my way past the dog who insists she’s coming for a ride with me, driving there, meandering about for a while as I browse the shelves, buying, driving home, etc. By the time all is said and done, half the day is gone. And I love that, once in a while. Just not every time I want to buy a book.

      I have no idea how far off things like drone delivery are. While I wouldn’t want to see them in populated areas (and I’m not sure how it would be feasible to do that anyway), I do think there’s value in finding a new way to get packages to people in really remote parts of the country where deliveries don’t come easily.

  4. Jake Poinier August 15, 2014 Reply

    I’ve rarely had the “need” to have a hard-copy book immediately, but it happened on a couple of occasions before ebooks were a thing. An emergency, next-day interview for a magazine profile of an author with a new book is the example that comes to mind. I needed to read it as part of my research/prep; luckily it was in stock at the local Borders, which has since been shuttered. Now, I’d probably just do the download, assuming it was available.

    If I can make up a word, I’d say I’m bi-booksual. I probably lean toward hard copies for both fiction and non-, but I’m not absolutist about it. I just find ebooks don’t read quite as quickly or easily, and I agree with the emotional aspect cited in several comments above. And I do love browsing the used book store a couple of miles from my house!
    Jake Poinier recently posted…Writing revisions and doing the right thingMy Profile

    • Yo Prinzel August 16, 2014 Reply

      Lol, bi-booksual.

      I don’t get the emotional blockage people talk about (or inability to “get pulled into”) when reading electronic books. Have you tried e-ink rather than tablets/phones? I don’t think I’d lose anything either way, but maybe it’s different for others.
      Yo Prinzel recently posted…Kindle Unlimited: Reader and Writer PerspectiveMy Profile

      • Author
        Jennifer Mattern August 16, 2014 Reply

        I’ve tried both, and I’m not a huge fan of either. Again, I’ll read that way if I have to or if I want something this very second. But it’s definitely not my preference. I understand a lot of the appeal. But the features just don’t sway me from preferring print books.

        On one hand, I’m a bit surprised more writers aren’t chiming in in favor of “real” books. But on the other hand, it’s mostly family and friends I hear talking about them, and most of them have either ereaders or tablets that they use for e-books. And I suppose it makes sense in a general consumer sense. I’ve known a few people who have had catastrophic failures with tablets and ereaders where they’ve lost access to everything until they were willing to shell out big bucks either for repairs or replacements. My guess is that’s a factor for them now. But beyond that, it’s a bit opposite of what I would have expected. Maybe the difference is that writers / authors today are simply more in-the-know about e-publishing in general so we accept it more easily (even if it’s not my top reading preference, I certainly accept it and actively read e-books). I don’t know.

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern August 16, 2014 Reply

      Thanks for chiming in Jake. I think my issue with ebooks is similar. I can read them if they’re the only option or if I’m unsure about a new author, but they don’t have the same comfort factor. And I suspect it does have to do with the speed. While it doesn’t take long to tap or scroll obviously, having to do that for every single page makes me briefly stop twice as often as when I’m turning a physical page. I don’t know if that’s a big part of my preference, but I do find it a little bit distracting. (And yes, Yo, I’m sure you could equally argue that turning pages could be distracting for some. :P )

      I’m terribly envious of anyone with closer local book stores. I especially love browsing used book stores simply because you never know what you’re going to find. My closest is about a half hour away, just like our closest new book store (one of the few B&Ns still in our area).

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