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
- Would same-day delivery (assuming a reasonable shipping cost) lead you to buy more print books than you do now?
- If you could get print books today without leaving home, would that impact your e-book buying habits in any way?
- 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.