Friday, May 9, 2008

Are science fiction ebook sales declining?

Over in the Fictionwise Yahoo! Groups newsgroup, science-fiction ebook author Darrell Bain has noted that whereas SF titles used to dominate the bestsellers lists at (and, indeed, my own work has hit number-one on various lists there in the past), the current top-ten list has only one SF title on it. Darrell asks, "What's happened to all the science-fiction readers"? My response:

The statistician in me says there may have been no reduction in the number of science-fiction readers at Fictionwise, but, rather, as Fictionwise has added depth in more categories, and now that people other than technophilic early adopters (who tend to be SF readers) are widely using ebook technology, larger numbers of readers of other types of fiction have arrived on the scene, overwhelming the SF sales. Note, for instance, the large number of Harlequin Romances now available at Fictionwise.

Alternatively, the fact that there are more SF writers published by major New York houses giving away their electronic content under Creative Commons licenses than there are writers in any other genre of fiction, plus the fact that SF publishers like Baen and now Tor are giving away ebooks by major writers, means the market for actually selling science-fiction ebooks may have become depressed (not that it was ever very big to begin with). Most of those giving away free content in the SF field do it to drive sales of PRINT editions of the same or similar works, not to drive traffic to ebook merchants.

Pictured: an iRex Iliad, my current ebook reader of choice

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


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