Anecdotal Evidence from the Digital Shift

Back in 2004, when I spent most of my time doing format conversions and production automation, I had the privilege of turning much of what I learned doing things like batch running Word macros from the DOS command line with Ruby into a book, Word Hacks. Like our other Hacks books, it’s a lesson in the value of curation and convenience — much of the contents came from existing information, culled from blog posts, help forums, and other sources (all with permission and attribution, of course).

While it sold quite modestly, it was reviewed well, I earned out my advance, and as recently as September I ran into someone who told me the book has helped them do their job more effectively (their job being substantially similar to the one I was doing at the time I wrote the book).

This weekend my quarterly royalty statement came, and even I was struck by the relative proportion of sales coming from digital sources (this is from Q2 2009). Please note this is totally anecdotal data from a single book that probably hasn’t been on the shelves in most retailers for years, so do take with the appropriate grain of salt:


Less than 20% of sales were for the print book. This is something we’ve seen for other “long tail” titles that show very little demand when viewed through the lens of retail print sales (i.e., Bookscan). Making titles available in digital form means the opportunity to capture sales long after a title has left most bookstore shelves.

There’s still (a few) spots open for TOC Frankfurt next week on Oct. 13. Use discount code TOC09BL.

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