Reading Indie vs. Traditionally Published Books

I’ve been reading articles about the potential of a bifurcated market in books right now. Some people believe that there could be actually two different groups of readers: those who read traditionally published books, and those who read self-published or indie books. If this is true, that means that the two groups of authors aren’t competing for the same audience. And that could make a big difference in how we try to sell books.

I don’t know much about business or how markets work. But these articles did make me want to look at how my own reading habits have changed. Since I started tracking my books on Goodreads, I can see a lot of my recent reading at a glance.

I’ve had an ereader for about two years now and I’ve come to do a lot of my reading on a digital device, although I still buy print books. All of my print books are from traditionally published authors, from names that I already know, and they were books that I looked forward to their release. Many are hardcover because I wanted them both to read and to collect. But since I am running out of space, I have bought less than I used to. Since I also don’t go to the library anymore, I don’t often take a chance on new authors. The new authors I have read came from online recommendations. And when I went to a used bookstore last weekend, I only looked for out of print books by my favorite authors.

On my tablet, the reading is very different, and my ebooks probably outnumber print about three to one. Most of these are from indie authors or small press. I take a lot more risks with new authors, especially when they are offered for free or on sale. And when I read one book that I like, I tend to immediately purchase the rest of the books from the same author. Some recommendations come from online, but others I picked  browsing stores or from newsletters that announce free and discount books (BookBub is my favorite). Still more are from doing blog tours, because I do want to read the books that I host.

I think in the future that my reading will become more skewed to indie authors and small presses. They are cheaper, more convenient, and also available at a faster rate. As the number of traditionally published authors I like dwindles, or their books only come out once a year, I will be less inclined to even enter bookstores. Meanwhile, it’s rare that I buy new trad authors even digitally because of the higher price point. (I tried both Marie Brennan and Lev Grossman in eBook last year, but I then bought Marie Brennan’s dragon books in hardcover because of the book signing last weekend.) So I think that for me, I will become primarily an indie reader.

This is because I am an avid reader on a budget. Having cheap ebooks on my tablet is the equivalent to going to the library every week as a kid: I can get a lot of books without risking lots of money. And since the books are often about the same in quality, indie books are just as good.

On the other hand, I think most people I know only read trad published books. For many of them, my book was the first self-published book they’d ever read. They still read a lot, but they go to the library, borrow books from friends, or look for bargains to feed their reading habits. So we aren’t reading the same things anymore. I don’t know if they will change in the future.

I could see two markets emerging because of these different habits and choices. I want to keep watching these trends and learning more to see what happens.


I'm an author, a blogger, and a nerd. I read and write fantasy.