The Future Has Happened Already: E-books are now #1 format

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The Future Has Happened Already: E-books are now #1 format

Postby dgaughran » 14 Apr 2011, 17:24

E-books are now the #1 selling format in the U.S. And that’s not just in terms of volume, but in dollars too.

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) yesterday released sales figures for the month of February, and I was blown away. E-book sales (year on year) grew over 200%. They now comprise 29.5% of the market. And this is only e-book data from 16 of the biggest publishers reporting versus 84 publishers reporting print data, the real number could be higher.

But the headline news was this: e-books are the top-selling format across all trade categories. More than paperback!

I blogged about this here: http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2011 ... n-the-u-s/

The AAP press release is here: http://www.mediabistro.com/ebooknewser/ ... uary_b9154
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Re: The Future Has Happened Already: E-books are now #1 format

Postby Nathan Bransford » 14 Apr 2011, 22:41

Wow, pretty incredible how fast they're growing.
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Re: The Future Has Happened Already: E-books are now #1 format

Postby dgaughran » 15 Apr 2011, 02:47

Hi Nathan,

And it may be even faster than that. The AAP's figures are, as you know, self-reported. The figures for February include data from 16 houses on e-book sales, but 84 houses on print sales. And when you factor in that micro/small/indie presses are traditionally slower to report, and some of those guys are 50% digital already, then we are probably looking at something more like a third for market share. Neil, at E-book comments has some great graphs here: http://ebookcomments.blogspot.com/2011/ ... sales.html

The AAP puts a lot of this surge down to new Kindle owners 'loading' books post-holiday. But they are doing more 'loading' in February than January. Are we seeing e-book owners replacing their collections? Judging by the comments on the Kindle forums, that would seem to be the case, but it's hard to quantify. And of course, this figures should only go up with the new, cheaper Kindle, increased e-reader competition throughout the year, increased backlists on sale, and, I would predict, a $99 e-reader before Christmas.

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Re: The Future Has Happened Already: E-books are now #1 format

Postby J. T. SHEA » 15 Apr 2011, 09:20

Now hold on just a cotton-picking moment there, David! 29.5% of the market? Certain important categories no doubt, but the overall book market? No way! Not unless maths have changed. I was helping my nine year old nephew with his maths yesterday and two plus two still equaled four. And if the Irish Department of Education thought they could make it equal three they probably would!

Beware of second and third-hand summaries of the AAP's press releases. January 2011 E-book sales were about $70m, which is about 9% of the $800m book sales that month. In February E-book sales jumped to about $90m, a massive jump, but still just 11% of the market.

Audio download sales are up too, by a lesser but still significant amount. The predictions now made about e-books were made about audio books not too long ago, and are coming true to some extent, though slowly. Most of the arguments regarding the convenience of e-books apply even better to audio books, their main limitation being their higher production costs. Perhaps self-publishers should be practicing their voice skills!

Watch out for massive e-book penetration of the educational/academic market. We've been complaining about the cost and sheer weight and bulk of schoolbooks were decades, but my aforementioned nephew's schoolbag is so big and heavy it has wheels, for heaven's sake!
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Re: The Future Has Happened Already: E-books are now #1 format

Postby rose » 15 Apr 2011, 09:32

I would predict, a $99 e-reader before Christmas.


Surely you mean before LAST Christmas, don't you? Big Lots was selling them for $89.00, and recently put them on sale for $79.00. Admittedly, these are no name/no wifi brands, but as one reviewer has said, they are terrific "entry level" devices. By those standards, my own Foxit eSlick which cost about $250 two years ago, is an entry level device. But it does a good job on .pdfs which I need and which (I've heard) the NoName doesn't handle.
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Re: The Future Has Happened Already: E-books are now #1 format

Postby dgaughran » 15 Apr 2011, 09:48

J. T. SHEA wrote:Now hold on just a cotton-picking moment there, David! 29.5% of the market? Certain important categories no doubt, but the overall book market? No way! Not unless maths have changed. I was helping my nine year old nephew with his maths yesterday and two plus two still equaled four. And if the Irish Department of Education thought they could make it equal three they probably would!


Let me be clear. That's 29.5% of Adult Trade Books. Adult Trade Books does not include Children's/YA, educational books, religious books or scholarly journals. This is how the share of the e-book market is normally calculated (and reported). When we were talking about e-books having a 3% market share in 2009, we were also referring to Adult Trade Books.

Also important to note that this 29.5% only includes commercially-published e-books

J. T. SHEA wrote:Beware of second and third-hand summaries of the AAP's press releases.


I was quoting from (and reading) the original press release.

J. T. SHEA wrote:Audio download sales are up too, by a lesser but still significant amount. The predictions now made about e-books were made about audio books not too long ago, and are coming true to some extent, though slowly. Most of the arguments regarding the convenience of e-books apply even better to audio books, their main limitation being their higher production costs. Perhaps self-publishers should be practicing their voice skills!


I wrote about that in my blog post, and predicted it would get lost in the shuffle. They are up over a third, which is huge. The higher production costs are a being problem for self-publishers. Audible (owned by Amazon) could be a big player here, but even Cory Doctorow couldn't get them to work with his self-published work (I believe DRM was the sticking point but I can't quite remember).

J. T. SHEA wrote:Watch out for massive e-book penetration of the educational/academic market. We've been complaining about the cost and sheer weight and bulk of schoolbooks were decades, but my aforementioned nephew's schoolbag is so big and heavy it has wheels, for heaven's sake!


Yes, yes. This is a huge area, that isn't talked about enough. On top of that, the whole scholarly article/university publisher/university library purchase system could come crashing down. One to watch.

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Re: The Future Has Happened Already: E-books are now #1 format

Postby dgaughran » 15 Apr 2011, 09:52

rose wrote:
I would predict, a $99 e-reader before Christmas.


Surely you mean before LAST Christmas, don't you? Big Lots was selling them for $89.00, and recently put them on sale for $79.00. Admittedly, these are no name/no wifi brands, but as one reviewer has said, they are terrific "entry level" devices. By those standards, my own Foxit eSlick which cost about $250 two years ago, is an entry level device. But it does a good job on .pdfs which I need and which (I've heard) the NoName doesn't handle.


Sorry I should have said $99 Kindle (thanks for pointing that out), which will be a price point that could attract huge numbers. And given Amazon's dominance (in the U.S. at least), that would have a big knock-on effect.

I still haven't bought one, so I don't know that much about their various merits. I like good old-fashioned books, and wandering aimlessly in bookstores. I don't think the future will be kind to me.
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