More Data About E-Book Sales

For those of you missing the news, here are some totals reported from the AAP survey for July. (The last posts below were from June and the first half of 2012.)

This is quoted from Publisher’s Marketplace.
“The AAP reported sales for July from the nearly 1,200 publishers they track. Overall net trade sales of $522.5 million were up 12 percent, with all of the gains and then some coming from trade paperbacks and adult–very adult–ebooks, still led by the remarkable 50 Shades trilogy.

“E-Book sales were almost the same as in June, at $137.8 million, up 62 percent versus a year ago.”

In other words, up over last year, but flat from month to month. No growth in ebooks from June to July.

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7 Responses to More Data About E-Book Sales

  1. mike says:

    Hmmm… how much of the rise in ebook sales this year can be attributed to one single book? The shades of grey book?

    • dwsmith says:

      Mike, a lot of it, actually. But it seems in publishing there is always “one book” that helps out. But a percentage, that’s for sure.

  2. Christian K says:

    No growth in number ebooks sold by AAP reporting members from June to July. This would not include any Amazon imprints or KDP or PubIT or Smashwords, or Google, (you get my point).

    This could mean that more readers aren’t buying more eBooks, or it could mean that readers are buying self published back lists, or front lists (or everyone finished 50 Shades and needs a break).

    AAP numbers don’t track that thing that brings all the authors to the yard, namely milkshakes.. err Self Publishing.

    • dwsmith says:

      Christian, nope, doesn’t include those, I agree. But the Bowker numbers include a lot of those and last time Bowker released their numbers, it was in the same range.

      Some day I will finish the post I have been doing on the feeling of importance indie writers have of what they are doing. Just gathering a tad more data and sources. But I can tell you, the feeling of importance is way overblown.

      And realize, Kris and I are using this indie publishing option to start yet another publishing company that is booming right along in its early growth years. And we are not the only ones, so that is important. And I am a major supporter of indie writers and publishers, going so far as to do workshops to help writers do better blurbs, better covers, and so on. But that support and the fun I am having doesn’t stop me from keeping perspective in the numbers and importance of the indie writers and their sales.

      Indie writers and publishers are making a fantastic difference in publishing. Of that, I do not question in any way. But that difference is just not in the way most think, and not as much as you would think in the sales numbers when looked at the industry as a whole.

      • One of the better resources for data available today is Bookstats, put out now in 2011 and 2012 by the BISG and AAP working together to gather data (on 2010 and 2011 respectively). It’s expensive, but can be worth it. And it’s possible to get free access to the report by participating in the survey if you’re running an actual publishing company. Something WMG might look into, if you’re not already.

        A few important bits. In 2011, ebooks were only about 15% of US trade publisher revenue, including over 1900 publishers. Again, this excludes a lot of indie books, but it’s a good picture. However, ebooks were about 30% of adult fiction revenue in 2011. And trade ebook sales in 2011 topped $2 billion, up from just under $900 million the year before.

        All this data still excludes most indie sales. But since indie ebooks average only about a third the retail price of trad pub ebooks, their impact on revenue is low. For example: given margins of error in the calculations, the lowest possible percent of unit sales of indie trade ebooks is about thirty percent (mostly likely range is 35-40%). But given the disparity of price, that’s only about 12.5% of ebook sales as revenue. To see how that impacts the AAP numbers, which track revenue instead of units, take the AAP number and multiply by 1.1; that’s about right, if indies have a 30% market share of unit sales. So that 25% becomes 27.5% instead when you count indie revenue.

        Does that seem tiny? It IS tiny. But i feel it is important to track unit sales as well. Even seen a publishing exec blanche white? Show one a spreadsheet demonstrating that taken as a whole, self published science fiction writers are selling more ebooks than all other publishers put together, and you’ll probably get a pale publishing exec. Assuming he believes the numbers, and publishes sf. Publishers are insulated from unit sales comparisons. Amazon doesn’t release them, very few studies other than mine are trying to analyze them, and publishers are geared toward revenue as king. But unit sales are a key indicator of who readers are buying, and that seems to have changed a lot in the last two years.

  3. John Brown says:

    Dean. Seasonality :) It would be great if the numbers just went up and up all the time, but all products experience seasonality. So comparing the change between two contiguous months can be misleading. That’s why it’s always good to look at seasonal trends and compare with previous year’s sales as well.

    According to this guy’s compilation of AAP stats, there’s usually a drop from June to July. Scroll to the bottom and look at the last 3 charts: http://ebookcomments.blogspot.com/2011/01/november-e-book-sales.html

    Hardback, paperback, and mmbp all trend the same or down from June to July in the 6 years shown. I don’t know of a strong reason why e-books wouldn’t follow the general pattern displayed by the other formats in that period (I can for January and Feb).

    What the report shows then is huge growth–a freaking 62%. To put that in perspective, if ebooks grew at that rate for 1 more year, they would be almost 40% of the trade category. 3 years and they would account for 82% of all trade sales. In 4 years they would be bigger than the whole category. That is an awesome growth rate. It’s not going to last 3 or 4 years, but the numbers cited show massive growth, not flat growth.

  4. John Brown says:

    BTW, it’s the data in the graphs that’s important, not the guy’s comments about them. He’s drawing conclusions about e-books in the seasonality that are not in the data.

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