The Latest on eBook Sales

Will ebook sales surpass the sales of printed books by 2017 as some have predicted (see Prediction for eBooks)?

A new study by the Book Industry Study Group found that the share of all new ebooks sold in 2013—both in units and dollars—has been flat at about 30% for units sold and just under 15% of book dollars spent. In addition, the study found that the percent of book buyers who read ebooks on at least a weekly basis as well as the percent who have bought an ebook have similarly stalled at around 20% and 25%, respectively.

ebook statsIn essence, ebook growth has not continued on the predicted scale. Yes, ebook sales are still increasing, just not at the rate previously predicted, which leaves the question of just when ebook sales will equal or surpass print book sales.

Those in the industry who favor producing digital-books-only are eagerly awaiting the day that ebook sales surpass print book sales. This leveling out of ebook sales growth may mean these individuals and companies will have to wait longer than previously anticipated.

If you are one that favors digital books, take heart. Not all ebook news is discouraging.

A recent poll by USA Today and Bookish.com found the following:

  • Some 40% of adults own an e-reader or tablet, double the percentage of two years ago.
  • 35% of those with reading devices are reading more than before.
  • 27% of readers say they have used Facebook, Twitter or book websites to comment on a book.

One thing is for sure: eBooks have become an integral part of publishing and selling books. As a result, to achieve optimal sales and profits, publishers and independently published authors must produce and sell their books in both print and digital format.

Are you on board?

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Prediction for eBooks

The other day I was talking with a gentleman who told me that after he got a tablet, he quit reading print books altogether. He asked me if I read digital books. I told him that I still had a strong preference for print books and that is mostly what I read. He then told me that his wife reads about half print and half digital.

This gentleman shared that one of the things he liked the most about digital reading was the ease of purchase. If someone told him about a book, he could pull out his tablet and immediately buy the book.

Interestingly, the three of us (this gentleman, his wife, and myself) made up the profile of book readers. Print is still by and large the most popular way people read. However, the number of hybrid readers (those reading both print and digital) and digital-only readers is growing.

The big question that keeps being asked is: “When will ebooks surpass print books?”

Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) recently published its annual “Entertainment & Media Outlook.” In this report, PwC predicted that the U.S. ebook market will surpass the printed book market in 2017.

ebook prediction

PwC also predicts that overall revenue from book sales will stay below the 2008 sales level. This stagnation of revenue is not because people are reading less, but mostly because the average selling price for ebooks is lower than for printed books.

What do you think? Do you agree with this prediction?

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Will eBooks Kill Print Books?

There are people in the book business on both sides of the death of the print book issue. Some say that ebooks will kill the print book. Others maintain that the print book will be around for years to come.

Amazon recently reported that Kindle books have now “overtaken paperback books as the most popular format,” even as paperback sales have continued to grow. Amazon reports they are selling 115 Kindle books for every 100 paperbacks.

While I admit that ebook sales are growing rapidly, I am a little suspicious of Amazon’s statement. Since Amazon offers millions of free public-domain titles as free Kindle downloads, I wonder whether they are counting these downloads as “sales” in their Kindle store. I question how many of those 115 Kindle books are the free public-domain titles for the Kindle and not really “money” sales.

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, a Christian publishing house, recently stated, “I have no doubt that we are in the midst of a digital transition. It is here to stay and is proving disruptive—especially to brick-and-mortar booksellers. The only question is: How fast will the migration to digital happen? In my opinion, not as fast as the majority of my colleagues in the industry think. I do not believe that by 2014, 50% of all books sold will be digital. I believe the number will be closer to 25%. That is, in fact, the planning assumption we are using at Thomas Nelson.”

Interestingly, a recent survey found that e-reader owners are buying nearly as many print books as e-books. On average, e-reader owners in the survey planned to buy identical amounts of print and e-books: 7.2.

It appears there is no overt evidence of ebooks cannibalizing print books in the near future. I believe that a hybrid market of print and ebooks is here, and that it will persist for some years to come.

In the meantime, until the actual death of print books, publishers and self-published authors should make sure that they are offering their books in both print and digital forms to remain viable and maximize their sales.

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