The year-end totals for 2012 e-book sales are in the books (har, har), and the results are net revenues of $1.54 billion ($1,540M), an increase of 41% over 2011 figures. (Note that means that 2011 figures actually surpassed $1 billion, even though they were reported just under that figure a year ago. The AAP figures always seem to be adjusted upwards over time, presumably adding late-reporting sales.) While a 41% increase is nothing to sneeze at, it is a marked slowdown compared to the triple-digit growth rates of the previous three years:
- 2002: $2.1M
- 2003: $6.0M (185.7% increase)
- 2004: $9.3M (55.0% increase)
- 2005: $16.0M (72.0% increase)
- 2006: $25.2M (57.5% increase)
- 2007: $31.7M (25.8% increase)
- 2008: $61.3M (93.4% increase)
- 2009: $169.5M (176.5% increase)
- 2010: $441.3M (160.4% increase)
- 2011: $1,092.2M (147.5% increase)
- 2012: $1,540.0M (41.0% increase)
Print books did better than expected, but still declined slightly, from about $5,338M to about $5,289M. Buoyed by the growth in e-books, overall publisher revenues increased 6.2%, from about $6,431M to $6,829M.
E-books accounted for 22.55% of publisher revenue in 2012, a moderate increase from 16.98% in 2011. For comparison, e-book revenue as a percentage of the total was only 0.05% in 2002, increasing as a percentage by almost 500x in a decade:
- 2002: 0.05%
- 2003: ???
- 2004: ???
- 2005: ???
- 2006: 0.50%
- 2007: ???
- 2008: 1.18%
- 2009: 3.17%
- 2010: 8.32%
- 2011: 16.98%
- 2012: 22.55%
It seems clear that the days of e-book sales doubling and tripling are over, based on these 2012 figures, the fact that December sales grew even slower than overall 2012 sales (up only 20% from Dec 2011), and the fact that nothing can double or triple forever, especially as a percentage of overall sales.
So, how did I do on my predictions from a year ago? Back then (when 2011 sales figures came in), I predicted that:
Of course, nothing can double forever, and my early prediction is that 2012 e-book sales will fail to double from this year’s numbers — maybe up 50% or so to about $1,500M (one and a half billion).
With the actual figure coming in at $1,540M, that means my prediction was within 3% of the actual number … just like my prediction for 2011 sales made two years ago. =)
Note: between an all-encompassing “day job” and the arrival of our first child last month, I haven’t had nearly enough time to keep up with publishing industry trends or e-book sales stats as I used to — let alone having time to then blog about those things. But I’ll go ahead and keep up the tradition and make a prediction for 2013 e-book sales anyway: based on the lack of innovation in e-readers (yes, we have lighted e-readers, but no color or flexible screens yet) and the saturation of the market, I predict that e-book sales will continue to slow their rate of increase, perhaps increasing another 20-25% over this year’s sales figures, which would put 2013 e-book sales between $1.75 and $2 billion.