Sep 222010

July 2010 E-Book Sales Surge To $40.8M

The latest industry e-book sales figures are in (see previous months’ reports here), and July was a record month for e-book sales. The AAP and IDPF are reporting July e-book sales are a whopping $40,800,000, almost a 37% increase from June’s numbers, and a 150.2% increase (well over double) compared to July 2009’s numbers. E-book sales are up 191% year-to-date (for one point of comparison, the entire second quarter of 2009 was only $37.6 M).

I’ve spent more time analyzing these trends in my last few posts, but July’s very strong numbers seem to confirm the continuation of the strong upward long-term trend and prove April’s weak numbers to be an aberration (which is looking more and more like the fault of publishers raising e-book prices through the agency model). It also blows away the previous high: January 2010, an outlier I believe is due to e-book shopping driven by e-book readers received as Xmas gifts, and the cold weather keeping people indoors and downloading new books to read wirelessly. For convenience, here are all of this year’s monthly figures again:

  • Jan 2010: $31.9 M
  • Feb 2010: $28.9 M
  • Mar 2010: $28.5 M
  • Apr 2010: $27.4 M
  • May 2010: $29.3 M
  • June 2010: $29.8 M
  • July 2010: $40.8 M

As you can see, July’s figures are a huge jump for e-books after a relatively sluggish (mostly flat) first six months of the year. I wonder if the enormous jump from the prior month has anything to do with Amazon raising royalty rates on self-published works to 70% on June 30. Perhaps that attracted some small publishers that are being counted in these sales figures to release more Kindle books. I know most self-published authors saw increased revenue when raising their prices from 99 cents into Amazon’s $2.99 to $9.99 range to qualify for the higher royalties (I, for one, sold half the books at three times the price and six times the royalty), but we aren’t included in these sales numbers — the AAP never asks me for my sales info. =)

I suppose the bump could be due to summer reading, but that large a jump seems like it should have a more tangible explanation — and it’s probably not the Kindle 3, which was only made available for pre-order July 28 (and started shipping in August). I’ll keep an eye out for possible causes, and it will be interesting to see if August sales match July’s torrid pace.

In any event, monthly sales of over $40 million demonstrates e-book sales creeping ever-closer into print book territory: for comparison, adult mass-market paperback sales were $60.6 M (and are down 13.1% year-to-date, so e-books are definitely closing the gap). Adult trade paperback sales are still a hefty $111.1 M (but down 8.6% for the year), and adult hardcover sales are $74.1 M. E-books still have a ways to go to reach the combined $245.8 M of adult print book sales (e-book sales are about 1/6th of that number), let alone the $1.5 billion per month of the entire book industry (which includes children’s books, professional books, and educational textbooks). The big question is whether e-books will continue to accelerate at their rapid pace (doubling or tripling each year) — and, if so, how long before they overtake print book sales.

8 Responses to “July 2010 E-Book Sales Figures: $40.8M”

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  1. Wow, that’s pretty amazing. I watch these numbers, too, so I recognize what a leap this was in July. Good sign for ebooks.

    • Always Write says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Moses, it’s good to see you here!

      The July jump is suspiciously large — I’m still trying to come up with a good explanation for it. Then again, it is entirely in line with the long-term upwards trend in e-book sales, and maybe we just had a few unusually slow months earlier this year being counterbalanced by an unusually high month now. It will be interesting to see if August’s numbers match July’s…

      P.S.: I’ve updated the post with the AAP info and stats, which came out today.

  2. jpwhite says:

    I think the Kindle 3 could indeed be the impetus for the jump. I know I ordered books prior to the K3 arriving. By using the Android app and PC app I was able to consume books without the Kindle. The idea of getting the Kindle drove me to purchase my first e-books.

    • Always Write says:

      JP, thanks for the comment! It’s interesting to hear from someone who started buying and reading e-books while waiting for their Kindle 3 to arrive, and I wonder how many others did the same. The only thing is, since these sales figures are for July and the Kindle 3 was only even announced on July 28, that’s only a few days for people to buy books, and I can’t see that accounting for a 37% increase from the month before. But, assuming that many other people did what you did and started buying e-books even while waiting for their K3s to arrive, we’ll see strong August sales numbers.

      P.S.: I checked out your blog and particularly liked your K3 review and how you commented on “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” I knew the K3 was supposed to have only 3.3GB usable (the rest has system software, I think) out of the 4GB, but it was interesting yours only showed 3.05GB. I can’t imagine they’d just lie about that, there must be some explanation. On the plus side, I find 2 or 3 GB plenty to store lots of e-books.

      • JP White says:

        Your probably right about people buying books while waiting for the K3 being only a minor contributor to the surge. I wonder if folks simply began to realize they didn’t need to have a Kindle in hand to read books and simply added apps to their phones and iPads? It wasn’t until I researched buying a Kindle that I realized that it was a possibility.

        I see Amazon have a Beta Web based Kindle e-book reader in the works. That should open up another avenue to drive e-book sales.

  3. B Fish says:

    This trend is absolutely inevitable. While there will always be a market for certain types of print books (such as illustrated children’s books, art books and the like), the fact is we don’t usually need paper for the bulk of our reading.

    I imagine a big tipping point will come when textbook publishers jump in, and college students will no longer need to drag massive bags full of books around campus. As long as the publishers (or, more realistically, authors) follow your model of passing the reduced costs on to the consumer, ebooks will become the standard.

    Weird thing is, I have seen a huge surge in search traffic for ereaders at the same time the media is saying they will all fall to the iPad. A good number of us still like to read apparently.

    • Always Write says:

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I do agree that print will tend to gravitate to children’s books, art books, special editions, and the like (see my post here), and the bulk of fiction and “plain text” reading will become electronic.

      There’s just too much cost savings, convenience, and efficiency for e-books NOT to become the dominant form of reading, IMHO. I don’t know if it will take 5 years or 10 or 20 — that will probably depend on how quickly e-reader technology evolves and when publishers stop pushing against the advance of e-books.

      For some reason, the media is obsessed with the Kindle vs. iPad and “iPad will kill the Kindle” articles, but I think it’s clear that millions of serious readers have no interest in reading on an LCD computer screen or a device not optimized for reading.

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