2015 E-Book Sales at $1.4B

Posted by Always Write at 1:30 PM Tagged with: ,
Apr 262016

The 2015 sales figures are in, and e-book sales had their first meaningful decline: from $1.6B in 2014 to $1.4B in 2015.

Sales had increased exponentially for a while, then plateaued around $1.5B per year, and this is the first real decrease. Is it a blip or the start of a decline?

  • 2002:   $2.1M
  • 2003:   $6.0M   (+ 185.7%)
  • 2004:   $9.3M   (+ 55.0%)
  • 2005:   $16.0M   (+ 72.0%)
  • 2006:   $25.2M   (+ 57.5%)
  • 2007:   $31.7M   (+ 25.8%)
  • 2008:   $61.3M   (+ 93.4%)
  • 2009:   $169.5M   (+ 176.5%)
  • 2010:   $441.3M   (+ 160.4%)
  • 2011:   $1,092.2M   (+ 147.5%)
  • 2012:   $1,540.0M   (+ 41.0%)
  • 2013:   $1,535.0M   (- 0.3%)
  • 2014:   $1,600M   (+ 6.7%)
  • 2015:   $1,400M   (- 12.5%)

Note that the AAP no longer gives as much detail on sales (they want you to pay for exact figures), so the totals for the last 2 years are rounded to the nearest hundred million dollars.

Just for fun, back in 2013, I predicted a “5–10% increase” for 2014 (actual was +6.7%), so I did pretty well there. I didn’t make a prediction for 2015, but I don’t think I would have expected a decrease of more than 10%. It still marks 5 years in a row of e-book sales of over one billion dollars, and remember this only counts large publisher sales, not self-published e-books, which account for a larger and larger slice of the market. So overall e-book sales may even still be going up.

For adult books, e-book sales were down 9.5%, and children’s & young adult e-book sales were down 43.3%.

Overall trade book sales were $7,186.3M in 2015, up slightly from $7,128.7M in 2014. That would put e-books at about 19.5% of the total.

Jun 042014

Year-end 2013 book sales numbers are in, and e-books essentially flatlined from 2012 figures, coming in at $1,534M. The slowdown was expected, especially since 2012 was considered a great year due to the success of 50 Shades of Grey and The Hunger Games.

Adult e-book sales were actually up 3.8%, to $1,300.9M. Children’s e-book sales decreased a whopping -26.7% (remember The Hunger Games), while religious e-books increased 9.7%, to $63.6M.

  • 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)
  • 2013:  $1,535.0M   (0.3% decrease)

Overall book sales came in at $7,013.3M, down almost 1% from 2012. Adult e-book sales actually encompassed 26.7% of the market (up from 23% in 2012). Overall, e-books accounted  for 21.9% of all book revenue, slightly behind last year’s pace, since children’s e-book sales were down significantly.

  • 2002:   0.05%
  • 2006:   0.50%
  • 2008:   1.18%
  • 2009:   3.17%
  • 2010:   8.32%
  • 2011:   16.98%
  • 2012:   22.55%
  • 2013:  21.89%

So how did I do on my yearly prediction? After hitting the target pretty much spot-on (within 3%!) in both 2012 and 2011, I was farther off this year. I did expect e-book sales to slow significantly (I predicted a 20-25% increase, compared to triple-digit increases in the past), but sales ended up essentially flat. As I said, between work and a kid, I have had far less time to keep up with the publishing industry, and I guess it showed. Also, due to the aforementioned constraints on my time, my personal reading has dropped to almost zero so I partially blame myself for the slowdown in e-book sales!

Just for kicks, what do I think will happen in 2014? I do expect a mild bounce-back, let’s say a 5-10% increase. (Bookmark us and check back in a year. Until then, why not read a good book? 😉 )

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.

February 2012 E-Book Sales $114.9M

Posted by Always Write at 10:11 PM Tagged with: ,
May 052012

E-Book sales for Feb 2012 cooled a bit from the record-breaking January pace, totaling $114.9M for the month. (See the note last month regarding the new methodology used to calculate these sales figures.)

Feb 2012 e-book sales: $114.9M

While impressive, these numbers are only a small increase from Feb 2011’s then-record-breaking $90.3M. According to the AAP, last February’s figure was artificially inflated due to a “one-off retail revenue transaction report” that “now makes that figure abnormally high.”

It appears print books had a banner month, pushing total sales to $578.3M, the second-highest month I’ve seen since I’ve been tracking these figures (Oct 2010 clocked in at $609.7M).

Adult Book Sales:

  • Adult Hardcover: $134.5M
  • Adult Trade Paper: $125.0M
  • Adult Mass-Market Paper: $64.6M
  • Adult E-Book: $92.5M

Young Adult Book Sales:

  • YA Hardcover: $82.9M
  • YA Trade Paper: $56.4M
  • YA E-Book: $22.4M

If those numbers are accurate, it’s the best month for mass-market paperbacks since Sep 2010, which had been in a steady decline. E-Books accounted for 19.9% of the total sales reported above, a decrease from last month, but a little above last year’s average of 19.1%.

UPDATE: Religious e-books accounted for $7,600,000, bringing the total to $122.5M for the month.

May 052012

Looks like a big month for e-books in January 2012, although the Association of American Publishers went and changed up their system on us, growing from collecting data from 90 publishers up to 1,150. While this should give a more comprehensive and accurate picture of sales, it also makes comparisons with prior data more difficult.

On the plus side, they released a good amount of granular detail for both January 2011 and January 2012. The summary: e-book sales for January 2012 total a whopping $128.8M, shattering the old record of $90.3M from Feb 2011 (more on that next month). This compares to (revised, apples-to-apples) sales from January 2011 of $73.2M, or a 56.8% increase. Perhaps most impressively, e-books totaled 26.7% of all book sales (print, e-book, and audiobooks) for the month.

The details from Jan 2012:

JAN 2012

Adult

YA

Religious

TOTAL

Hardcover

$69.8M

$57.4M

$39.6M

$166.8M

Tr. Paper

$105.1M

$38.0M

$5.3M

$148.4M

MM Paper

$30.4M

$30.4M

Audio

$8.4M

$8.4M

E-Book

$99.5M

$22.6M

$6.7M

$128.8M

TOTAL

$313.2M

$118.0M

$51.6M

$482.8M

Compare to Jan 2011:

JAN 2011

Adult

YA

Religious

TOTAL

Hardcover

$57.4M

$34.0M

$38.4M

$129.8M

Tr. Paper

$99.1M

$23.5M

$5.9

$128.5M

MM Paper

$39.3M

$39.3M

Audio

$6.5M

$6.5M

E-Book

$66.6M

$3.9M

$2.7M

$73.2M

TOTAL

$268.9M

$61.4M

$47.0M

$336.9M

The AAP must have some other figures they don’t include in the numbers above, because they list total Jan 2012 sales at $503.5M and Jan 2011 at $396.0M, a healthy 27.1% increase from last year.

Some highlights that jump out:

  1. Mass-market paperback sales continue their decline (now down below 1/3rd that of e-books — it wasn’t that long ago that e-books passing MM paperbacks seemed like a big deal).
  2. Adult e-book sales are up almost 50% from last year, and young adult e-book sales are up nearly six times last year’s figures, due no doubt to the increasing popularity of color tablets (like the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet) that allow for interactive children’s e-books.
  3. Young adult sales in general did very well — I wonder if much of the difference can be attributed to the mega-popular Hunger Games books.

January 2012 e-book sales: $128.8M

As explained above, don’t look at this chart and take the comparisons to earlier months as gospel, as the AAP’s new methodology makes month-to-month comparisons inexact. Last year, Jan 2011 sales were reported as $69.9M; this month (retroactively using the new methodology), they were adjusted upward to $73.2M. But a total of $128.8M in e-book sales is still a significant increase from any previous months, putting e-books on pace for $1.5 billion in sales for the year.

E-Book Sales in 2011 Total $969.9M

Posted by Always Write at 1:31 AM Tagged with: ,
Mar 122012

December 2011 e-book sales were $85M

December 2011 book sales figures are in, and e-book sales clocked in at $85.0M, up 72% from last December. That figure shows some rebound from the lower-than-expected October and November sales, although it lags behind the months of February, May, and August. In fact, the monthly sales for 2011 are remarkably flat overall, with ups and downs but no clear upward trend for the first time in recent memory. In fact, sales for each of the last 3 months failed to double from the same months in 2010 for the first time all year (in other words, sales in each of the first 9 months were more than double their year-ago figures). The recap:

  • Dec 2010: $49.5M
  • Jan 2011: $69.9M
  • Feb 2011: $90.3M
  • Mar 2011: $69.0M
  • Apr 2011: $72.8M
  • May 2011: $87.7M
  • June 2011: $80.2M
  • July 2011: $82.6M
  • Aug 2011: $88.8M
  • Sep 2011: $80.3M
  • Oct 2011: $72.8M
  • Nov 2011: $77.3M
  • Dec 2011: $85.0M

Total 2011 e-book sales came in just under $1 billion

With December’s figures, the total sales for 2011 are in the books, and e-book sales increased 117% (more than double) from 2010, totaling $969.9M for the year. (As usual, note that the total figure is slightly higher than adding up the previous 12 months above, as the numbers usually are adjusted slightly upward for late-reporting sales.) This came in pretty close to, but just under, my prediction of $1 billion in e-book sales for the year (I was off by 3%). As you can see from the chart above, Q4 2011 took a surprising dip from the previous two quarters for the first time in several years.

2011 was not a great year for print book sales, with all 5 categories of print book sales down from the year before, with mass-market paperbacks predictably getting hammered the hardest, as they are the most likely to be replaced by e-book sales.

  • Adult hardcover: $1,293.2M (down 17.5%)
  • Adult trade paperback: $1,165.6M (down 15.6%)
  • Adult mass-market paper: $431.5M (down 35.9%)
  • Young adult hardcover: $661.9M (down 4.7%)
  • Young adult paperback: $477.9M (down 12.7%)

E-book sales as a percentage of total book sales

Of course, overall print book sales ($4,030.1M) were still more than 4 times the dollar value of e-book sales. And the increase in e-book sales was not enough to offset the overall decline, with combined book (print + e-book) sales for 2011 ($4,986.9M) falling slightly from 2010 ($5,293.3M). E-book sales as a percentage of total book sales more than doubled (up almost 135%) from the previous year, from 8.17% in 2010 to 19.18% of all sales in 2011. (Also keep in mind that print books are tracked more thoroughly by the AAP; e-book sales are reported only by the larger publishers, and there are millions of dollars of e-book sales that go uncounted in these figures.)

So, overall, another year of e-book sales more than doubling. However, the slowdown in the last quarter and overall leveling off of sales in 2011 might hint that we’re heading for a plateau, or at least a tapering of e-book sales growth. 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). I think we’ll see a continued decline in print books, leading to e-books garnering roughly one-third of the overall book market this year. But I think we might be a couple years away from breaching 50% — which might require a technological advance like color e-Ink or foldable screens, or a game-changing event in the publishing world, such as superstar authors going independent and straight to e-books, big publishers embracing e-books, or lowering of e-book pricing (perhaps as a result of the agency model going away). In any case, I’m sure 2012 will be another interesting year for the publishing industry in general, and for e-books in particular.

November 2011 E-Book Sales at $77.3M

Posted by Always Write at 4:36 PM Tagged with: ,
Feb 082012

November e-book sales increased slightly from October, to $77.3M, but continued the meandering range that may signal a plateau, or at least a noticeable slowing, of the heretofore-explosive growth of e-book sales. While sales were still up 65.9% from November 2010, that rate marks the slowest increase of the year (and last month’s 81.2% growth rate clocks in as the second-slowest of 2011).

November 2011 e-book sales at $77.3M

Various observers have attributed the slowdown in e-book sales growth to customers waiting until the holiday season to buy new e-readers (note that the Kindle 4 and Kindle Fire were announced September 28, 2011 but didn’t ship until November 21), or to Amazon’s inclusion of Kindle e-books in library lending programs, which began in late September.

At an 11-month total of $871.7M (or $885M or so with the more recent, slightly upwardly revised numbers), it would take a great December to hit the $1 billion mark for e-books that I predicted at the start of the year — but they will probably get pretty darn close.

The recap of the past 13 months of e-book sales:

  • Nov 2010: $46.6 M
  • Dec 2010: $49.5 M
  • Jan 2011: $69.9 M
  • Feb 2011: $90.3 M
  • Mar 2011: $69.0 M
  • Apr 2011: $72.8 M
  • May 2011: $87.7 M
  • June 2011: $80.2 M
  • July 2011: $82.6M
  • Aug 2011: $88.8M
  • Sep 2011: $80.3M
  • Oct 2011: $72.8M
  • Nov 2011: $77.3M
  • One other interesting note: the Publisher’s Weekly press release noted that sales of adult mass-market paperbacks “all but died,” coming in at only $20.8M, less than half the figure from the previous year. This is not too surprising, since the growth of e-books is most likely to impact sales of mass-market paperbacks, as MMPs are the least expensive print offering, their release is delayed after hardcovers (as some publishers do with e-books), and most closely filled the role that e-books are starting to fill for people: day-to-day fiction reading, as opposed to hardcover cookbooks, graphic books, or bookshelf display items.

    Feb 082012

    While up 81.2% over October 2010, e-book sales came in at a slightly disappointing $72.8M in October 2011. Publisher’s Weekly reports the total for the first 10 months of 2011 at $807.7M, up 131.1% from the same months in 2010. However, they do point out that October is the first month in 2011 that e-book sales (up only 81.2%) did not double from the previous year.

    October 2011 E-Book Sales are $72.8M

    This is the second month in a row that e-books have slowed their pace. In fact, the entire year of 2011 has been fairly steady (compare January 2011’s $69.9M with October’s $72.8M). In fact, the average monthly sales so far in 2010 were $79.4M ($80.8M if you use PW’s updated totals), so October is a below-average month for the year. We’ll see if the holiday shopping season (which has traditionally caused a nice surge as people get e-readers for Xmas) bumps those figures up in December 2011 and January 2012.

    The last 13 months of sales figures:

  • Oct 2010: $40.7 M
  • Nov 2010: $46.6 M
  • Dec 2010: $49.5 M
  • Jan 2011: $69.9 M
  • Feb 2011: $90.3 M
  • Mar 2011: $69.0 M
  • Apr 2011: $72.8 M
  • May 2011: $87.7 M
  • June 2011: $80.2 M
  • July 2011: $82.6M
  • Aug 2011: $88.8M
  • Sep 2011: $80.3M
  • Oct 2011: $72.8M
  • On a personal note, I apologize for the lack of regular posts — my job has been taking up all of my time, and I just haven’t had the time I’d like to devote to blogging (let alone novel-writing!).

    Dec 012011

    September 2011 e-book sales: $80.3M

    E-Book sales dipped a bit in September 2011, to $80.3M, but were more than double last year’s results, and were strong enough to carry e-books to a new record quarter of $251.7M in Q3, 2011. For the past 13 months:

    • Sep 2010: $39.9 M
    • Oct 2010: $40.7 M
    • Nov 2010: $46.6 M
    • Dec 2010: $49.5 M
    • Jan 2011: $69.9 M
    • Feb 2011: $90.3 M
    • Mar 2011: $69.0 M
    • Apr 2011: $72.8 M
    • May 2011: $87.7 M
    • June 2011: $80.2 M
    • July 2011: $82.6M
    • Aug 2011: $88.8M
    • Sep 2011: $80.3M

    Q3 2011 e-book sales: $251.7M

    The quarterly sales of just over a quarter of a billion dollars help push e-books to $727.7M for the first 9 months of the year, an increase of 137.9% over last year, and close enough that a strong holiday push could put e-book sales at a billion dollars for the year, as I predicted after February’s sales.

    While the AAP frustratingly has become more stingy with its print book sales figures, they did provide percentages that I used to estimate print book sales for the month (fortunately, I keep a spreadsheet with each month’s figures going back to last year). The percentage changes for print books, and my estimates for Sep 2011 sales:

    • Adult hardcover: down 18.1%, est. $147.7M
    • Adult trade paperback: flat, est. $111.5M
    • Adult mass-market paper: down 54.3%, est. $31.0M
    • Young adult hardcover: up 2.1%, est. $78.2M
    • Young adult paperback: down 14.6%, est. $41.5M

    Fairly brutal numbers across the board, with only a slight (2.1%) increase in young adult hardcover, flat adult trade paper sales, and decreases in the other categories, including a dramatic 54.3% decrease in mass-market paperback sales. People have said that mass-market paperback sales are the most susceptible to being replaced by e-book sales, since they are generally fiction novels that people read once and then discard or donate — as opposed to hardcovers that people like to display on their bookshelves. The numbers are bearing that out, as e-book sales, which just last year were below mass-market paperback, are now nearly triple. The AAP also pointed out that sales in all print trade segments were down for the 9-month period so far this year.

    Based on those estimations, e-book sales accounted for 16.25% of combined print/e-book sales for the month, roughly double the 8.17% overall figure from 2010.

    I’ve talked before about self-publishing, how it’s been a huge boon to my writing career, but also how authors should temper their expectations: realize that writing, editing, designing a cover for, formatting and converting, and marketing a self-published book is a lot of hard work, and is less likely than the lottery to make you rich. (For that matter, traditional publishing is hardly a high-percentage method for getting rich, or even making a decent living.)

    Of course, just like with the lottery, there are a few unvarnished success stories that provide something for independent authors to aspire to. The two most exceptional are independent authors John Locke and Amanda Hocking. This week, Amazon announced that Hocking joined Locke (along with 12 traditionally-published authors) in the “Kindle Million Club,” by selling over a million copies of their books in the Amazon Kindle Store. (Twilight author Stephanie Meyer attained that lofty mark this week as well.)

    Hocking began as a self-published, independent author, and her runaway success led to her accepting a four-book deal with St. Martin’s Press (a subsidiary of Macmillan) worth over $2 million.

    The most interesting thing to me about Amazon’s press release was this note:

    In addition to the more than 2 million books sold by John Locke and Amanda Hocking, 12 KDP authors have sold more than 200,000 books and 30 KDP authors have sold more than 100,000 books.

    (KDP stands for “Kindle Direct Publishing.” It’s the method by which self-published authors may upload their own works to be sold in the Kindle Store.)

    So, how likely are you to strike it rich by self-publishing? There are now over 1,000,000 titles in the Kindle Store, and probably at least 100,000 self-published authors selling their books through KDP. E-books on Amazon are sold for a minimum of 99 cents per title (netting the author $0.35), while many independently-published e-books (including my own) are sold for $2.99 (netting the author about $2.05). So, if we assume 100,000 self-published authors, of that number:

    • 2 authors (0.002%) have sold 1,000,000 books, earning at least $350,000
    • 12 authors (0.012%) have sold 200,000 books, earning at least $70,000 (and possibly $410,000)
    • 30 authors (0.03%) have sold 100,000 books, earning at least $35,000 (and possibly $205,000)

    Of course, those dollar amounts are before taxes (yes, Amazon sends a 1099-MISC, so you have to pay income taxes) and any expenses for agents, editing, cover design, e-book conversion, advertising, web hosting, etc. And I think it’s fair to assume that the majority (probably the vast majority) of these high-selling titles were sold at 99 cents — I know almost all of John Lock’s titles were sold at $0.99 and most of Hocking’s were as well. So, 44 indie authors in the world have managed to make $35,000+ (before taxes and expenses) through selling e-books on Amazon — and we’re assuming each author may have written about 10 books, which would take several years, if not a decade or more. (Hocking has 11 books on Amazon, and Locke has 12.)

    I’m not writing this to either convince you or dissuade you from writing a book, or trying to sell it on Amazon. I’ve long maintained that if you want to write a book, my best advice to you is to write it for yourself, because you enjoy the writing process and have a story to tell — assume you won’t make any money from it, and if you still yearn to write, then go for it. After that, you can decide if the potential monetary payoff is enough to offset the time, effort, and money you’ll spend, and the inevitable criticism you’ll receive by self-publishing. (For what it’s worth, even though I’m not yet one of the 44, I am glad of my decision to self-publish.) But I wanted to include the numbers above, which were the first I’ve seen that really specifically give us a clue as to how common these success stories are. They prove that it certainly is possible to “strike it rich” as an independent author, but it takes a lot of work, and the odds of you even making a living (let alone getting rich) are still quite low.

    © 2010 David Derrico