Aug 242010

Just to follow up on a couple of posts from earlier this month:

Barnes & Noble has around 20% of e-book market share.

As I estimated in my post on market share on August 2, Amazon probably has about 75% of the e-book market, and B&N has most of the rest: I pegged the figure around 18-20%. Today, B&N confirmed (without giving exact specifics, of course!) that their e-book market share is now “higher” than their print market share, which is 17%. Sounds like 18-20% to me!

Explaining the slight dip in Q2 e-book sales.

Last week, I took a look at June’s e-book sales figures and the Q2 2010 numbers, which were slightly below Q1 2010. (While they were still double last year’s numbers, any dip is unusual, as e-book sales have been consistently increasing at a rapid pace.) I looked at a few possible explanations for the dip, including:

  1. Lots of people receiving e-readers for Xmas 2009 and buying lots of e-books for their new toys in January 2010.
  2. Publishers insisted on agency model (read: higher) pricing starting in Q2, and raising new release e-book prices from $9.99 to $12.99 and $14.99 shockingly decreased revenue (who could have ever seen that coming?).
  3. The industry e-book sales figures don’t include sales from independent authors (like yours truly), who are probably earning a larger slice of the pie.

Well, today I see a pair of articles analyzing the dip in Q2 e-book sales and attributing it to: post-Xmas buying and agency model pricing, and that indie author retailers like Smashwords weren’t being included in the data.

Sorry for the “I told you so” post, but it was nice to see affirmation from several different sources of e-book trends I’ve been predicting on this blog for months. 🙂

 e-books  Comments Off on Follow-Up: B&N 20% E-Book Share; Q2 Sales Revisited
Aug 192010

June 2010 E-Book Sales Rise Slightly

I’ve been tracking e-book sales statistics here for a while, following the rise of e-books from less than 1% of the market, to about 1% in 2008, 3% in 2009, and over 8% so far this year. The latest figures are in for June 2010 (and the second quarter of 2010), and they represent a slight increase from the past couple of months. Retail e-book sales clocked in at $29.8 million dollars for June 2010, and $88.7 million for Q2, 2010 (April, May, and June). The June sales are an increase of 118.9% over last June’s numbers, and sales year-to-date are 204.2% higher than the first two quarters of 2009.

I should point out that the monthly and quarterly figures don’t seem to correlate exactly — it seems the IDPF (which releases quarterly figures) adds something to the monthly figures that come from the Association of American Publishers. Please keep in mind that e-book sales figures are only an estimate, and an incomplete one at that. They don’t get their data from e-book retailers (like Amazon, B&N, and Apple), which are notoriously secretive about their e-book sales, they get it from publishers. But they only include figures from certain large publishers, and ignore sales of e-books through smaller channels, such as small presses and independent publishers. For example, I’m just an unknown indie author, but I’ve sold over 6,000 e-book copies in the first 6 months of this year, and they aren’t counted in the numbers above. So it’s safe to say these numbers are inexact and underrepresented.

Those caveats aside, the monthly sales totals so far this year are:

  • 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

And the quarterly figures given by the IDPF, with the totals of the monthly numbers above in parenthesis for comparison:

  • Q1, 2010: $91.0 M  ($89.3 M)
  • Q2, 2010: $88.7 M  ($86.5 M)

On a positive note, June sales continued to increase over May, which itself increased over the low point in April. On the down side, the strong May and June sales weren’t enough to overtake the Q1 numbers, which were mostly buoyed by huge numbers in January. There are a few possible explanations and observations I draw from this data:

  1. Millions of e-readers were sold over the holiday season at the end of 2009, and all those new Kindle and Nook owners needed something to read, and may have bought a lot of e-books in January.
  2. The combination of new e-reader owners stocking up on e-books and terrible winter weather may have accounted for very strong e-book sales in the early part of the year, which cooled off as the weather warmed up and more people ventured outside (doing non-reading activities or visiting physical bookstores).
  3. Publishers’ insistence upon the agency model (where they forced retailers to raise e-book prices) at the start of April seems to have caused a dip in e-book sales, which are now recovering and possibly continuing their upward trend.
  4. The introduction of the iPad (in April) didn’t seem to help e-book sales much, and may instead have hurt them, as some people debating between a dedicated e-book reader and a multi-function device chose the iPad, and then ended up playing more games, watching movies, and spending time on Facebook instead of buying and reading e-books.
  5. The trend in May and June is positive, and sales in those two months are higher than any other month except January, which may have been a post-holiday / winter weather spike.
  6. On the other hand, Q2 sales are down (or at best roughly flat) from Q1, and e-book sales certainly don’t seem to be increasing at the blistering pace they showed for the past several years (where they doubled or tripled each year). Is it just a temporary dip (due to the agency model and the iPad), or the sign of a leveling off of e-book market share?

To expand a bit on the last point, e-book sales have been increasing so rapidly, that the first 6 months of 2010 have already exceeded all of 2009 ($175.8M vs. $165.8M). And 2009’s sales are over triple 2008’s ($165.8M vs. $53.5M). This is the first quarter where sales have declined in the past three years, but they have bounced around a bit and then continued their upward momentum before, so I think it’s too soon to say that e-book sales have plateaued. Looking at the chart below, it looks more like Q1 2010 was abnormally high than that Q2 2010 was abnormally low. Most estimates still have e-books steadily increasing their market share, and most industry insiders expect e-books to account for 25% of book sales within the next 2-4 years.

Q2 2010 E-Book Sales Cool Slightly From Q1 Pace

I think it’s encouraging to see June’s sales continue the upward trend from May, and hopefully April will just prove to be a one-time dip, caused by agency model pricing. One stat I’d love to get my hands on: what percentage of e-book sales are independent authors responsible for, and how quickly is that number increasing? Maybe the book sales of traditional publishers are flat, but that doesn’t mean overall e-book sales are flat as well. 😉

UPDATE: A few industry analysts confirm my explanations for the dip in Q2 sales.

 e-books  Comments Off on E-Book Sales: June $29.8M, Q2 2010 $88.7M
Aug 022010

The new, smaller K3 next to the K2. This pic would be better for my previous post, but I really like it.

Apple claims they could have up to 22% of the e-book market. Barnes & Noble claims a similar share. And what about Sony, or Kobo? And what does that leave Amazon, presumably still the largest e-book seller?

Despite all the numbers being tossed around, I’ve known for a while that Amazon had the lion’s share of e-book sales. Well, today I saw official confirmation from Amazon, which announced that it owns 70% to 80% of the e-book market. When asked about Apple’s 22% claim and B&N’s 20% claim, Ian Freed (Amazon VP in charge of the Kindle) essentially said that he wasn’t calling anyone a liar, but he’s sure of Amazon’s numbers. Well, how can Amazon have 75%, and Apple and B&N both claim about 20%? Freed says that “something doesn’t add up,” but that Amazon is pretty sure the 75% is right. Now, he’s not gonna say who’s wrong, just that (a) Amazon’s numbers are accurate and (b) therefore someone else’s aren’t.

It’s pretty clear to me the exaggerating culprit is Apple. I won’t go so far as to call their figures lies (what’s the saying about “figures don’t lie, but liars figure”?), but their “5 million e-book downloads” number and their “22% of e-books sold” number deserve a second look. First of all, they didn’t specify whether that 5 million figure included free e-book downloads, so it probably did. Maybe they only sold 1/10th that amount. (Which would amount to 500,000 sales across 2 million iPads over two months … or only 1.5 e-books per iPad per year.) As for the 22%? The consensus is that Apple was referring only to sales from Penguin for the month of April … which is coincidentally when Penguin was negotiating new terms with Amazon and their titles were not available on Amazon. Hardly a representative figure for the overall e-book market.

So what are the real numbers? Let’s work from what we know.

Amazon announced last month that it sold 867,881 out of James Patterson’s 1.4 million e-book sales (Patterson is the #1 e-book bestseller). That equates to 76%. Combine that with Amazon’s recent “70 to 80 percent” statement, and I think it’s safe to say that Amazon owns about 75% of the overall e-book market.

As a second data point, I can tell you about my own e-book sales. Now, I’m not James Patterson, but I have sold several thousand copies of my e-books this year, and they are available at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and Apple (also Sony, but too recently for me to have reliable sales data). And my figures back up Amazon’s; in fact, I sell more than 75% of my e-books through Amazon. Here are my percentages, for the most recent month (June 2010) and quarter (Q2, including April, May, and June):

  • Amazon: June (84.7%), Q2 (87.3%)
  • B&N: June (13.4%), Q2 (11.2%)
  • Kobo: June (1.4%), Q2 (0.9%)
  • Apple: June (0.5%), Q2 (0.7%)

I think it’s safe to say that Amazon is still comfortably on top, and that Apple might be exaggerating just a tad, since they don’t even account for 1% of my e-book sales, and my books were on the iBook Store from day one (April 3).

Of course, my numbers won’t match up to industry totals exactly: some places (Amazon) are more friendly to indie e-books and their stores make it easier to find our works than others (*cough* Apple *cough*). And the percentages for Kobo and B&N are generally increasing. B&N in particular surprised me with very strong numbers: in June, I sold almost 1/6th as many books through B&N as I did through Amazon, and my books have been up on Amazon longer (and thus have more reviews, etc.).

Taken together, it’s clear to me that Amazon has the dominant share of e-book sales: about 75%. I believe B&N when they say they’re close to 20% of the market — probably somewhere around 18%. That leaves Kobo, Sony, and Apple fighting over the last 7% or so. And my guess is that Apple is in no better than 5th place right now.

Another interesting tidbit from Ian Freed: 80% of Amazon’s e-book sales are to customers who own Kindles. So much for those “Sure, Amazon is selling e-books, but mostly to people who read on their iPads” articles. Maybe finally people can stop pretending the iPad is an e-reader and start considering it as a tablet computer that’s cool to play games on?

Finally, Freed commented on the agency model and how several large publishers forced Amazon to raise e-book prices from $9.99 to $12.99. According to Freed: “Since some of the publishers have decided to price their e-book above $9.99, we’ve definitely seen a shift of customers going to e-books that are $9.99 or less.” And, I might add, e-books that are just $2.99 as well. =)

UPDATE: B&N released confirmation that their e-book share just surpassed its print share, which is 17%. Sounds like 18-20% to me!

Jul 192010

Amazon announced today that their e-book sales have overtaken hardcover sales. The numbers are actually quite staggering: for the latest quarter, Amazon sold 143 e-books for every 100 hardcovers they sold. The numbers for the past month are even more impressive: 180 e-books for every 100 hardcovers — nearly double. Even more impressive is that they aren’t juicing the numbers, as they are not including free e-book downloads (like Apple probably did), and are even including hardcover sales where there is no corresponding Kindle version. Wow.

A few other tidbits:

  • Amazon’s e-book sales from the first half of 2010 were triple that of the first half of 2009.
  • Amazon exceeded the impressive industry sales stats I mentioned yesterday of 163% increased sales year-over-year in May, and 207% year-to-date.
  • It was recently announced that James Patterson was the first author to sell a million e-books, 1.14 million, to be exact. Of those, Amazon sold 867,881 of them (over 76%).
  • The growth rate of Kindle sales has tripled since the recent price drop from $259 to $189, and have increased each month in the quarter (April, May, and June). Perhaps now we can stop hearing about how the iPad (released April 3) will “kill” the Kindle?

One interesting note is that Amazon didn’t specify how many of its e-book sales are through the Kindle for iPad app. But considering that Kindle 2 unit sales have been increasing each month, and that the Kindle is better suited for hard-core readers than the iPad, I doubt that Kindle book sales on the iPad were more than a minor percentage.

Either way, very impressive numbers that paint a very positive outlook for e-books and readers.

 Amazon, e-books  Comments Off on E-Books Out-Selling Hardcovers at Amazon

May 2010 E-Book Sales: $29.3M

 Posted by at 5:47 PM  Tagged with: ,
Jul 162010

May 2010 e-book sales: $29.3M

May 2010 e-book sales data is in from the Association of American Publishers, and they are up 162.8% over last May, totaling $29,300,000 for May 2010. Year-to-date, e-book sales are up 207.4% from Jan – May 2009.

The most interesting tidbit is that, at this time last year, e-books comprised 2.89% of all trade book sales. This year so far, they’ve almost tripled, up to 8.48%. That’s not only a huge jump, but we’re really starting to approach very significant percentages (to put that in perspective, New York & Massachusetts combined account for 8.42% of the U.S. population). Some popular books are seeing even higher numbers — e-books accounted for almost 30% of the first-week sales of the #1 NYT Bestseller The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider they’re measuring dollar figures, and e-books generally cost less than paper books, so e-books’ percentage of total copies sold would be even higher.

The monthly e-book sales numbers so far this year:

  • 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

I was surprised to see even the small dips in March and April, but May appears to be back on the upswing. Perhaps e-book sales are stronger over the winter when people would rather curl up with a good e-book than brave the snow to head to a bookstore. But, for comparison, the first 5 months of 2010 total $146M, whereas the total for all 12 months of 2008 was only $56.5M.

Please see this older post for earlier numbers and a more detailed breakdown on e-book sales vs. hardcover, trade paperback, and mass market paperbacks.

E-Book Sales Continue Rapid Growth

 Posted by at 2:09 AM  Tagged with: ,
May 252010

Quarterly E-Book Sales, Q1 2008 -- Q1 2010

The sales data is in for book sales in March, and the news for e-books continues to impress. Year-over-year sales of e-books are up a staggering 251.9%. This, after e-book sales nearly doubled from 2007 to 2008 and then more than tripled from 2008 to 2009.

According to estimates by the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales totaled $28,500,000 in March, for a total of $89,300,000 for the first quarter of 2010.

Keep in mind two things: first, that these numbers do not include sales of independent authors (like myself). True, I won’t move that bar much by myself, but with tens of thousands of authors like me, the effect could be significant. Second, these numbers do not include any sales from the Apple iBook store or through the Kindle for iPad app, since the iPad wasn’t released until April 3.

Even when comparing e-books to print books, the news is still promising. Two major publishers (Hachette and Simon & Schuster) reported that e-book sales for Q1 2010 constituted 8% of their total revenue. Keep in mind that (a) not all printed books currently make sense as e-books (children’s books, cookbooks, picture books, etc.), (b) not all books that do make sense have been released in e-book format yet, and (c) that e-books generally sell for less than printed books, so 8% of revenue would mean a higher percentage of unit sales. It is reasonable to conclude that, of books with both a printed and e-book counterpart, e-books could make up anywhere from 10 to 20% of unit sales. Amazon has already reported that their e-book sales account for about 40% of their total book sales (for titles with both versions available).

Just to keep the numbers in perspective, let’s look at overall print book sales compared to e-book sales. While it’s true that the percentage increases for e-books have been very impressive, they had started from such a small fraction of print book sales that they still paled in comparison. Well, what if I told you that, in March 2010 (the latest month data is available), total e-book sales were over 53% as much as total mass-market paperback sales. Then, what if we compare the year-over-year 251.9% increase in e-books with the 18.1% decrease in mass market sales from last year. Which would you bet on being higher next year? How about this Christmas?

Here’s the full chart (with year-over-year growth percentage over the columns):

Total March 2010 Book & E-Book Sales

True, e-books have a ways to go before they surpass combined print sales. But comparing the rate at which those numbers are changing (e-book sales exploding while print sales stagnate or decrease), considering the proliferation of new e-book readers like the iPad, and keeping in mind that more bookstores close every day, what do you think this chart will look like next year? How about 3 or 5 years from now?

Exciting times….

Apr 012010

Recently, I was shocked to receive a Kindle from a good friend for my birthday. This amazing device has impacted my life in multiple ways. First, I very quickly became an e-book reading convert: the reading experience on a Kindle is, IMO, superior to that of a printed book. Some of the advantages:

  • e-books are generally less expensive than printed books (they should be, since they cost nothing to print, ship, or store)
  • portability and convenience: I can download books instantly, wirelessly, and carry thousands around anywhere
  • the built-in dictionary is invaluable; I would miss the ability to look up or double-check words with a flick of my finger
  • I actually find it easier and more natural to hold the Kindle (which is lighter than a hardcover) and turn pages with one hand
  • I enjoy being able to set the font size to something more comfortable for my eyes

There are other advantages, but those are the main ones for me. After using the Kindle for a while, I do not at all miss the “feel” or “smell” of paper books. And I can see how a wide variety of people, once they give e-books a chance, will come to depend on these features. Not to mention that, in the next few years, I expect e-book readers to offer:

  • color screens that play video
  • perhaps flexible or foldable screens that are unbreakable and allow for larger screens that can fit into a pocket
  • even lighter weight and more memory
  • greater selection of e-books (essentially every book in or out of print)
  • improvements in text-to-speech
  • much easier lending capabilities: email a title to your friend to borrow, and it automatically reappears on your device in 2-4 weeks

I expect more and more people will fall in love with e-book reading. I spend a lot of time on e-book reader forums, and lots of people already love their e-book readers. Love. Most of them say they will never go back to printed books, and that they are reading more than ever before. Not to mention that the last of the paper book converts will die off and the newer generations will consume everything electronically.

e-book sales chart

Go, baby, go.

So, it comes as no surprise to me that the e-book market has tripled in 2009, after doubling in 2008. Or that it is on pace to double or triple again this year. Or that Amazon, the world’s largest bookseller, sold more e-books than printed books last Christmas. E-books made up 3.31% of all book sales in 2009, and that number will likely increase to 6-10% this year. By 2015 or 2020, what will that percentage look like? 25%? 50%? 75%?

What does this mean for printed books, and the future of publishing? I’ll get more into that in my next post. But I fully expect the acceleration of e-book sales to continue. The reading experience is just too good, and they just make too much sense not to.

#1 Amazon Best-Seller!

 Posted by at 1:51 PM  Tagged with: , , , ,
Mar 272010

#1. Wow.

I am very excited to announce that Right Ascension has recently topped the charts as the #1 best-seller in Amazon’s Kindle Store “Technothriller” category.

The sequel, Declination, is also selling better and better, so I am gratified to see that people are enjoying my first novel enough to purchase and read the second one.

I would like to sincerely thank everyone who has read, bought, enjoyed, reviewed, or told a friend about my novels. None of this would be possible without you. Thank you!

– David

Right Ascension in the Top 500!

 Posted by at 10:37 PM  Tagged with: , , , ,
Jan 132010

I’d like to take a moment to sincerely thank my readers, who have helped propel Right Ascension and Declination to new heights. Right Ascension is now in the Top 5 in the “Adventure,” “War,” and “Technothrillers” sub-categories. It also rose into the Top 15 in the “Science Fiction” category, and up to #479 in the entire Kindle store!

Lowering the price to just 99 cents each has certainly allowed more people to find and hopefully enjoy my novels. Although I was hesitant to price the novels so low at first, I’m certainly glad that I did it.

To those of you buying and reading my novels, I would be eternally grateful if you could spare a few minutes to post a review on Thoughtful reviews from readers can really help people decide if a book is right for them.

If you don’t have the time to write a review, perhaps you wouldn’t mind just helping to “tag” my novels with tags like “science fiction” and some of the other tags that show up about midway down the Amazon page for each book. It really helps!

Thanks again for your continuing support… and please feel free to let me know your thoughts on the novels or if there’s anything else on your mind!

– David

 Amazon, news  Comments Off on Right Ascension in the Top 500!