Apr 112013

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.

  One Response to “2012 E-Book Sales Surpass $1.5B, Account For 23% Of Revenue”

Comments (1)
  1. Hi David – do you have stats for the total book market? including hard cover sales? as ebooks are clearly growing but im trying to see if the total market is growing? thanks

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