E-Books Outselling Hardcovers in 2011

 Posted by at 2:52 PM  Tagged with: ,
Jul 222011

The May 2011 e-book sales stats bring with them the announcement that, so far in 2011, e-books are the #2 format, behind only adult trade paperbacks, and ahead of both adult hardcovers and adult mass-market paperbacks. E-book sales are up 160.1% since last year, while adult trade paperbacks (-17.9%), adult hardcovers (-23.4%), and adult mass market paperbacks (-30.1%) all suffered double-digit declines from 2010. Year to date 2011 totals (with YTD 2010 numbers in parenthesis) are:

  1. Adult trade paperback: $473.1 M (576.4 M)
  2. E-Books: $389.7 M ($149.8 M)
  3. Adult hardcover: $386.2 M ($504.1 M)
  4. Adult mass-market paperback: $185.1 M ($264.8 M)

While the Association of American Publishers didn’t break down monthly sales figures this month, subtracting out previous months’ totals gives me an estimate of $87.7 M for May 2011 e-book sales (just behind February’s $90.3 M record). Adult trade paperbacks were $96.5 M, adult hardcover $82.9 M, and adult mass-market $33.1 M. (Note that their YTD totals and prior months’ sales don’t usually add up exactly; I assume they update and adjust prior month totals without telling us. But this estimate should be close.)

May 2011 e-book sales: $87.7 M

Those figures are strong, putting e-books very near a pace to hit $1 billion in sales this year (which I predicted after seeing the February figures). For review, the past 13 months of e-book sales:

  • May 2010: $29.3 M
  • June 2010: $29.8 M
  • July 2010: $40.8 M
  • Aug 2010: $39.0 M
  • 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: $69.0M
  • Apr 2011: $72.8M
  • May 2011: $87.7 M

Very impressive that e-books have outsold both mass-market paperbacks and hardcovers over a 5-month period, industry-wide (Amazon announced several months ago that e-books had overtaken all print book sales through Amazon.com). In addition, these figures do not include independent author e-book sales (which are becoming more and more significant, with some indies selling over 1 million copies), and, by focusing on revenue, they understate the number of e-books sold when compared to print books that normally cost more per unit.

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