In the Book Race, eBooks Take the Lead

In the Book Race, eBooks Take the Lead

Any debate that monster eBook sales versus paper books were a fluke born out of the holiday season has been put to rest. The Association of American Publishers is reporting that eBook sales not only tripled from last year, they also blew away paper book sales. Uh-oh…maybe B&N should consider going digital faster…

I find this fascinating not just because it’s big news, but also because it fits with the conversations I’ve had with random people lately. Around my office, at dinner functions, etc., anytime books come up everyone says the same thing: “I/my friend/my husband/my neighbor just bought a Kindle/Nook/iPad and I don’t know how B&N is going to survive. Look what happened to Borders.” Now, I think that the issues that brought down Borders go far deeper than eBooks (a line of horribly unqualified CEOs for starters!), but it’s an interesting pulse on public perception. People are looking at Borders’ bankruptcy, looking at how their own shopping habits have changed, and really embracing the change from paper to eBooks. More ominously for major bookstores, the other universal comment: “How many record stores do you see these days?”

The saddest part in all this is that while eBook sales look fantastic, they’re still smaller overall than paper book sales. Year to date (January/February), paper book sales FELL to $440 million+, while eBook sales rose to $160 million+. That’s a big gap that eBooks need to make up to prop up the book industry, and they still have a long road ahead of them. Unfortunately, numbers like this are what strike fear into the hearts of publishers, creating the pricing shenanigans we all know and loathe.

Personally, even as someone who has been heavily eBook-centric for a while, I’ve found that the last few months have driven me to choose eBooks more often over paper books. I typically buy 2-3 books a month, and I can count on one hand the number of paper books I’ve purchased in the last 6 months. Have your eBook/paper book purchasing habits changed much lately? If so, are you skewing more towards eBooks? Share your thoughts below!

Via Engadget

E-Books Rank as #1 Format among All Trade Categories for the Month

April 14, 2011; New York, NY– Powerful continuing growth of books on digital platforms–both e-Books and Downloaded Audiobooks–are highlights of the February 2011 sales report of the Association of American Publishers, which is being released today.

The report, produced by the trade association of the U.S. book publishing industry, tracks monthly and year-to-date publishers’ net sales revenue in all categories of commercial, education, professional and scholarly books and journals.

According to the February results, once again e-Books have enjoyed triple-digit percentage growth, 202.3%, vs February 2010. Downloaded Audiobooks, which have also seen consistent monthly gains, increased 36.7% vs last February.

For February 2011, e-Books ranked as the #1 format among all categories of Trade publishing (Adult Hardcover, Adult Paperback, Adult Mass Market, Children’s/Young Adult Hardcover, Children’s/Young Adult Paperback).

This one-month surge is primarily attributed to a high level of strong post-holiday e-Book buying, or “loading,” by consumers who received e-Reader devices as gifts. Experts note that the expanded selection of e-Readers introduced for the holidays and the broader availability of titles are factors.

Additionally, Trade publishing houses cite e-Books as generating fresh consumer interest in–and new revenue streams for–“backlist” titles, books that have been in print for at least a year. Many publishers report that e-Book readers who enjoy a newly-released book will frequently buy an author’s full backlist.

For the year to date (January/February 2011 vs January/February 2010), which encompasses this heavy post-holiday buying period, e-Books grew 169.4% to $164.1M while the combined categories of print books fell 24.8% to $441.7M.*

According to Tom Allen, President and Chief Executive Officer of AAP, “The February results reflect two core facts: people love books and publishers actively serve readers wherever they are. The public is embracing the breadth and variety of reading choices available to them. They have made e-Books permanent additions to their lifestyle while maintaining interest in print format books.”

Allen added that book publishers have been leaders among content providers in identifying and serving new audiences. “Publishers have always strategically expanded into all the markets and formats where readers want to find books, whether it was Trade Paperback, Mass Market or now digital. By extending their work as developers, producers and marketers of high-quality content to emerging technologies, publishers are constantly redefining the timeless concept of ‘books.'”

Other highlights in the February 2011 report (all February 2011 vs February 2010 unless otherwise noted):

Digital categories:
E-Book sales were $90.3 Million, growing 202.3% vs February 2010. Downloaded Audiobooks were $6.9M, an increase of 36.7%.

Trade categories:
Adult Trade categories combined (Hardcover, Paperback and Mass Market) were $156.8M, down 34.4%. Children’s/Young Adult categories combined (Hardcover and Paperback) were $58.5M, a decline of 16.1%

*Year-to-date 2011 vs YTD 2010: E-Books increased by 169.4% while all categories combined of print Trade books declined by 24.8%

Religious books:
February sales of $48.5M were an increase of 5.5%; this reflects growth as well in the category for year-to-date, up 6.1% to $93.9M.

Education categories:
Higher Education sales for YTD (January and February 2011) were $406.9M, down slightly by 5.6% vs YTD 2010. In K-12, YTD sales were $173M, declining 8.9% from 2010.

Professional/Scholarly categories:
Total sales for professional books and journals were $42.9M, a slight drop of 3.6% vs February 2010. Combined sales of University Press (hardcover and paperback) were $6.7M, falling 6% vs last year.

The AAP monthly and year-end sales report represents data provided by 84 U.S. publishing houses representing major commercial, education, professional, scholarly and independents. Data on e-Books comes from 16 houses. The report does not include all book and journal net sales but provides what’s acknowledged as the best industry snapshot currently available.

AAP also produces a separate in-depth report of total book sales, available in May. For more information about this, please contact the appropriate person below.

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About the Author

Zek has been a gadget fiend for a long time, going back to their first PDA (a Palm M100). They quickly went from researching what PDA to buy to following tech news closely and keeping up with the latest and greatest stuff. They love writing about ebooks because they combine their two favorite activities; reading anything and everything, and talking about fun new tech toys. What could be better?

6 Comments on "In the Book Race, eBooks Take the Lead"

  1. I would be hard-pressed to remember the last time I bought a paper book. I think it was Dan Simmons’ “Drood”, which came out *at least* a year ago.

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