Friday, February 18, 2011

December 2010 ebook Sales

Ebook sales did really well in December of 2010. :) It was also a decent month for books, but not for adult paperbacks and 'mass market paperbacks' (MMPB). My estimate of ebook sales is ~$60million/month. My low estimate for total ebook sales in a year is ~$110 million to $120 million. But if I had estimated off last year's data, my estimate would need to be increased by almost 50%! Ebook sales are on the exponential growth curve. :)

First a chart on ebook sales. I do my own estimate of indie/small publisher sales. Recall that the AAP sales numbers are only for 14 of the 88 AAP publishers and exclude the rest of the 400+ publishers out there. And there sales also exclude indie authors. I have but two data points. 10% of ebook sales in December of 2009 and I estimate off of Amazon's best seller lists that 20% of December of 2010 were Indie/small publisher.

Each year's sales has almost linear growth followed by a 'jump' and then a new growth rate for the next year. Look at how using prior year ebook sales would underestimate future sales. However, I do expect 2012 to be the last year of accelerating growth. If ebooks follows other technology adoption rates, 2013 and 2014 will grow at the same rate as 2012 (which will grow far faster than 2011 which will grow far faster than 2010). Then... growth will slow. That is the nature of technological adoption and the 'S-curve' of growth.

Ebook market share is noisy. Why? Print book (pbook) sales are noisey! But since this is the most mis-quoted number by the publishing industry, I feel bound to calculate my own estimate (as the AAP's numbers seem to be fudged).

I calculate trade sales by summing: Adult Hardcover & Paperback, MMPB, and Children's hardcover and paperback. These figures sum up closes to the AAP's 'trade numbers' that just don't quite add up (so I ignore their figures and calculate my own). This December was an 'ok' month.

Ebooks passed by MMPB sales last month and we're just not going to ever look back. December was an ok month for MMPB too, yet ebooks clearly outsold MMPB once indie/small publisher sales are included. Unfortunately, the Borders bankruptcy is likely to hit paperback and MMPB the hardest...

It was a decent December for hardcover. Ebook sales remain far less than hardcover (overall, not hardcover on Amazon). However, it wasn't a break out year either.

Ebooks are now at about half the sales rate of Adult paperback. I expect sometime in 2011 that ebooks will pass by Adult paperback sales. Sadly adult paperback will probably be hit by the Borders bankruptcy as with mmpb. :(

Ebooks have yet to impact Children's books. In my opinion, children's ebooks are back in circa 2009 mindshare. With the predicted 'explosion' of touchscreen devices sold this year, I expect children's ebooks to take off. That could be a nice addition to ebook sales. Although they will probably be tracked as 'apps.' ;)

Ebook sales are not yet a mature enough market to show seasonal trends. Right now, ebook growth overcomes and 'down seasons.'

Another way to look at seasonal sales is a bar chart of ebook sales by month. Look at those year to year exponential growth trends! This style of chart makes the rapid ebook growth the most obvious:

Adult paperback sales had a December recovery. I expected with the Borders issues to see a lower December 2010 paperback sales... I'm happy to see otherwise. I do have the question if the publishers will be paid for their sales though...

If you do an 'eyeball integration' of the last 5 months of 2010 hardcover sales... those sales were weak. I expect that the end of 2010 ereader sales will cut further into hardcover sales in coming years.

The December MMPB sales recovery certainly didn't pay for the weak sales of October and November. I expect the Borders bankruptcy and ebook sales to cut into this format. In particular, quite a few MMPB readers that I know are now reading ebooks on Android phones instead of buying MMPB books. As tens of millions of 'casual readers' switch to reading on phones & tablets, MMPB will be hard hit. 2011 and 2012 will be the big transition years for MMPB.

The last chart is comparing showing the growth of ebook availability. We're seeing 33,500 more per month. Ok, this is fractionally slower growth than reported before, but that is just due to the noise in the data.

Ebook growth was Excellent in December 2010. Unlike previous months in 2010, it is less obvious that ebook sales are impacting print sales from the December numbers. However... with the Borders bankruptcy, it is obvious that the prior impacts were significant.

I feel for those losing their favorite bookstore. For many the inconvenience will drive them to ebooks. I would rather people use ebooks for the 'pull' (convenience and variety of books). But as customers switch, it is going to have an impact on the retail stores.

Got Popcorn?


  1. Fascinating stuff, Neil-- though a lot is over my head :-)

    I wouldn't be surprised to see B&N go bankrupt, too, judging anecdotally from the local store...and yet, their stock is up so far this year. Are Nook sales really that good? Does Wall Street expect them to pick up Borders' market share?

  2. Sam,

    If B&N could increase their online market share by 50%(currently ~20%) , to >30%, they'll do well.

    Oh, Apple is at about a third of B&N (maybe less, Apple is at 20% on iOS devices and that's it).

    Some B&N are doing well. But Borders surviving will knock out 50+ B&N stores.

    2012 will be the interesting year. I'll have a blog post on that later this month.


  3. So far today, B&N's stock has dropped 12% and they've suspended the dividend.

    What a difference a day makes...

  4. Neil, do you frequent Mike Shatzkin's blog?(

    Please do if you don't already. I would love to see your comments over there.

  5. Chris,

    I read that blog years ago (I think a different url?). Thanks for reminding me about it.

    B&N sent out some funky warning signs with the dividend 'suspension.' As I posted before, 50+ B&N stores should be closed. I wonder if I was far too optimistic.


  6. You gave up on blogging about Real Estate? United Van Lines released their annual migration report last month. Washington, DC had the highest in-bound migration in 2010. Same as 2009 and 2008.