Thursday, March 31, 2011

Growth of Ebooks in 2011: Spectacular!

I cannot turn around without another article on someone selling ebooks outside of the AAP14 that report their ebook sales. So everything is pointing to a near 'gold rush' to get into the ebook market. This will pull customers to ebooks.

Note: This builds on a short discussion from the last comments section.

WSJ (subscription required) is predicting a little over $1billion (per graph) in US ebook sales in 2011 and $2.0 billion in 2012.

If growth in ebooks patterns 2010... we should have about $1.25 Billion in ebook sales in 2011. (Just by the formula: 2010 total ebook sales * 2011 January ebook/2010 January ebook sales>

I think ebook growth will be even faster.

Why faster ebook growth? Bookstores are closing and cellphones and tablets have explosive growth. This is going to be more analogous to Blockbuster than the music stores. As 'high intensity' readers loose their local bookstores (which is sad), they are seriously looking at ebooks as the option.

But there are more factors that will drive customers at an accelerated pace to ebooks in 2011:
1. Indie/small publisher market share is growing and growing fast. New authors have always excited readers.
2. One big6 is at 23% 'volume' ebook or already past the tipping point.
3. Authors can earn a living writing, so this means more 'follow on' books at a pace that keeps readers engaged. (How did authors survive on 1 book a year?)
4. Backlists pulling new readers to ebooks to rediscover old favorites (one of my old favorite 'pulp fiction' books is too expensive used but will be out in ebook form. Hopefully soon!
5. Heavy ebook readers are 'losing the habit' of sharing books. (Ebooks are cheap enough to just buy.)
6. Infinite shelf life of ebooks will help 'word of mouth' marketing. This really helps smaller authors.
7. More press on ebooks.

The above were the 'positive pull' factors to ebooks. There will also be some 'push' factors that are less joyous to discuss:
8. Bookstores are closing. Kobo sees a 30% growth from the Borders BK. I know of quite a few people that bought an ereader when they found their favorite bookstore was closing.
9. Plummeting paperback sales (to wholesale). For those who mostly read paperback (like myself), the reduced selection will 'push' readers to seek alternate sources.
10. People have run out of space for 'stuff.' This includes books. Seriously, do you know anyone who isn't trying to de-clutter?

Ebooks are no longer a 'prove it to me' technology. Coworkers today were talking decorating and bookcases are now considered 'art shelves.' How quickly impressions change...

I'm not sure how big ebooks will be in 2011. Easily over $1.25billion in the US. I see the positives of ebooks growing the book revenue (at a lower unit cost). The upper bound of ebooks in 2011 would be about $2.5billion (about half the US book market). So ebook sales will be, roughly, 2.25X 2010 to 5X 2010. If I were to bet, I'd pick the middle of the range. But... why bet? I'll observe to see where we end up. :)

This was build on my comment that Forrester research predicting a $3billion ebook market in 2015 was pro-print. While I see the book market growing (in dollars and volume when ebooks are included), I see pbooks shrinking by more than a billion USD (in the US) in 2011. :( Sadly, while I think ebooks will grow the dollars in the book market *long term*, in 2011 the total book dollars could shrink. (I hope not... but that could happen.) :(

What's your prediction for ebooks and pbooks in 2011? Oh... I'm including all ebooks, not just the AAP14. ;) But when I talk pbooks, I'll use the AAP88 numbers.

Again, I'm predicting ebooks will over double sales in 2011 (in dollars) and possibly grow so fast to quintuple 2010 sales.

Got Popcorn?


  1. Just to play devil's advocate, I'm going to say that the total book dollars are definitely going to shrink this year, and ebooks won't exceed $1.25 billion, though they will be over a billion.

    Reasons? The economy, mainly. The Borders bankruptcy, too. The disarray in which the Big 6 publishers seem to constantly find themselves, these days. And no single big buzz new author (e.g. Meyer, Rowling).

  2. One more thing: that assumes the numbers going into the reports continue to come from more or less the same sources. If one huge source which hasn't been reporting properly were to suddenly start reporting, it would change everything.

  3. Azarimba:

    I do not assume the reports continue to come in the same. I do assume I'll find out when they change. I make my own assumptions of market share for indie/small publishers. :) Unless the big6 implode, which is very unlikely, we'll see the growth. :)

    Oh, the Borders Bankruptcy will grow ebooks. The economy, mostly on the East Coast (Sigh... I live in LA) has some real traction.

    I welcome diverging opinions, but with a very conservative estimate for indie/small pub, total ebooks were $88.3 million in January 2011. Please look at my prior article on January ebook sales. Each year has faster growth than the prior.

    If we talk $1.25B, I'll take the over. ;)