Ebook sales did *far* better in February than what I thought was going to be a good month. It was a horrid month to sell print books. The collapse in print sales dwarfs the market share of Borders; since this is two months running either:
1. Borders was more important to the business than their market share implied or...
2. We're past the tipping point for e-books
I believe the charts show the later. I had to redo the y-axis on the ebook graphs due to the large jump in sales! Judging by the comments by indie authors and the success of backlists that 'work around' the AAP... I suspect I a severely under-reporting the non-AAP portion of ebook sales:
Take a look at the above chart again. The January to February spike in ebook sales is not seasonal. Ebook sales are skyrocketing! In fact, since 2005, ebook sales have dipped from January to Febuary, except for 2011:
So this leads to the natural question, how did ebooks do versus all trade sales? The other press has made a big deal that ebooks outsold one form factor or another of print books. What they should note is that ebooks were HALF of print sales in February! Note that the latest total trade sales is only a little below the scatter of the last 5 years... But then again, February is a very weak print sales month:
Or more precisely, when one does a conservative estimate of indie/small publisher sales I find ebooks were 34.87% of the February market. Note: February should be a weak print sales month, just not this weak.
Where are ebooks getting the customers? Unfortunately, my favorite pbook format, mass market paperbacks (mmpb) is taking a huge hit. Notice that as ebooks climb mmpb sales are plummeting? At this point I consider the form factor of mmpb to be uneconomical. The form factor's sales are too low to support the production of 'cheap paper' in my opinion. Perhaps print on demand kiosks can save the form factor? I suspect the selection of mmpb available in the second half of 2011 will be poor compared to prior to 2008.
Adult Hardcover was at about half the sales of a good year. I do not understand why this form factor was so hard hit. Borders was supposed to be dominant in paperback. So why is Hardcover so weak? Is it a lack of available hits? (Focusing on too few best sellers that were gifted already at Christmas?)
I'm actually pleasantly surprised that adult paperback was at the 'lower end of normal sales.' Why is this though? Borders is supposed to dominate this form factor! Did Borders restock COD big in February? Or... do the numbers suggest the whole print industry is undermined and Borders is just a scapegoat everyone is hiding behind?
Children's sales were on the weak end of normal. It wouldn't be worth noting except we're seeing a steady weakening in sales of Children's books. In my opinion, after a stellar year of tablet sales that we should expect in 2011, we'll see Children's books hit the tipping point in 2012.
Note: This won't be due to the Kindle. It is touchscreen driven. We're not buying nearly the 'teaching books' to instruct our daughters as IPad apps are far better for teaching letters, spelling, basic reading, counting, and early math. It will take a hundred million more tablets out there to really shift the market; that market shift is coming fast.
I like bar charts as they show growth better than other forms. Notice how much the y-axis had to change to support the sales growth of ebooks in 2011:
For completeness, I like to show seasonal graphs for all the form factors. This is a weak time of year to sell print books. Please compare to the 2nd graph. I'm not commenting further other than to say print sales are really weak:
There is no longer any doubt; we are well past the tipping point on ebooks! Who expected better than a third market share in February 2011? Not I, my main prediction has been 50% market share in January 2013. I didn't realize I was an ebook pessimist... ;)