Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Where are ebooks going

Mims meme on ebooks plateauing at 50% seems to be gaining traction. Why? What technology slows adoption at such a low number when it just grew to almost 35%? Technology diffusion theory tells us the peak growth is at the midpoint of the adoption cycle. We're certainly at or near ebook peak growth. We have to be. If in another year ebooks triple again, they'll be past 100% book market share!

So I'm predicting ebook growth will slow in 2011 (despite what I've blogged about ebooks growing the book market). I do not think ebooks will hit 100% market share, too many people truly love print books. But judging from last year's growth, 70% is the minimum ebook market share by 2015. Minimum, by definition, means the market could be larger.

Ebook trend is shifting toward indie/small pub.
"Amazon says its studies have shown that digital titles sold by publishers using agency pricing aren't showing the same rate of unit growth as books that Amazon can discount. "The publishers showing the fastest growth are the ones where we set the prices," says Russell Grandinetti, Amazon's vice president for Kindle content.

Heavy book buyers avoiding bookstores. "He said some e-books had a 50% share of total sales during the first few months, a “watershed” for the trade." One doesn't have to read JA Konrath's blog to understand the implications... e-books have an infinite life and if titles are selling 50% e-books initially, that means the market will go majority ebooks.

But here is where the 50% maximum really comes from (same link):"Godfray said the challenge for publishers was to work out how they support the high street, given the need for shop window visibility for books to sell." Ummm... Just because publishers *need* bookstores to hold onto gatekeeping doesn't mean the market needs them. Ebooks are a disruptive technology.

WSJ noted the disruption of $0.99 ebooks notes: “In March he sold 369,000 downloads on Amazon, up from about 75,000 in January and just 1,300 in November. His titles are also for sale at digital bookstores operated by Kobo Inc., Barnes & Noble Inc., and Apple Inc.” Can we expect that type of growth from the AAP's March numbers? I'm not saying March will have 5X the sales of January, but rather another unseasonal month of ebook growth could have happened...

My old prediction of 50% ebook market share in January 2013 is looking quaint. I'm upping the ante to ebooks having 70%+ market share in 2015. The final market share? I'm not sure. I want print to survive. But not enough to pay retail for pbooks. ;)

Got Popcorn?


  1. Hi Neil,

    Interesting predictions.

    You might like Tim Spalding's (of article from November last year. He argues very persuasively against the logic that e-books will plateau at relatively conservative levels. His argument is that "the logic of e-book success has in-built feedback loops". Read the rest here:


  2. David,

    I 100% agree. In particular with point #4 from your link: "As books drop out of print, ereaders become a necessity."

    Ebooks are now almost 35% of the market. Sadly, as bookstores close, where else will one get the books? And ebooks went to 35% on convenience. The feedback loop will drive us to very high adoption rates.

    Again, not 100%... but where north of 70% will we stop? Three friends are buying relatives Kindles this week as there simply are not enough large print books at the local libraries...

    If we're not there yet, we're at the early part of Tim Spalding's "necessity" stage. I do not like bookstores closing; I just do not see them paying the $/ft^2 rent retail requires.


  3. Exactly,

    I bought my first e-book today, and I don't even have a smartphone or e-reader. It was a writer who only publishes digitally, and has no plans for print version, and I wanted to check out his stuff. So I am going to read it on the laptop.

    If you factor in the reverse - that out of however many millions of print titles (I couldn't find a verifiable figure quickly) there are only a fraction of those available for Kindle, so people are being forced to buy print versions. This will change fast as publishers race to digitise their backlists, pushing the share up even further.

    It still has a long way to go. Yes, it's the dominant format, but is still dwarfed by total print, but as the Amazon VP said in January, "change is probably happening much faster than you realise". And he would know.