Thursday, May 19, 2011

March 2011 Ebook Sales

After an amazing February (which blew away my expectations), March sales of ebooks were just very strong. Print book (pbook) sales also recovered nicely. But don't start talking about a renaissance in pbooks, the sales were on the weak end of a normal year overall.

Notice how even a 'breather month' put march ahead of the 2010 ebook growth trendline? This shows that even a month of slacking that 2011 has fast accelerating ebook market. I won't be surprised if we see some seasonality in ebooks. The market isn't small anymore. ;)

Ebooks gave back a bit of their market share.

If I add in my assumed indie/small publisher market share growth (10% December 2009, 20% December 2010 and assume linear growth to 30% in December 2011) than we see that ebooks are still beyond the tipping point. Note: If you disagree with my assumptions that is fine, but it is too obvious a *large* fraction of ebooks are sold by indie/small pub. Probably far more than I'm assuming:

Now let us compare ebook sales versus trade. Well... 21.62% (with indie/small pub) is a small fraction. But a growing fraction. ;)

I'm glad to see mass market paperbacks (MMPB) made quite a sales recovery! I can take what was my favorite print format off near term death watch. But notice how MMPB is below band? That isn't healthy. I have a feeling this recovery is Borders restocking related. :( (I'd like it to be a more substantial recovery...)

Hardcover also recovered and is 'in the band' of prior year sales. This to me is amazing! Borders? Seasonal? New bestseller books? I'll be watching in future months.

Where is the spin that adult paperbacks are once again outselling ebooks? Nice recovery and 'in band' for prior years. Another interesting trend to watch

To get at children's sales I had to take the sales for 1st quarter 2010, multiply them by one minus the percentage change in sales and then subtract out January and February sales (why didn't they publish a straight number?). So my numbers could be off by $2 million due to how the AAP 'corrects' prior data quietly. But either way, children's book sales were weak. I suspect touchscreens have eaten into the market:

Seasonal Graphs:

Ebooks show nice growth

I like to use bar charts as an alternate way to show how ebooks are growing fast every month:

Harcovers are at a normal seasonal pace:

MMPB recovered from 'death watch' to the weak end of normal:

Adult paperbacks recovered well enough to have a 'normal March' sales level. I consider this pretty amazing:

I hope these graphs give you a better insight into book sales versus the numbers out of context. Ebook growth is still strong. Somehow, thankfully, pbook sales had a recovery month (the shrinkage was far faster than I wanted to see).

As always, we anticipate next month's sales. I find it interesting Amazon bragged about April ebook sales outdoing their print sales by 105 to 100. Since I haven't seen that before, it implies next month we'll see ebooks recover some market share. The question though is 'how strong were pbook sales?'

For March, it was a good month for book sales (pbook+ebook). But not good enough to make up for January and February.

Got Popcorn?


  1. March was around the time all my local Borders closed. Could it be the sold off portion of those liquidation sales affecting the graphs so drastically? Are those books considered already sold (and therefore an earlier part of the graph) or are we talking books that cross the POS (Point of Sale)? Interesting if that's part of the factor, though...

    YA: Cheat, Liar, Coward
    Adult: Shackled

  2. J.E.
    March is when Borders started stocking up the 'surviving stores' paying COD. Since the liquidated books are not returned, they do not effect the wholesale numbers that I graph.

    Any returned books would subtract from sales though. So that could have been a factor in January and February pbook sales.


  3. If the Borders situation had a depressing effect on Jan/Feb print numbers then gave them a boost in March, that should more or less even out when we look at the first quarter of 2011.

    Publisher’s Weekly has collated the figures, and e-book sales are up 159.8%, while print is in decline overall, with Adult Mass Market Paperback suffering most, dropping 23.4%.

    From all the houses reporting, e-book sales for all of 2010 were $441.3m. In the first three months of 2011, they are already at $233.1m. That’s more than half the revenue in a quarter of the time.

    It’s obviously far too early to tell, but if these trends continue, we could be looking at $1bn in e-books sales – by just these houses – by the end of the year.

  4. David,
    Yes, we could see $1 billion in ebook sales for the year from the 16 AAP publishers. :)

    More if the Amazon tablets take of. ;)