Friday, July 22, 2011

May 2011 ebook sales

AAP May 2011 sales numbers are out in the most convoluted manner possible. So time for some graphs to elucidate. Note: This is 5 month data that I conveniently subtracted out the prior 4 months.

The quick summary:
Ebook sales are at 292% of a year ago
Children's books are selling at about 130% of normal
Adult paperback is selling about the historical normal.
Adult Hardcover is selling at 2/3rds of normal
MMPB is, at best, at 40% of normal sales.

We're approaching the mid-year spike of ebook sales. Ok, we're in it... July! Sigh... I'll have to wait 2 months for those numbers.

To the charts! Now my third and last chart will be variations of the same chart. Basically, we're seeing continued strong growth in ebook sales.

On the first chart, it shows the growth in ebook sales, by the AAP publishers, is far above an extrapolation of prior sales; that tells us the ebook market is still in a fast adoption timeframe.

Market share is something obsessed about and a bit difficult to understand with ebooks. What matters is that as long as sales (1st chart) exceed extrapolations of prior years, we know the ebook market will better than double its market share of the total book market:

Could you have imagined plotting total trade print sales versus ebook sales a few years ago? Now that ebooks are 26% of 'trade' (by my calculation), it is exciting seeing them on the same graph. I will repeat this graph at the end for an interesting conclusion...

Mass market paperback (MMPB) is getting creamed by ebooks. It was my favorite form factor as is the case with many (most?) 'serial fiction' readers. These are the readers that demand variety. Thus the best customers for indie authors. Thus the book form factor most reduced by ebooks to 40% of what it used to be (down from 50% last month)!

Hardcover is now being hit hard too. I wonder how much is do to "I want it now" which digital will always win and how much due to the excellent variety of fiction. Do recall these are AAP numbers... so part of the drop could be the new competition:

Adult paperback is doing ok. Not great after inflation, but not bad. Is this because so many paperback books are non-fiction?

Children's books are up! I suspect this is a snap back from a poor start of the year. Why doesn't matter. I'm happy to see this one category doing well. I do think it will be bowled over by touchscreen apps... But there is something nostalgic about kids reading. Alas, due to touchscreen apps, it isn't my family helping this category (we must have 600+ hand me down children's books):

Seasonal Charts
I'm a big fan of looking at data graphed different ways to truly understand the data. In a seasonal industry, such as books, that means plotting each year's data as one line.

First is ebook market share. There is a definitive July and end/start of year peak with a two troughs in between. I'd like to know more about the July peak. For now I'll just report the data:

A bar chart lets us see the trends for each month. This chart screams 'fast ebook growth' with no breaks applied:

The seasonal chart on Adult hardcovers shows they have lost their mojo. I suspect with the Borders bookstore closing this trend will be downward. :( I don't want an end to paper, I'm just much more for ebook growth!

Paperback is plodding along. It is neither doing great nor poorly. As noted before, I suspect this is due to non-fiction sales holding out in pbook form better than novels.

The seasonal chart shows the accelerating decline of MMPB. :( I do not wish to go into more detail of my favorite print form factor than to note sales should be two and a half times higher than they were in May just to be OK.

The seasonal Children's chart raises a question: Did May sales just steal from the mid-year? Or was their a 'hot book' I missed a la Harry Potter? (Or did the PR on the movie sell a bunch more Harry Potter books?)

While there are starting to be seasonal patterns in ebook sales, the trend is clear, fast year over year growth!

I promised a return to this chart. I've noticed that a line drawn through December and the following May sales is the yearly trend. So what if I extrapolate ebook sales on a multi-year basis? We see the trend in trade drop below ebooks in 2013. I think the crossing will be earlier (due to continued ebook sales acceleration).

I'm excited for the growth in ebooks. I'm also very happy to see print holding up better than I expected. Nothing would be better than a straight growth of the book market. :) I'm very curious to see the data on July (mid-year ebook peak). I also think my prediction of 50% ebooks by end of January 2013 is quite safe.

Got Popcorn?


  1. We need to get some friends together to give MMPB the 21-gun salute it deserves :(

    I am astonished at the red bar for E-books! I feel like July will top the 100M mark.

    Thanks for continuing to interpret the numbers!

    YA: Cheat, Liar, Coward, Thief
    Adult: Shackled

  2. July could break 100 million for the AAP. We've already done it if non-AAP ebooks are counted. ;)
    (see the 1st chart). :)

    I agree, MMPB needs a grand send off.