Friday, September 9, 2011

June 2011 Ebook sales

June was not a pretty month for print sales. I've read before that Borders represented close to half of paperback sales and judging from the cliff-fall in Adult paperback, that was indeed the case. Total print trade sales are down $120 million per month from the prior year trend. With AAP ebook sales only at $80 million, we're talking about an 11% drop in gross revenues for June.

Now, I expect this is hit of the Borders failure and shutdown. The question is, will there be a rebound after the Borders inventory has been liquidated?

I did expect Ebook sales to be slightly better in June. If Ebook sales had truly followed the 2011 growth curve, they would have been $83 million versus $80 million. Is that significant? Since more than a few indie authors report a drought and blamed the 'Sunshine Deals,' which favored AAP publishers, I suspect the real reason was we finally broke the crappy winter weather and people went out and played. Then again, growth has been so tremendous in 2011, we can take a breather.

But you come here for the charts, so here they are.

Overall, ebook growth is still faster than the 2010 growth trend by quite the margin!

I'm resurrecting an old chart format. This is by year ebook sales with 'events' that I believe helped shape AAP ebook sales. I'm rather surprised that the 'Sunshine Deals' didn't spike up sales further.

I've noted before that ebooks jump in market share at the start of the year. We seem to be holding to the pattern but a different month to month variation over prior years:

Edit: I had bad links in the excel sheet on this chart. Mea culpa and corrected 2:30pm 9/11/2011
I've started a new chart: A comparison of how that month's sales did versus the nominal for the last few years, 2010, and a trend. Print books are slowing quickly. 80% of the prior year's sales except for kids books which are doing much better. Ebooks have fast growth and while I commented about June, graphically it looks like it is just maintaining 2011 growth with a little noise. Edit: Don't get excited about MMPB doing a little better than prediction; my once favorite format is in decline. June is MMPB's 'month to shine.' So it did better than falling off a cliff, but not by much. :(

Trade print was very weak. Adult paperback and MMPB and thrashing print sales. More on that later.

Adult hardcover was OK. The weak side of OK, but ok.

Adult paperback fell off a cliff. Nothing seasonal about this drop. It is the changes in the industry that are happening. The question is, will any other bookstore step into Borders space of selling high volumes of paperbacks?

My pre-ebook favorite form factor was MMPB. MMPB is on life support. It cannot survive at these low sales.

It makes me happy to see how well kids books are doing. :)

Seasonal Charts:

I like the bar chart to emphasize how strong, versus prior years, ebooks are doing. :)

I'll go out of order in the seasonal charts and show just how nicely childrens books are selling. :)

Again, hardcover is OK, but weak:

One didn't have to plot a seasonal chart to see that paperback books fell off a cliff.

I usually comment on how poorly MMPB is doing, but adult paperback made this category look 'better than usual.' But MMPB is weak and is pulling down trade print sales.

Overall, June was a weak month for books sales. While ebooks did well, the wholesale side of the business took a hit due to the Boarders bankruptcy to the tune of about an 11% cut in revenue. I wonder if there will be a snap back after the liquidation (which is still going on in September)? Or is this just a setup to selling ereaders and tablets?

Got Popcorn?


  1. I do not see how Borders could be the cause for these pitiful paperback sales. To quote Shatzkin:

    "When PW or the AAP or even the publishers themselves talk about how the industry is doing selling ebooks in relation to print books, they are usually comparing apples to oranges. They are comparing what actual consumers bought from retailers in digital form with what retailers and wholesalers bought from publishers in print form for any period of time. So they are comparing ebooks that consumers actually bought now with print books that consumers might, or might not, buy later."

    Publishers have been sending very little stock to Borders for some time - those who did wanted cod.

    This is a secular trend, following in the footsteps of the music industry, where the fall in sales of physical products were not matched by the rise in digital.

  2. Karl,

    It should be more than just Borders, but until June, Borders was buying books Cash on delivery. Anyone was willing to sell for cash.

    BTW, the number are both wholesale (ebooks), the difference is there is no stocking delay for ebooks and few returns.

    The AAP numbers are also missing indie author sales. I do not see this being the same as CDs. The music industry fought digital so that the only choice was piracy for many. Ebooks, at least from indie authors, are cheap enough.

    But if it wasn't Borders, why the sudden drop in June ebook sales? Paperback was doing ok until June. June is the wrong month to suddenly have a large number of new ereaders. That would be December through February.


  3. Dear wannabuy,
    I'd like to know how do you estimate the market for self-publishing.
    Could you give us some info on that?
    thank you


  4. Giulio,

    I have two data points.


    I really only have two data points on indie author market share, but they're quite useful for estimating the market share of small publisher/indie author ebook sales:
    1. December 2009 ‘boutique’ books were 10% of ebook sales.
    2. By scanning the December 2010 ‘bestseller lists,’ I conservatively estimate that 20% to 33.3% of ebook sales are small publisher/Indie Author.
    3. I take the 20% market share for small publisher/Indie author for December 2010.
    4. I then just interpolate linearly and I will extrapolate linearly until there are better numbers that I can reference.


  5. Neil,

    Here is a third data point that may be useful.

    Amazon have a Kindle Indie Books section now with its own bestseller list broken out:

    If you go to book #100 in the list you will see that it is #442 in the Kindle Store.

    Once you remove books, games, and magazines, you can say (conservatively) that a quarter of all top-selling books are indie.

    I check this number every few days - it seems to bounce between #320 and #450 and is quite volatile.

    It will be interesting to track it over time.


  6. Neil,

    Just curious - I could only find reports of the AAP numbers (on MediaBistro and eBookNewser), but couldn't see the press release on the AAP site itself. Did you track it down anywhere?


  7. David,

    I used the MediaBistro numbers. Usually the AAP site lags, so I haven't worried about it.

    Hey, my linear extrapolation has indie ebook market share at 24.96% of the market for August. So if you estimate that 25% is conservative, I would agree. I believe that the indie ebook market share has outgrown my estimate; I just am unable to find anything that is better than my assumption. :( I have done similar checks to validate that I'm being conservative, but nothing we could say is a 'hard number.'

    Thanks for your analysis. I'll uses it as a reference, if you do not mind. :)


  8. Feel free to use it, of course.

    That number could be very interesting to track over time.

    Of course, it's only one channel, but it represents around 60% of the market.

    And it will only capture a rough share of the top-selling books. While the spread seems consistent (through just a few random checks) there is no telling if that holds up through the whole 1 million items.

  9. "While the spread seems consistent (through just a few random checks) there is no telling if that holds up through the whole 1 million items."

    I suspect, due to pricing, indie authors are doing far better than big6 books the further out in the tail one is.