We are often told that sales of e-books have plateaued — the implication being that we can now get back to the good old business we all love, making and selling print books. But not so fast — the numbers we use are almost always not really comparable, being based on different subsets of the world of books. Sam Missingham’s post from May on The Bookseller‘s blog Future Book analyses the numbers and puts an important corrective into the calculations.
BUT . . . see this from Shelf Awareness, 20 September 2013
AAP Sales for First Half of 2013: E-books Slip
In the first half of the year, total net book sales fell 4.5%, to $5.491 billion, compared to the first half of 2012, In the first half of the year, total net books sales fell 4.5%, to $5.491 billion, compared to the first half of 2012, representing sales of 1,196 publishers and distributed clients as reported to the Association of American Publishers.Adult e-book sales have slowed considerably in 2013, growing only 4.8% in the first six months of the year and trending downward: they were in negative territory in May and June, off 4.3% and 8.7%, respectively. At the same time, Children’s/YA e-books sales fell 45.6% in the period. It’s a striking change for a category that had triple-digit growth for several years and was heralded by some as a medium that would take over the book world.
Other than paperbacks, children’s/YA had the biggest drops in sales, and mass market and adult paperbacks were off 7.4% and 11.5%, respectively. Adult hardcovers had a gain of 7.4%.
Category Sales % Change
University press e-books $6.2 million 50.7%
Downloaded audio $61.6 million 12.6%
Adult hardcovers $580.7 million 7.4%
Religious e-books $35.4 million 5.5%
Children’s/YA paperbacks $244.6 million 5.4%
University paperbacks $21.6 million 4.8%
Adult e-books $647.7 million 4.8%
K-12 $1.128 billion 1.5%
Religious paperbacks $73.8 million -0.7%
Religious hardcovers $130.2 million -2%
Physical audiobooks $35.2 million -3.3%
University hardcovers $19.3 million -3.7%
Professional publishing $283.4 million -3.8%
Children’s board books $20.9 million -7.3%
Mass market $184.4 million -7.4%
Adult paperbacks $635.1 million -11.5%
Children’s/YA hardcovers $267.2 million -31.5%
Children’s/YA e-books $83.7 million -45.6%
In terms of e-books the big loser has been Children’s and Young Adult — but then they lost big in print books too. Maybe there’s an explanation for this dip. But overall, bear in mind Sam Missingham’s main point — these numbers represent part of the total market only.