Ink, Bits, & Pixels brings us the news of AAP’s new statistical reporter, StatShot Annual. 2014 represents a recovery over 2013, but hardly over 2012 our recent high point. This graphic from Digital Book World shows interesting sales breakdowns by format.

The e-book share seems to be sticking nearer to 20% than to the 30% which we were talking about six months ago. Obviously the proportions will vary by type of book, but one wonders if this is a sign of things to come. As noted in an earlier post The Bookseller’s Future Book does present some interesting breakdown numbers extrapolated from Bloomsbury reporting. It seems highly likely that trade sales proportions would be different from those for academic/professional — but one could almost as easily argue in favor of digital favoring trade as against academic/professional rather than the opposite which seems to be what Bloomsbury is pointing to. To be sure many (all?) academic libraries are now subscribing to on-line databases of monograph content as well as journals, and one might anticipate digital representing a higher percentage of purchases in the sciences as against the humanities, but I can’t get away from the thought that print books will still needed in the academic world for a very long time to come. It remains true that though Bloomsbury reported strong growth in academic/professional digital sales, the do remain at only 12% of total sales for those groups. It’s easy to let the hype about growth numbers obscure the business reality of number of copies sold and dollars earned. The overhyping of the e-book threat was at least partly caused by allowing ourselves to confuse growth rates with total sales.

In general I think I am now less sure about digital, which I had thought would pretty much take over most categories of book publishing. Maybe people like printed book not just because they are old-fashioned fuddy-duddies, but because the codex format is actually the best way for such information/entertainment to be presented. The population continues to grow; literacy increases worldwide; more and more people can afford to buy a book of whichever format — maybe we won’t be getting rid of the p-book after all.

Still, it is of course very early in the history of this format change, so the numbers we look at are too shallow to bear much weight.