Ebook sales have reached a plateau

Update: A couple people (@draccah and @nicboshart) have pointed out the flaw in this post.  The sales figures we're looking at here are only from the major publishers; the independents and the self-published aren't included.

We just got the June ebook sales figures (via E-reads) yesterday so I'm going to revisit the predictions I made last month.  I don't know total reported sales, but I do know that $29.8m worth of ebooks were sold, which is less than a 5% increase over the previous month. Here are the reported ebook sales for June through January:

Ebooks sales: 29.8 29.3 27.4 28.5 28.9 31.9

And here are the predictions I made:

One, I think ebook sales are largely flat so far this year. This prediction has obviously remained true.

Two, iBooks didn’t boost sales at all. This one's still good. Then again, are book app sales included in these figures? We could be missing growth that's either not reported or not expressed.

Three, ebook sales don’t seem to be affected by the same market pressures as other book sales. I can't answer this one without the total sales figures.

Four, I don’t think ebook sales will grow on their own at quite the same spectacular rate as last year. Yep.

So when it comes to market predictions I'm 3 for 4. That's not bad.

P.S. If you haven't seen them before, you might want to read the last 2 predictions. I'll reprint them here.

Three, ebook sales don’t seem to be affected by the same market pressures as other book sales. I think it would be useful if we could compare ebook sales with that of other digital media. I bet we’d see similar behavior.

Four, I don’t think ebook sales will grow on their own at quite the same spectacular rate as last year.  Instead, I think market growth will be directly related to the publicity surrounding new ereader announcements. (The big January sales might have been caused by the Nook.)

9 thoughts on “Ebook sales have reached a plateau

  1. I don’t know if they’ve reached a plateau. IDPF sales stats are wholesale and only from 12 – 15 trade publishers. If Bezos is telling the truth, they’ve seen a significant shift towards smaller presses, so it’s possible that’s where the growth is. This quarter also encompasses the Agency switch, and its possible that losses from that time period account for the falling ebook sales.

    I think it’s a bit too early to say sales have plateaued. This could be an anomalous quarter. We’ll have a better idea in, say, five years.

  2. The numbers that we are seeing are total dollars in revenue from 8 to 12 trade publishers. I think what we don’t know is whether volume has increased. In other words, pubs are no longer receiving wholesale revenue for digital books, but are instead receiving $2-$5? less due to agency pricing.

    So volume might be up with the total revenue flat.

    Also, I wonder what number of digital books are being sold that aren’t captured. Obviously we would only know that if some retailer gave some kind of numbers.

    Do you think that there will be a new plateau next year or just steady incremental growth?

    1. I added a not about the big 8.

      I think we might actually have a growing market now and simply not be able to see it because the sales figures aren’t being reported.

  3. Anecdotally, I’ve heard from several publishers, large and small, that eBook sales have been steadily increasing.

    As others have noted, the AAP figures don’t represent the entire market; under agency model, sales could increase while revenue decreases a bit; and self-published books likely represent a notable percentage of the unreported growth that has Amazon so giddy.

    I also wonder what role volume played in last year’s increases as publishers pumped up their digitization efforts and more books were available than ever before?

  4. High agency-priced ebooks have pushed me almost exclusively to independent publisher in the last few months. I doubt I am alone.

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