New AAP Stats Show that the US eBook Market Saw Excellent Growth in 2013

The American aapAssociation of Publishers released the year-end StatShot report for the US book market today, and it had good news for ebook enthusiasts.

The overall book market (as reported by the 1200 odd publishers who submit data to the AAP) was down about 1% from 2012 (to $7.01 billion from $7.07 billion), with the adult and religious book segments showing a slight increase and the YA segment dropping considerably (6.6%, in fact).

I have the publicly available data embedded below, but for this post I will focus on the good news about the ebook segment. The combined Adult/YA/Religious ebook segments were down only about half a percent in 2013 from the bubble in 2012 (t0 $1.53 billion from $1.54 billion).

Adult trade ebooks totaled $1.3 billion 2013, up 3.8% from $1.25 billion in 2012. Children’s and YA ebooks decreased significantly from their peak in 2012, with that segment dropping 26.7%, down to $170.5 million from $232.5 million in 2012. And finally, religious ebooks continued their steady growth with a 9.7% increase in sales (from $57.9 million in 2012 to $63.6 million in 2013).

While some are going to point at the statistics and describe the market as flat or growth as having flattened out, I see that the AAP data actually shows a decent growth rate in 2013.

No, this post is not a practical joke and no, this blogger has not been doing drugs. The very slight dip in the US ebook market in 2013 is actually a sign of a decent growth rate.

My interpretation of the AAP data is that the 2013 ebook market grew at a fast enough clip that it almost matched the ebook bubble from 2012, a year when 2 blockbuster titles (Hunger Games, 50 Shades) were credited with distorting the market.

Yes, the market looks flat but a truly flat market, one in which there is no growth, would show a noticeable drop (10% to 20%) in sales following the 2012 bubble. Do you see that difference in the 2013 data?


With that in mind, does anyone want to take bets as to whether the US ebook market will remain flat in 2014?

I predicted in January that the market growth would pick up again, but I was the only one to do so. Mark Coker, Jeremy Greenfield, and everyone else that I read predicted a flattening  or contracting market. How much do you want to bet they are right?

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Fbone1 April, 2014

    The decrease can also be due to lower priced books.

    1. Nate Hoffelder1 April, 2014

      That, too.

  2. mal neil1 April, 2014

    Do we have a sense of what % of the total ebook market the self-pub sector is contributing? These numbers wouldn’t be captured by the AAP numbers.
    Given the print side of self pub is negligible I’d suggest if you plug in those numbers you get a pretty impressive growth number

    1. Nate Hoffelder1 April, 2014

      I don’t know about self-pub, but the 2012 AAP data only covered about half of the ebook market (their estimate, not mine).

  3. flyingtoastr1 April, 2014

    As usual, you’re *STILL* confusing “flat” with “flattening”. No one with half a brain said the market is going to be flat – but it is mathematically correct that the market is flattening.

    It’s patently obvious to the most casual observer who knows a modicum of algebra that the ebook market is asymptotically approaching it’s maximum, and that each year is going to see smaller YOY percentage increases. That is the very definition of a flattening market. It’s not a sign that ebooks are dying or any such hubbub, it’s merely demonstrating that the market is maturing and reaching saturation levels.

    1. Nate Hoffelder1 April, 2014

      And I think, given that you are splitting hairs, that you could use a nicer tone. Given that I am expecting growth to pick up again flat and flattening are close enough that they look the same.

      I am expecting that the ebook market will grow by 10% to 15% in 2014, which is nearly as good as the 40% growth the AAP reported over the 24 month 2012/2013 period. From my perspective 10% growth isn’t flattening; it’s growth picking up again after shaking off the effects of the 2012 bubble.

    2. Nate Hoffelder1 April, 2014

      And no, 2013 didn’t show a flattening ebook market. It’s difficult to say what the growth was, but given that the 2013 market almost grew to match the 2012 bubble, there’s a good chance that the market grew more in 2013 than in 2012 (once the bubble is accounted for).

    3. KarlB2 April, 2014

      If it’s “algebra” that gives you this magical ability to predict the future of social trends (and with such arrogant, snotty confidence!)… well by golly I wish I’d paid more attention to it in high school! I could have made bazillions on the stock market!

      Seriously, algebra? *Algebra*???

  4. Jussi Keinonen2 April, 2014

    And it is my simple interpretation of the AAP data that self-publishing has grown it’s market share in ebooks compared to AAP. But we’ll need Joe Konrath or Hugh Howey to come up with their opinions to get in to real arguments. 🙂

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